When Rain Clouds Gather, by Bessie Head (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996; first published in 1969)
Bessie Head’s 1969 novel, When Rain Clouds Gather, follows a South African, Makhaya, who leaves his homeland as a political refugee and settles in a “poverty-stricken” village in Botswana. Tradition and modern life conflict when Makhaya and an English agricultural expert encourage the villagers to “upgrade their traditional farming methods with modern techniques.” Like her character, Bessie Head left her hometown of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa as a refugee in 1964, settling in the Botswana “village” of Serowe. She went on to become one of Botswana’s most important writers.
The sun set early in winter and by seven o’clock it was pitch dark. Makhaya made ready to cross the patch of no-man’s-land. The two border fences were seven-foot-high barriers of close, tautly drawn barbed wire. He waited in the hut until he heard the patrol van pass. Then he removed his heavy overcoat and stuffed it into a large leather bag. He stepped out of the hut and pitched the leather bag over the fence, grasped hold of the barbed wire, and heaved himself up and over. Picking up his bag, he ran as fast as he could across the path of ground to the other fence, where he repeated the performance. Then he was in Botswana. – from When Rain Clouds Gather, by Bessie Head