Conversation with Reality: Great Expectations and the Harvest of Thorns?

At our arrival they rush to our car. They greet us with warm smiles, they had thought we are from a humanitarian NGO. Noticing they had mistaken our car for the NGO guys they laugh and we share jokes. It is a closely knit community – a community that has weaved cordial societal relations. A community in which we virtually knew each community member either by name, surname or by totem (the latter being the most common). In a short moment the villagers start narrating about the drought, sunny days ahead and the petty party politics – the politics of affiliation and the partisan distribution of humanitarian aid and food relief. In a few minutes we are literally told everything, ranging from village politics to developmental concerns. We now know Chenzira’s wife is cheating over her hubby.

This is a community that greets you with your totem. (Simboti Makadii) (How are you Simboti?) Even the youngest boys at the Growth Point – at least come to greet us. After exchanging greetings, they ask for money to buy beer (Mdara tiitireiwo 1). These guys have mastered well the art and perfection of polishing your ego. They praise you by the totem and through various convincing lingual ‘gymnastics’ so as for you to buy beer. At the local bottle store, relatives are found, relationships are re-established, family lineages and the family tree is traced and re-traced. All done in the spirit of love, unity and oneness. This is all happening in the back of beyond in Chiendambuya. When we arrived they were already drinking their opaque beer (chibuku) and ZED (a certain type of beer imported from Mozambique), they all wear jovial faces. They have hope and great expectations. At the Growth Point the herd boys can be seen milling around Pitikoti and Sons General Dealers’ grocery store. Some cowboys (herd boys) are spotted standing near the counter admiring the beautiful shopkeeper –telling her to keep change. In anticipation they look ahead to a day when she will succumb to their love proposals. They all become jealous, some threaten each other to blows.

Anyway that’s part of the social life in most rural growth points including in Chiendambuya, Checheche, Mahenye, Gairesi, Ruwangwe and Mayo. We have been there, we saw them. The heavily oiled legs, cracked feet and the sun tanned skin – we all greeted and laughed with them. One would be surprised by the dancing antics of these guys – we witnessed them dancing to Tsaona by Pengaudzoke. We had bought and they had drank, not water but the ‘waters of wisdom’. All the shyness was now gone.In all these dances and in the beer they forget that children do not have school fees. They also forget that piece-time jobs (maricho) are hard to come by. They all seem to enjoy – they do not bother much in the politics of the day. What they are only happy about, is the fact that we are living in the times of the Inclusive Government.

Every Sunday they go to the Growth Point. Women go to the various churches dotted around the growth point to pray. In their prayers they pray for bumper harvests, peace and stability, jobs for their children and for the general well-being of their families. The men as usual go to drink, play pool (snooker) and to dance and listen to music. They have hopes for their community – hopes for their country. Now that all is lost and gone, the prices of beer will soon skyrocket – so are prices of basic commodities. Will the cowboys mill around shop counters especially in their favourite grocery shop Pitikoti and Sons General Dealers? Will the women pray for jobs for their children, will they pray and ask for the provision of adequate foodstuffs? Certainly I know they will pray for Zimbabwe’s deliverance. They will pray for the country to be delivered from the pre- coalition government situation. I was there, we were there, I can feel the poverty, I can touch their anger, I can see the images of the pythons of poverty chiselled in their minds. I can see their sad faces – their disillusionment, the lost hope and the silent suffering and mental torture. They have experienced it all.

Will the youth tell the beautiful sisi Chipo to keep change? Will the girl child continue to access sanitary ware? I have met the girl child at Chiendambuya and in the Headlands farming community during my days as a trade unionist at the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ). I used to distribute sanitary ware to the womenfolk in the farming communities – I was there in Headlands, I was there in Macheke I was there at ARDA Chisumbanje, I was there in the Tanganda tea plantations. (Tipewo Mwanangu taneta nekushandisa machira) ‘Give us some sanitary pads; we are fed up with using pieces of cloth’. Whether false or true, I was unable to prove or disapprove. I only felt for them, I understood their plight and I gave them – this was during the whole of 2007 and 2009. I wondered it would have been my sister, mother, aunt, daughter, niece or girlfriend. I wish and hope we are not taken back to those days.

What can be done, when a community has great expectations and in return reaps a bumper harvest of thorns? All hope is gone…what is left, is not only hope but belief and faith in God –hoping Zimbabwe will one day fix her problems.


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