Rigidity in Culture in a new and Different ‘Space(s)’

I recall having grown up in a conservative rural society where we were lectured and groomed on etiquette, humility and a sense of respect. It was a society where unbecoming and uncouth behaviour was strongly detested and the rode was never spared in such incidences of moral and societal deviance. Such was a society that strongly believed and subscribed to the African adage which reads ‘Spare a child and spoil the child’. Foul mouthed and vulgar leaning individuals had no place in such a society.

It was a society which had stricter norms of ‘ubuntuism’ a sense of oneness and a sense of how one was expected to conduct him/her self along socially acceptable norms. It was a society steeped in good mannerisms, obedience, with largely Christian social upbringing. The Girl child was expected to be obedient and exemplary. Society expected her to be refined with having some feminine finesse. Though, the issues of women empowerment had started to gather steam and traction on a global level and national level as exemplified by the post – Beijing Conference movement. This did not deter the male folk in castigating and downplaying the role of women in decision making within the realm of the family.

In such a patriarchal society it was common to hear men bating with their lives, that never would they be ruled with, what they termed ‘peti-coat’ government? Crudely, implying that women were objectified and viewed as what has been termed as ‘subjects’ in the Mamdanian sense and not as, ‘citizens’.

Nonetheless, the girl child was forbidden in openly talking about sexuality (though in private) we knew the Girl child always discussed these issues. We could pick from their puerile giggles at the well, in the fields and on their way to fetch firewood behind the woods in the forest. In such a conservative society the girl child was expected to be bow down when she meets an elder. Blame it or not, it was a society which had its own way of relating.

In such a community where my umbilical cord lies, it was also socially unacceptable for the young people to call the elder person with his/her first name. In fact, it was totally forbidden to call an elderly with his/her name. This rule was applicable even to those perceived as social outcasts.Nomatter, how you mocked or mimicked him, society never allowed the young ones to morally cross the level of calling the ‘outcast’ using her first name. In such a society titles were easily identified basing on familial relations and also defined along totem lines.

Many years later in a foreign country I witnessed how an Asian colleague was always at pains in trying to address the professors and Drs with their first names. In our introductory lectures to acquaint to a ‘new’ life in a developed country, the lecturers had told us ‘Do not call us with our titles, in this part of the land we call each other by our first names and we are comfortable with it’. This astounded me and fellow colleagues.

But, having interned at a trade union in Zimbabwe, my surprise wasn’t that much, as compared to the puzzlement of my fellow students. In order to dilute status and hierarchy (socially speaking though not professionally) the management at the trade union had decided to loosely use the term ‘sekuru’ meaning ‘uncle’. Without necessarily meaning one was actually related. In other cases, they used totems, and myself being of the ‘Simboti’ leopard totem, I would therefore get constant calls as simboti.

Such was done to dilute cleavages which might have arisen due to hierarchical differences. Thus, making others feel unease, less important. Such a relaxed and (un)officialised environment made work easier.

Back to the Asian guy, I witnessed for countless times how he faced challenges in addressing the professors with their first names. At times he would pre –fix a Mr John to a one Dr John. At times he would try calling the name John but it could all not come out of her lips. I understood his uneasiness.

This discomfort might have emerged from his upbringing and different societal rules, norms and culture. A situation which I can also personally relate with. Even by the completion of our studies, he still had challenges in calling John by his first name, which is John. Rather he would rather pre – fix it with the Mr John title.


Tourist Politicians

Tourist MPs who come on a tour from the city to the rural areas either monthly (that is if you are lucky) or after the lapse of his/her 5 year term in office. All of a sudden after getting elected into Parliament – the politician suddenly and miraculously become filthy rich. So is the situation in the urban areas. The very same Member of Parliament will relocate from the high density suburb to the plush leafy low density suburbs. How can such an MP relate to the problems of the suffering people in the locality? Isn’t it ideal for the MP to reside and experience the everyday struggles being faced by the very same people he purports to be representing. Navigating the pot holes, undergoing those long dark hours without (power) electricity. Case of missing M. Ps seem to be a very common phenomenon across most African countries.

It takes a whole lot of bureaucracy to reach the M.P. Why does it take many weeks to report the burst sewer pipe? Even the local councillor does not have constant contact with the M.P. What however, remain surprising is the sad realisation that villagers on many occasions take a break from their busy routine rural chores to attend the ‘promised’ meet the MP rallies. In the sun they sit gleefully waiting until they became sun-baked. Some of the elderly men will come clad in their best outfits. Necktie and suits, don’t mention colour blocking! This is even in spite of the scorching sun. A gentleman has no weather so they say!

These people have faith, high hopes and are always expectant of hearing some wise words from the M.P. For the thinking in such a communities is that the legislator is the panacea to all their problems. He is the educated and wise one. From simple complaints of shortage of water at the dipping tank to the poor rains. They all believe their MP should shoulder the burden. Despite calling for such rallies the M.P never show up. It is just but waiting and waiting….Hope 2015 will be kind. Hope the citizens across Africa will be able to initiate civic agency and civic driven change. Hope citizens will be bold enough to hold the elected officials to account for their actions, deeds, inactions either wilfully by accident or by design.

People Power!

Down Memory Lane

Life used to be so enjoyable. When the radio was still the radio that played interesting gems. Gone are the days. One can remember those good olden days when we could switch on our stereo sets. In the morning you could wake up to hear the voice of  seasoned D.Js  in the likes of Eric Knight (Knight Ryder) Mzala, Joe Panganai (now late).Of course  how can we easily forget that popular advert (Jarzin Man) (murume wemadollar – the dollar man). Then there was the voice of Paul Mkondo (Mari Nehupenyu Hwavanhu) (money and people’s lives). We all relish these moments with nostalgia. Of course, how can one forget the popular 3 FM – which had programmes such as (Chirongwa che Good Living) by non – other than Mr Cool (Kudzi Marudza).There were the likes of Dj Mackenzie, Tich, Josh Makawa, James Maridadi, Peter Jones, Admire Taderera (with that sweet voice), and others. Life will never be so well than these bygone years.


Then came Sundays – one could also not forget how soccer used to be soccer unlike these days’ child play. Those were interesting times of great footballers in the mould of Madinda Ndlovu, Peter Ndlovu, Maronga (Bomba) Nyangera, Stanley (Sinyo) Ndunduma,Bruce Grobbealar, David ‘Yogi’ Mandigora, Stanely ‘Stix’ Mtizwa, Moses ‘Razor bambo’ Chunga, Norman ‘Normara’ Mapeza, Ephraim Chawanda, Francis Shonhayi, Benjamin Nkonjera, Adam Ndlovu, Rahman Gumbo, John Phiri, Paul Gundani, Agent ‘Ajira’ Sawu, Blessing ‘yogo – yogo’ Makunike, Alexander Maseko and Henry McKop and a near endless list.

Those were the heydays of the so – called ‘Dream Team’ under the tutelage of Reinhard Fabisch. To give a sparkling dimension and midas touch to the Game of Football was non – other than the seasoned football commentator Charles ‘Charle’ Mabika. After the match it used to be time of playing (Yawe Nyama yekugocha, Yowerere – Baya waBaya). Then we used to get some well deserving music treat from the superstar Oliver Mtukudzi with the sorrowful songs such as ‘Neria’ and not to be outdone was the legendary Chimurenga music icon, Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo with songs like ‘Madhebhura and Vatete’ amongst a host of other well-polished songs.

During those days, the Marxist brothers were at the peak of their musical odyssey with songs such as ‘Munda wekurima and Gomo Risina Michero, Samatenga’. Gomo Risina Michero (was my dad’s favorite, late the soul of the old man rest in eternal peace and find serenity in the silence of death). In the song the musician laments how life has changed between two friends who grew up together in the country side. Yet the  other is still facing endless challenges and is failing to make a breakthrough in life. The singer uses the allegory of the forest with no wild fruits. The parallels of life! In the rural areas herdboys could be seen carrying radio sets on their shoulders going to the Growth Point playing such all-time precious gems.

Then there was an icon among them all. Probably the best of them all. Non – other than Leonard Dembo, who for some unknown reason was believed not to have had produced any video during his life time. With some alleging that he only produced one. Songs like Venenzia, Mutadzi Ngaaregererwe, Zvaunoda Handizvigoni, Nzungu Ndamenya set many Christmas parties ablaze over a couple of subsequent years. A song called Chitekeke sold gold. In actual fact, it became a ‘Zimbabwean’ National Anthem literally speaking. Then came ‘Mugove’ by the wordsmith, lyricist and great composer Leornard Zhakata. The song also did very well. However, others alleged that it was (mis)interpreted as carrying political connotations. Nevertheless, that did not take away the interest value and the weight of the message in the song. They say the message is within the music and the music is within the message.

How can we also forget the likes of Edwin Hama, Paul Mpofu, Busi Ncube ‘True Love’, Marshall Munhumumwe (Rudo Imoto), James Chimombe (Virginia) and James Chibadura, Khiama Boys (Nicholas Zakaria, Cephas Karushanga and others). Arguably, maybe of the best of them all was one song belted by Jonah Moyo (Solo na Mutsai) which even update has transcended and has managed to withstand the test of time. There were also the likes of Bhundu Boys. I remember very well how we used to manage to buy disposable (rechargeable) radio batteries.In the city, the T.V used to be also interesting with the likes of plays with characters like Baba Sorobhi (Parafin), Mutirowafanza who could leave in you in stitches.

In the season of Zhizha (farming and harvesting) season we would sit under the makeshift shade in the fields with my grandfather. We could roast maize and drink maheu whilst playing cassettes (by then there were no CDs) or Memory stick/flash disk. Those were good times. We also used the Radio (noise) to chase away baboons intending to come to our fields. ‘You will remember me for the good times we had’, those were the words of my Grandfather. Today he is now gone. Of course I am remembering with relish the good times we had. I am now sitting behind my laptop playing ‘Ndikarangarira’ (http://youtu.be/h4I8ofd3syI) by Oliver Mtukudzi. It brings nostalgic and fond memories. Life will never be the same Again.

Tale of Kuda

Each day brought its fair share of challenges. Most of the times he would go home wearing a sad face. At times when lady luck could smile on him – he would go home with a smile on his face. At such a young age he had mastered the art of doing business. The challenges of orphan hood had thrown him into the deep end. His parents had passed on in the late 1990s due to the HIV/AIDS scourge. Such a tragic event occurred at a time when it used to be taboo mentioning about the deadly pandemic either behind closed doors or in public. These were the years when songs were sung about HIV/AIDS being a deadly killer disease. Various singers ranging from Charles Charamba, Oliver Mtukudzi, Dino Mudondo and others belted songs that spoke of the ravaging effect of the pandemic.

Many years had rushed into each other. Coincidentally, the World Aids Day also marked Kuda’s birthday. But unlike some children who had their living parents – Kuda never celebrated his birthday. The blowing of candles was something totally alien to him. On his birthday, just like the usual days, he woke up early to go to Kudzanai Bus Terminus. It promised to be a hectic day indeed. The routine chasing and running battles from the City Council (Municipality police) always affected his daily sales.

His day’s work always started at 5am. He would wake up very early to lit fire and boil the eggs. In times of bad weather he would use primus stove – but such would costly affect his business returns given the cost of paraffin.

Wachada Mazai – Mazai pano’, (Eggs for sale) – Kuda would embark and disembark from different buses. With a crate of eggs in his hands – he would spend the whole day at the market. At around 4 pm he would go to hoard for more eggs to sell the next coming day. Such was a tough business venture especially in the wake of a cholera outbreak and fear for other hygiene related illnesses, such as typhoid and dysentery by the clientele.

Despite such challenges, over the years, Kuda had mastered well the art of boiling eggs. He made sure not any egg would break or appear cracked.

As the world celebrated World Aids Day, the young innocent and affected Kudas of this world seem forgotten. For their tale is a fate of working children on the streets. He also had hopes of getting education. Probably, Kuda also had high hopes if asked ‘what do you want to do when you grow up’. Maybe he would have replied ‘I’ would like to be a Pilot’.

It is indeed a cruel world that takes the ones we love from this Mother earth. With such cruelty the world leave the innocent children at the mercy of a cruel world – were they are supposed to fend for themselves. Instead of being a pilot, he counts and watches buses and travellers as they come and go, at the bus terminus. More worryingly, he has been exposed to the foul language that has become characteristic with touts at most bus terminus such as Kudzanai.

Coming of the Rain Season

There were some similarities both in the high density suburbs and in the rural areas. Children would stand in the veranda and start singing ‘Mvura naya naya tidye mupunga’ (Let it Rain so that we will eat Rice). All this heralded the coming of the Rain Season. These songs also marked the end of the Dry season. These were songs that were sung with great enthusiasm. It was so comforting catching the new scent of the drenched soil after the first November rains. The blooming of the leaves especially the Jacaranda tree signalled the genesis of the rain season.

The only boring moments was waking up at 4 o’clock at the crack of dawn to go to the fields. My grandmother through her folktales, used to narrate how it was rewarding to be a hardworker. She liked using the idiom of an earliest bird that would catch the fattest worm.

In those chilly morning days, you would walk over the morning dew going to the cattle kraal. Clad in gumboots you would walk over cowdung. In no time the whole village would be alive with ox – drawn ploughs being a common site.

By midday someone would come with a basket of breakfast and lunch (brunch) to the field. By now you would already be feeling very exhausted. At times you will fake of having a terrible headache. But, the elders always knew beforehand that such tricks of feigned sickness were a sign of laziness.

Life in the Village

Growing up wearing sandak shoes.That time when you will travel to the city for holiday. It was a moment many youths in the village just craved for. You will be happy to go to the city to enjoy the neon lights, drink (kokokora), and bath with water (with carbonated soda). It would be time to break with the routine and the monotony of herding goats and cattle in the forest. Going to the dip tank and fetching water in the river.

Life in the rural areas were everything was communal from eating (people could circle around and eat in one big plate).The kids were not allowed to pick a piece of meat ahead of their elders. One had to wait till the elders pick or share the meat. So you had to endure serving sadza with broth (soup or muto).From harvesting (nhimbe) to collective communal hunting (mambure) life was just communal.

Life repeated itself, whilst others were watching movies and going to SIMMAD you derived happiness in going for hunting in the back of beyond in the thick forest in the Nyangani Mountains. The atmosphere was so serene. At sunset you would double count that there is no missing cattle or goat. It was really fulfilling going back home with goats and cattle with bloated stomachs. Especially, given the fact that the number of cattle one had, proved his status and wealth in society. The number of cattle one owned was a sign of prestige. Or at times we used to go for Sunday special outing at the Growth Point. Young boys would just spend much of their time wiling time at the shops, especially going in a grocery shop where there will be a beautiful shop keeper. In the evening, it was time for roasting maize and groundnuts.

The usual monotony would creep in, life repeated itself. The daily routines, going to work in the fields in the scorching sun. In the morning you would take maheu with the previous night’s sadza (munya). Life in the rural areas where you grew up being taught on mannerisms and etiquette. Anyone with a similar totem becomes your relative auntie, uncle, sister, brother, father, you name it. In a rural community where you discovered that everyone is related through the (maternal or the paternal) family tree.

You also remember very well – the teen hood delinquency. How you used to hide in the bushes surrounding the river banks, just to get a glimpse of the naked bodies of women bathing in the river. How at some point you tried to smoke cannabis – with the older boys in the village especially the village herd boys (vafudzi vemombe). This was all part of the essential syllabus of growing up in the village.

In a society where you had to greet the elderly with respect. In this village, there is a saying which goes ‘every child is everyone’s child’. During the school days you would reach school with wet feet from moisture (morning dew) accumulated along the way to school. Though you had shoes you would stand out as the odd one out. Others had no shoes, and they would just step in the school public toilets on bare feet. Life had never been all that rosy in the rural areas, it had its own fair share of rough patches. The ups and downs.

When you came to the City, you remember very well how the city girls in the neighbourhood used to tease you as the ‘boys from the village’. It demeaned you, it demotivated you, it crushed your self – esteem, your spirit and it ‘otherised’ you. But how time changes, most of them failed to succeed in life and you have fared better than most of them.

When Everything Becomes Strange

The hen had run across the road. The elders always believed that such was an indication and signal of an imminent bad omen. The bus was packed to the brim. We were packed like sardines. You could hardly straighten your back. It was Christmas holiday. Most people were travelling from the City to the Village.
The very same evening the owls were hooting unendlessly. I was so frightened. The dogs had been backing continuously. Having had spend much time in the city – I was a stranger in my own village just like Lucifer in Charles Mungoshi’s Waiting for the Rain. That night I could not catch sleep, images of ghosts and the fear of witches kept on crossing my mind.
Maybe someone had cast a bad omen – to my home come.
The next morning I woke up feeling so exhausted. All the elders from our village were gathered under the Msasa tree. There were three clay pots of frothing home-made beer. It was home brew that had been brewed by the elderly women who had reached menopause. Some were already sharing homemade cigarettes (chimonera). Others were bragging about how they can be allowed to smoke snuff (bute) even in the aeroplane. As if they had boarded the plane in their lifetime. This was the village talk – it was their way of socialisation. Everything in this village was done at ease.

I witnessed how uncle Nyandoro stood up and used his palm to wipe his mucus and in no time he was exchanging the drinking gourd with others. As I sat on the reed mat I kept on thinking, whom will I share my fears that there seemed to be a bad omen in the village. Maybe it was the problem of growing up in this society. A society that was so superstitious.

Zimbabwe Approaching a Moment of Reckoning

Indeed the moments of reckoning is before us. The unfolding of events at a breakneck speed attest to this claim. We have all been enjoying, lamenting and guessing on which trajectory Zimbabwe is adopting. In the political parties there has been an increase in ugly Intra party squabbles amongst the political elites. These deep cleavages have vindicated the public citizen’s long held claim that politics is all about power, and economic interests. In both Zanu pf and MDC we have seen open warfare and nasty infighting amongst the so called erstwhile comrades in Struggle. Wish the late eminent political guru Masipula Sithole was still around. Struggles within a Struggle are reigning supreme – let his dear soul rest in eternal peace.

Zimbabwe also continue to witness rising level of unemployment and this is in stark contrast to the ZANU PF July 2014 election promise of 2 million jobs. Recently, we heard Vice President Joyce Mujuru acknowledging that at least Zimassset needs 45 years in order for us to really realise its fruition. So in other words we are flogging a dead horse.

The Language of violence has also continued to marinate the public discourse. We have heard of those weevils that need to be gamatoxed. Succession politics has become a ticking time bomb in both parties. Factionalism and internal party infighting is rife. The media spaces has been awash with screaming headlines on party infighting especially within the revolutionary ruling party. Detrimentally, this has affected national policy (re)formulation and articulation. At least we have witnessed the toning down of the black empowerment and Indigenisation policies.

We have also heard the alluvial Diamond reserves are nearing depletion. That is if they are not yet depleted. The Gods Must Be Crazy! We hear the Chinese are complaining it now requires sophisticated machinery to exploit the remaining diamonds. It’s all akin to events in a soap opera. These are the challenges of our time. When everything just turns dramatic. Maybe the end is nigh…

We have also heard the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe controversially branding Zimbabwean NGOs as AGOs (Against Government Organisations). What might have charmed him to sing for the incumbent’s supper or it’s just a damasane moment for him. Is this the re- alignment of forces and actors? Maybe there was a use of some love potion (muti) to charm the other. Or the other was outfoxed. Surely, these are changing times. A time of reckoning is slowly approaching!

We now hear their PhDs (Doctor of Philosophy Degrees) are being questioned. They have increased taxes. We are also surprised hearing that the so called ‘international community’ that is even if it exists at all – pledged its willingness to work with a reformed Zanu pf. Weren’t these actors sworn enemies? How about the complete and sudden U – turn. There are no permanent friends, neither are there permanent enemies in politics but there are permanent interests for sure. It’s a matter of politics at play.

We hear there is now an Orange Party in the wings. It’s now all about oranges, orange juice. A fruit party it has been labelled. They purport to bring a new alternative form of politics by unlocking all those actors who are locked in undemocratic systems. They are building on the Coalition of the willing. As we struggle in unmasking Baba Jukwa, the liberation credentials of former revolutionary comrades has also been questioned and dismissed from within. Is it an erosion of discipline and obedience within the party?

All hullabaloo about obscene salaries has since escaped the public discourse. All is normal. After all we have our own lives. We have better things to think of. Our daily battles the erratic electricity supply, dry taps, transport blues and of course the new raft of tax increases. Of course not to mention the soaring unemployment and retrenchments.

These are hard times… The farming season is in the offing. At least we will have to seed hope. For It is hope that keeps us going as a nation. One day, I will get a job, one day I will buy a stand in the high density suburb, one day I will drive the second hand Japanese vehicle, one day I will be a better person…..One Day…Just another day, my country is approaching a moment of reckoning!!!

EX – Factor

Not a day would pass by without me visiting her Facebook profile. To say that I was done with her would be a lie. Though we had separated I still had shots for her. I would still check on her latest postings, profile pictures – this brought me fond memories of the bygone days. It was the power of the EX – which the youth in my neighbourhood had decided to term the X – factor.
It was a stubborn feeling that I could not wish away. As much as I tried to forget about her, the feeling and craving to be with her constantly haunted me. It was the power of the ex. She had already blocked me. For our worlds were now worlds apart. The pain and longing for the bygone days kept on eating to the core of my heart. I could not just forget about her – the memories of us. But how time fly and how emotions change. That was then!

As i have sleepless nights, watching the moon, the stars and the dark long lonely nights – i have developed an addiction to listening Dolly Parton’s music.



Promiscuity in the Age of the Pandemic

She had become a pale shadow of her former self. What used to be an elegant and curvy woman had become a skinny and pale figure. She never forgave herself for having met Joe. She regretted that very first day when her heart skipped when they met at the village borehole. She reminisced over the feelings she used to have, the first masculine touch and those gentle lips. That touch that used to send her body many places. The soft touch that would ignite some fire in her veins. The touch that would send a cold shiver down her spine. These were all now imaginations and fantasies of old.

She had to stomach seeing her loved one lying in deep pain on the reed mate in their cow dung floored hut. She could stay awake the whole night – till the first cock crowed, heralding the coming of dawn. In such a deep rural community they did not have a clock, their judgement of time depended on watching the sun or either in hearing the cock’s crow. Traditional indigenous knowledge and wisdom, had it on good record that the cock crows hourly.

She had to stomach the trauma, segregation and neglect. Unfortunately, she had to live with it. Normally, when she went for her anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) at the local clinic, she would meet fellow women. It was a difficult time in her life. She would meet fellow villagers who would tell her that ‘mhanyai asikana manonokwa kuchirongwa – taona vamwe venyu kare’, (rush we have already seen your fellow colleagues going to collect their tablets). It was a village that had many stereotypes, discrimination,  labels and segregation. A village that celebrated the use of segregatory and discriminatory  phrases like ‘ari mubhazi’, ‘akarohwa nematsotsi’ (all translating to she is infected by HIV/AIDS).This was the community, that had chosen to celebrate songs like Bhazi by Dino Mudondo.

It was the prayerful woman in her that managed to withstand all odds. Even in death, she was there for her husband. She was a woman who sticked to the vows she made ‘in health, in sickness, till death do us part’. Whenever she went to the women’s church gatherings on the routine Thursdays (ku China) chemadzimai she came back re-energized. They also taught her the same language of perseverance and forgiving the man that had brought her the disease. She managed to grow in spirituality – the art of being a prayerful woman.

Even till the signs of time were all visible for the naked eye to see, that his hubby was not going to survive – she remained there for him. She remained steadfast in her love to the man that she had shared the lighter and bad moments in life. Eventually death knocked on their doorstep.

But, one question that kept nagging her, as she went to church and prayed for her children was the fact that men never learn. Songs have been composed, pastors are preaching, sermons are being delivered, dramas are being acted, documentaries have been produced, literature has been written, songs continue being sung, in the likes of Charles Charamba,(Mukondombera) Simon Chimbetu (Denda), Leonard Zhakata and others. It is a crazy world indeed, a world full of promiscuity in the age of the pandermic.

 Charles Charamba         http://youtu.be/HyXIAw_sPjQ