Just over a decade ago I had to leave Zimbabwe. I was in a bit of a hurry (when your house is on fire you don’t exactly take a stroll out into safety). Now, moving to another country is not like catching a bus from Harare to Muzarabani. It’s a bit more involving and intricate than that. A good friend stepped in to assist with many things – selling off some bits of furniture, an old jalopy, paying off bills, liaising with the removals company . . .
That friend’s name was Dickson Mutsago (“Dickezh” – we called him). Within two years Dickezh would also leave –heading for London (since re-Christened Harare North) and after I had stepped over the crocodiles in the Limpopo River to trek to the Gangsta’s Paradise (Johannesburg).
There are helpful and worthy people like Dickezh but I have one problem – they are a dwindling lot. In the past one year I have been taken for such a ride by several close people that I am shocked I can still politely smile at them. One of them promised to secure me a computer at a very reasonable price. I wired him the money and he conveniently bought a one-way ticket to Londres (as the French call the Queen’s Capital). Since then I have tried all tricks in the book – blackmail, grovelling, legal threats – to get my mullah back but still no luck. He seems to know me well. He was, after all, a person I had been close to for nearly 20 years.
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is, as always, on the mark in his old song Jeri. Which Zimbo can forget Tuku’s heartfelt tribute to his manager-friend Jack Sadza:
hunokunda hukama . . .”
(the bond of friendship is stronger than that of a blood relation)?
We have all had our “Jeris” in life. It could have been the mbuya (aunt) or sekuru (uncle) who handles family matters, mutongi gava maenzanise (arbitrator). After decades of her/him presiding over family matters you discover that s/he was not actually a close relative but a trusted family friend. It would not really matter, though, as you know we Africans are very good at upgrading relationships (we can easily promote you to auntie or uncle if you behave). But that same family counsel would never demand anything in return – they could even pay their own bus fare to travel to arbitrate tricky matters. I had such an uncle and my abiding regret is not having acknowledged him more when he was still with us.
When I was growing up there was always the aunt down the road who could sort out that fontanelle (nhova) of your baby just by dipping fingers in ash and rubbing inside the upper mouth.
So, if once upon a time we had many selfless individuals in our communities and social circles, what is happening to them? Or as Chinua Achebe would ask: “When did the rain begin to beat us?”
“A fish rots from the head,” the Italians say, although they seem to forget this at election time (remember these are the same folk who keep returning a buffoon like Silvio Berlusconi to office).
With the fish called Zimbabwe having started to rot three decades ago, you can be assured it was only a matter of time before wananchi (the povo) cottoned on to the best game in town – deceit.
The political, business and civic leadership of Zimbabwe has betrayed the people. When a person has been lied to, robbed, cheated, hurt and what-have-you, they are bound to lose belief in humanity.
In graphic designer Chaz Maviyane’s short film, After the Wax, one character states: “Death of belief is death of the soul.” The soul of Zimbabwe is dying. We have sold ourselves to the two highest bidders: money and politics. Firstly, money. Our crass materialism is amazing: our conversation resolves around our mansions and four wheels. Ndiri kuvaka (I’m building) is a national refrain. Then of course per diem, per diem and more per diem, please. We cannot function unless someone has paid us (we have redefined the concept “rent-a-crowd”).
Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with building the house of your dreams. I have a problem when the good life is the be-all and end-all of our lives. You would agree there has to be a larger meaning to our lives than payment in foreign currency and a northern surburb address.
Secondly, politics. In Zimbabwe, for some reason, you have to belong to a given party. Your belonging to a certain party determines your thinking, your behaviour, your circle of friends and, often, your opportunities. As we sell our souls to the political parties of our choice, we have learnt the art of speaking with forked tongues. Truth has taken extended leave in Zimbabwe
In 1981 Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon debuted their play Woza Albert – a satire that imagines Christ’s second coming into apartheid South Africa. The return of Christ causes havoc in the segregated society. It is time we resurrected the Solid Citizen in Zimbabwe and caused havoc to kleptocrats and those who believe Accountability is the name of a foreign country.
Woza Solid Citizen!
lChris Kabwato is the publisher of www.zimbabweinpictures.com