“Where is money? Where is money?” The intruders who had entered my bedroom at 2am seemed to think that great riches were hoarded there, maybe the Sunday church collection.
They were disappointed. Even hitting the supposed owner of great wealth over the head and kicking him did not yield much. There is no ‘goose laying golden eggs’ around, not in the middle of Mbare.
These young men spend their days doing nothing. From morning till late at night they hang around street corners. They have never worked.
They have never used their hands, or their heads to make something and be proud of it.
They have never enjoyed the pleasure of creating or producing anything. They have never been admired for their being clever, skilful or handy.
Even in school, where they were at the bottom of the class, they were only told that they were useless; they could never show proudly good school reports to parents and friends.
They have consequently no self-respect and do not respect anybody else either. Why should they? Nobody wants them, so why should they value anybody or anything?
It is a terrible thing to say to a young person, “You are so useless, you might just as well not be there”.
Chronic youth unemployment says this to thousands of our children, in fact to the majority. The resultant crime and vandalism are not surprising.
A few days ago some young men (or were they some mischievous school children?) entered our church and toppled the baptismal font over.
They were lucky the two heavy carved stones the font consists of did not fall on them and squash their feet.
We went through the formalities of reporting these incidents to the police. Much time was spent in filling in long questionnaires and getting a medical report.
“You are late reporting what happened.” – “I phoned both police posts in Mbare at 3 am. No one answered.” Yes, they admitted, their number was out of order. Was anybody there to answer the phone? My advice is, get robbed only during office hours. Have they no ambition, no professional pride to be really of service to the people of their district?
Two women in the neighbourhood were knocked over by kombis in recent days. The drivers did not stop. Hit-and-run. Time is money. They cannot afford to lose any time that could yield a profit. So they race their engines and go over live bodies or leave dead ones.
Even the police with whom they play cat-and-mouse games do not teach them better street manners: they do not seem interested in road safety and protecting people from injury.
The drivers squeeze money out of the public so as to be able to pay the police bribes and stay ahead of the game. Everybody robs everybody else. The greed of the top people has now reached those at the bottom.
There are traffic lights at a busy crossing that rarely work which often results in chaos.
No one can move because everyone insists on moving first, no one being prepared to give an inch.
At one time a kombi driver jumped out of his car and managed to disentangle the hopelessly jammed cars. I would have liked to thank him. I hope he was proud of what he did and went to bed that night feeling good.
It is not that the police can’t do the job. When they are there, they are quite effective. But why are they so often just not there?
I know of a man who was tortured for “voting wrongly”. He escaped to our southern neighbour, just in time to be beaten again when popular anger exploded against foreigners.
Terrified by the xenophic madness he rushed back to Zimbabwe, only to be picked up by his old enemies once more for another beating and “re-education”.
“Murambatsvina” is still with us. It has not reduced the population.
The “chefs” who tried to force people to go to their villages because “every African has a rural home” were as wrong about that as the old colonial administration before Independence.
Living space is scarcer than ever and people, members of the same family, brothers and sisters, but especially in-laws, fight more bitterly over ownership of houses than ever before. Widows and their children suffer most.
Bad governance and the resulting economic ruin have deprived us of many things, work opportunities, shelter, health, family life.
But worst of all they seem to have deprived us of our humanity. What has happened to “unhu”?
From as far as Sweden they come to “save” us through preaching crusades. From Tuesday to Sunday, five to nine in the evenings, the din produced by screaming preachers and their huge loudspeakers, wardrobe size, makes life in Mbare at times very uncomfortable. Indeed, ‘no peace for the wicked’.
Why all these hysterics? It is a very simple message we need to hear and put into practice: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.
And I hope that the officials listen who occasionally threaten to knock down other people’s poor shelters from their comfortable homes in the northern suburbs.