The mountains of Mutoko stand like a colossus, guiding the precious granite stone, and the Buja people that inhabit this picturesque growth point.
BY JOHN MOKWETSI,ONLINE EDITOR
On this particular sun-drenched day, the inhabitants — whose accent and dialect excited the visitors, who had converged at Mutoko Centre from all corners of the country to watch a friendly match between Harare giants Dynamos and the much-revered local team, Division One side, Mutoko Traders FC — looked excited by the buzz.
This is a town that loves its football, but also has scars of political violence that are evident in the way people talk, and their careful selection of words.
As much as the beauty of the landscape is vivid to the tourist’s eye, so are the markings of Zanu PF, which are visible in old posters plastered all over, and graffiti that tells a story of dominance of one political message.
You are either Zanu PF or you do not belong. As we take pictures, eyes scan for our intentions — eyes of a people too cynical to let anyone foreign be seen taking photos.
A stout man, with a scar just below the left eye approaches, and in almost a whisper states: “I do not think we need you to film us. Who are you and what do you represent? We do not want opposition people here?”
But on explaining we were there for football, and not politics, the man seemed to calm down. Despite that “glitch” to an otherwise good afternoon that Mutoko Centre was, a hive of activity brought about by Dynamos was evident for all to see.
Dennis Murambire spoke glowingly in between gulps of opaque beer: “We do not see this kind of activity and social calmness as often as we want. We are excited because we rarely see premier league teams in Mutoko. I remember Caps United were here at some point for the official opening of the Chikondoma Stadium. Now we have Dynamos and you can see there is life here.”
It is understandable because most of the large gatherings this part of the country has grown accustomed to are political rallies, but this was a different afternoon.
Mutoko Traders was formed in 2010 as a social club. In 2013, the team gained promotion into Division Two. They got into the Eastern Region Division One in 2015.
The club is funded by local business man, Chido Mudzinganyama, who is affectionately known as Muchi.
Muchi is a hero in this semi-rural setting. He is idolised and spoken of in glowing terms.
Mutoko Traders FC coach, Abraham Makwarimba, who saw his side hold their much-fancied opponents to a nil-all draw, spoke highly of his employer.
“Muchi has been the shining star for this community. Today, I gave a goalkeeper from the rural areas a chance to play against Dynamos. That is what this is all about. It is about giving a life, another day of hope and an opportunity to, one day, play for the big clubs. Muchi is about that. He is about unifying the community through football and most of all his time is about allowing young people to dream.”
Dreams are what made this day special. Vendors experienced brisk business, forming a pseudo stock exchange.
Theresa Muzarenya, who was selling soft drinks, was particularly happy: “It does not come this big. This is my fifth crate of drinks today. We all expected this to be the case, but the huge number of people, who have visited us have gone beyond my expectations.”
A seller of Dynamos regalia, who is popularly known by his trading name Jedza, concurred, saying the Harare team had created employment for most people, who benefited because of the Harare giants’ brand .
“I have travelled from Harare to sell these jerseys and flags because Dynamos is universally loved and as you can see, I am selling these flags and I am running out of stock,” he said, handing a team jersey and a flag to a beaming shopkeeper.
Chikondoma does not boast of a turf you will find at well managed and resourced stadiums like Mandava in Zvishavane and Gibbo in Triangle, but there is pride in the way the locals respect this stadium.
Despite the Dynamos gaffer, Paulo Jorge Silva criticising the state of the bumpy pitch, he could not hide his satisfaction over the support his team received from locals and visiting fans.
For this day, all the stories people spoke about was football and not the drought that has seen the government declaring a state of emergency.
Many expected it to rain on that day, but it did not. Looking up, the sky had cleared to its sky blue hue that blended with the white and blue the fans wore in support of Dynamos.
Mutoko had been exciting and beer flowed. Football had won, but when tomorrow comes, it stands to be seen if the calmness of this day would be new-found spirit of tolerance that most will attribute to the unifying factor that is football.