I first heard many voices shouting before I saw people running in all directions. Most of the people running were market women carrying baskets on their heads. And then I saw a municipal truck being driven at high speed.
In an effort to escape from the municipal police, fruit and vegetables fell to the ground as the street hawkers ran away in all directions.
I saw the municipal truck run over a pyramid of red tomatoes and red, juice- like tomato sauce spluttered everywhere.
The truck missed running over an old woman only by a hair's whisker.
She was trying to escape with her dish laden with vegetables. If the dreaded municipal police had caught her, all her goods would have been confiscated.
Some of the municipal police were now notorious for taking the confiscated goods to their homes to feed their families from the loot.
In recent months, the municipal police had become more sinister for haunting vendors in the streets.
There was a great outcry among the market traders.
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But on this particular day, the day that Maponga went mad, there was chaos everywhere. People were running away in all directions.
“Why are they doing this senseless thing?” said Rasta who had joined me.
I shrugged my shoulders. All my attention was on the old woman. By now she had sat down by the side of the road, breathless. Tears were streaming down her wrinkled face.
Not far away, I saw Mai Maidei, my wife. She had survived the storm so far.
All the market traders had hid their wares. People were standing in groups, chattering among themselves. They would only display their wares once the municipal truck had made the second journey down the road. The municipal police enjoyed playing hide and seek with the desperate vendors. The unfortunate ones were caught and bundled into the back of the truck with their wares. They would pay either a fine or a bribe to be released and get their goods back. The less fortunate would lose all their stock.
And then all of a sudden, there was a roaring noise from the crowd. Rasta poked me with his right-hand pointing upwards at the tower light. I looked up. There was a man dangling precariously high up on the tower light. The tower light was a mass of reinforced steel standing at a height of thirty metres above sea level.
Some people were shouting, "Maponga get down.” I knew the man.
He was one of the traders at the market. The municipal police had confiscated all his goods although he had managed to evade arrest. The harassment from the municipal police must have triggered a nervous breakdown. His brain had snapped. No one had seen him climb up the tower light. As I craned my neck upwards like one of the ostriches at Hwange National Park, Maponga appeared like a muppet dancer at a circus show in the clear skyline.
By now a whole crowd of people had gathered. Some were taking pictures and videos with their android phones.
This was going to make big news. The gossipers in the ghetto were going to have enough fodder for days on end. An ambulance came wailing and shortly afterwards the police arrived.
The police had a loudspeaker where they barked instructions to Maponga trying to drive some sense into him. I had my doubts. I don't think he heard anything. They were barking up the wrong tree.
“Come down! It's not safe up there! Come down!”
The loudspeaker went on and on in the same monotonous voice. But Maponga remained dangerously perched high up like a tortoise on a lamppost. He started dancing. Some of the women cried. He was dicing with death up there and could plunge downwards to his death if he as much as missed a step.
His behaviour became more bizzare as he started taking off his clothes one by one and threw them down until he was stark naked like the day he came out of his mother’s womb. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” There was dismay among the crowd. It was at that point that it dawned on everyone that Maponga had become clinically mad.
The police tried to drive the people away without success. The municipal truck had been driven back and was parked a few metres away. Rasta shouted at them.
“Look what you have done!” He pointed his forefinger up at Maponga. Rasta started advancing towards them.. The other people saw what Rasta was trying to do and they started baying for the blood of the municipal police. In the face of danger from the angry mob, the truck shot out like a bullet from a gun as the municipal police fled. By now the state police had completely lost control.
Together with Rasta, we decided to go to Zororo Bar and we left the scene of the commotion. When we left, Maponga was still trapped up the tower light and mad as ever. Most people saw his nakedness but I only saw his madness. Madness was in the air. Who was next? People were living on edge. A tiny spark could trigger madness.
- With Onie Ndoro: IELTS Tutor, Educationist, Ghost Writer: For feedback; [email protected] follow Twitter@Onie90396982
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