When we arrived, there was already a large crowd. Zororo Bar was packed to almost full capacity. I was with Baba VaTata who was quite in a jovial mood. His water selling business was experiencing some boom.
There was too much excitement in the air. I did not like the mood. I had a premonition for disaster.
We only managed to get a table near the War Veterans corner. It was quite normal to have these divisions. There were some tables for soccer fans. There was even a table for Manchester United fans although its numbers had dwindled unlike from its glory days when the club had bagged many trophies under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Of course there was a corner for DeMbare fans where a lot of heated debate often took place. And sometimes fighting broke out and before you knew it, beer bottles would be flying in the air like confetti.
The War Vetarans corner was of particular great interest. In this corner, some war veterans who had fought in the war for independence gathered together over a beer or two reliving their war experiences. After independence, it had not been easy for some of them. Others had nightmares of the horrors of the war. The nightmares in some cases were so vivid like they were on HD camera of gory scenes of blood and dead bodies. Some of them would have hallucinations every night and wake up screaming in a great sweat.
The post war trauma of some of the war veterans was a clear testimony that the due process of pyschological counselling and integration in society had completely been dismal as each one was left to his own wits.
Of late, I noticed that there were fewer and fewer war veterans. And of the few who frequented the bar, they neither looked happy nor sad. Everyone knew Comrade Mobilizer. He was always in the bar. His right leg had been blown off at the Sabi River Bridge in Wedza at the height of the war when a hand grenade had exploded and killed three of his comrades. He had an artificial leg which he liked to display for sympathy and this had been the source of free beer on many previous occasions. He had an unusual fondness for Baba VaTata. This was probably on account that he could always get some beer from him.
When he saw us, Comrade Mobilizer hobbled to our table. He always managed to get one or two beers from Baba VaTata.
- When love of money goes beyond bounds of sanctity
- Unannounced visitors for Christmas
- Ghetto Dances: But was this the life I wanted?
- Ghetto dances: A tiny spark could trigger madness
Baba VaTata had an elder brother called Knox who had gone to war, but never returned back at independence. Comrade Mobilizer claimed that he had trained in Mozambique together with Knox.
“Your brother Knox is alive. He married a Mozambican girl and stayed behind under a new name,” he said.
That had always been his side of the story. At first we believed him although later it did not make sense to us that Knox decided to remain behind in Mozambique.
The other story was that Knox had died in an ambush in Honde Valley. Another comrade referred us to someone who had been in his unit. Baba VaTata liked Comrade Mobilizer’s version. It gave him hope that after all these years, that is forty three years, his brother Knox could still be alive. Maybe one day they would reunite again.
Comrade Mobilizer always complained bitterly about his plight. And today was one of those days. “Look at my leg, gone, you would think the government would do something about it,” he started.
“But you guys were compensated well enough,” I said. The $50 000 compensation payouts became known as Black Friday as the payouts arguably triggered the descent of the Zimbabwean dollar which never recovered to its former strength.
“Do you think that was enough?” asked Comrade Mobilizer. It was pointless to argue with him further.
“I can't even afford to buy bread,” he said.
It was true that very few people could afford to buy basic groceries in the supermarkets. Over the past week, the prices had hit the roof again as the local currency had once again been eroded. Whether one was a war veteran or not, the prices in the shops were the same. There were no selected shops for the rich or poor nor for war veterans for that matter.
At that point, there was some loud noise from the Manchester United corner. There was quite some argument. Then I saw Tom rise from the table. He was a big supporter of Manchester United. He was in his sixties, but looked quite fit enough. At times we always caught Tom and Comrade Mobilizer whispering together. Baba VaTata always said that: “There is something familiar about Tom.”
Most of the time when we arrived, Tom would excuse himself and walk away. He was quite a likable guy and seemed always determined to avoid us.
“Let's talk,” said Tom to Comrade Mobilizer.
“The time of talking is over,” said the latter.
I exchanged glances with Baba VaTata. Something seemed to be amiss.
Comrade Mobilizer suddenly stared at Baba VaTata in the eyes.
“Tom is not his real name. He is in fact your brother Knox. I can't keep the secret anymore,” Comrade Mobilizer dropped the bombshell.
I was shocked and when I looked at Baba VaTata, he looked like he would faint any minute. Tom was standing in mid-stride and looked torn between running away or staying put.
He suddenly rushed at Baba VaTata and as soon as he spoke, Baba VaTata knew that indeed Tom was his long lost brother Knox from the liberation war. Tears streamed down their faces as they continued to hug each other.
I was in shock. These kind of stories don't happen everyday. Knox was living in the same town, keeping tabs on the family.
“I was afraid to come forward because of what happened during the war,” said Knox whom all along we had known as Tom. He had been living in plain sight under an assumed name.
And in turn, all Baba VaTata could manage to say was, "All along I knew that there was something familiar about you.” As for me, I was lost for words. I had thought I had seen it all.
There was silence in the bar. People stared at us. Most people had not even an idea of what this was all about but that did not stop them from watching. People will always watch in the ghetto.
- *Onie Ndoro is an educationist, ghost writer, IELTS tutor. For feedback: 0773007173/email: [email protected]/Follow Twitter@Onie90396982