( I haven’t forgotten you. I miss blogging. Work has just kind of taken over my life past two weeks, but I shall be back soon. Meantime, some writing I did over the holidays)
The queues are long today. You were in line at POSB at 12 and only left for ZESA at 330, at the bank’s closing. You were annoyed at mother for, once again, relinquishing her duties onto you. You are highly irritable. After having collected the maintenance money from Daddy that came in just in time for Christmas this year, you have to walk to the other side of town and pay for electricity.
Your walk is brisk as you try to navigate the high human traffic on the streets despite the fact that it is Christmas Eve. It strikes you that the manner in which the copious vendors, lined up along the streets of Harare, is somewhat akin to that of the cabbages in Mudhara Mandebvu’s garden, kumusha. They even have that tired, wilted look of the old man’s crops.
“Huyai muwone askana” one cabbage calls out; an invitation to appraise her wares.
She pushes a small plastic tree, waist height, into your face. In another hand, she’s holding the decorations that would supposedly go on it. You are put off by how cheap the viscous plastic chain, which twirls in gaudy yellows and blues. But who cannot admire the ingenuity of the Chinese to take advantage of the poor “third world” market? You hate that it is their second-rate goods, which have ultimately turned the city centre into nothing more than a glorified conglomeration of tuck shops selling Hugo Boos and Adadis to an unquestioning crowd.
She forces a smile, showing a mouthful of perfectly lined and perfectly yellow teeth. You walk away.
You imagine the old man as the farmer of this huge cabbage garden. You wonder if his work allows him sleep at night. Whether he ponders at night over how to rejuvenate his once flowering plot of land. Or if he too is simply too tired to try anymore, and simply waits, every rainy season, to watch his crops fail once more. You collide into a soldier in uniform and you smile impishly as you mutter your insincere apology.
Another long queue awaits you at ZESA but this one is moving at a fast rate. The woman in front of you strikes up a conversation. You cannot help it, but every five seconds, your eyes dart up to her head where a weave or a wig-you cannot tell- is perched at a most awkward angle.
She is talking about how the queues are moving so fast only because the workers are actually being paid now.
The short bald man whose distended stomach had made you think of Santa Claus-the one on TV and not the artificially round one by Chicken Inn- joins in. With a growing audience, Perched Hair tries to validate her theory that good service is commerce induced. ”The passport office is a place you don’t have to stay at too long as long as you have a strong pocket”
Santa Claus agrees. “Money might not buy happiness, but here it can sure buy you a lot of power. Isusu, who are struggling at the ground level, we are the only ones who know what it is to be Zimabwean in 2013. While we make our Job-like lamentations about the credit crunch , do you think the “big chefs” are worried about cash this Christmas? But walk around town and see how many people have spent their day in a bank queue. CABS ATM along third street pane queue. Metbank, pane queue. You can rig the elections but you cannot rig the economy”, the last statement spoken in an overly-dramatic whisper.
“Shuwa. People are not happy this year,” says Perched Hair, not wanting to be outdone on her own show. “When we were growing up, Christmas meant new clothes and new shoes, rice and chicken and a day kumashops playing records. It was Jive Central at Mandamabwe Zvishavane,” she says, with a wistful smile.
The Cabbage Farmer and his Chinese friends have stolen Christmas.
Wait for 2018, they conclude. Things will change then, they say. You hope they’re right.
Glossary of Shona terms
Kumusha- rural areas
Huyai muwone askana-come and have a look
Isusu- we Pane- there is