Of smooth oil, sly snakes and salvation, seeding and stealing

Zimbabweans are hunting the American dollar by any means necessary. Here, an enterprising vendor dressed up as Santa Claus plies his trade in a Harare street

Zimbabweans are hunting the American dollar by any means necessary. Here, an enterprising vendor dressed up as Santa Claus plies his trade in a Harare street

Ignatius Mabasa Shelling the Nuts

Not having anything to push the week creates a dog-eat-dog situation. This is the reason why some have resorted to commercialising God while oiling their pockets with fortunes.

THE hissing sounds in this headline are devilish and smooth like oil. Things are happening in Harare, and whether you, ZBC or H-Metro see them or not, you can’t say they are just kombi tales or urban legends.

One thing that is literally stalking, pouncing and eating people is poverty and hard times. Indeed, hard times never kill, but they don’t thrill either. Poverty and hard times remind me of a line in one of Thomas Mapfumo’s songs in which he says, “Nhamo usanditevere!”

Besides the multitudes of vendors lining the streets of Harare – selling anything and everything -most of us have become so desperate or hyper-enterprising to the extent of selling things that don’t belong to us, including borrowed cars, and salvation packaged as holy oil and other paraphernalia.

Churches have gone commercial, political and extortionist at the expense of saving souls. There are more smooth sermons on seeding, being blessed and made rich than on the need for salvation and eternal life. Some of the so-called prophets in our midst are flying and perhaps frying because of their forked tongues that promise abundance and prosperity.

Elsewhere, Vapositori are challenging Prophet Magaya to a spiritual contest, accusing him of not being a Man of God. They are claiming that Magaya uses extras that include snakes in his trade to draw large crowds to his congregation. Vapositori are hitting back at Magaya who claims that all white-garment churches popularly known as Vapositori are agents of evil marine spirits from the dark kingdom.

On the other hand, strippers are no longer just feeding the imagination, but are baring everything and even having sex on stage as part of their performances. Elsewhere, prostitutes are reported to be selling semen harvested from clients. They are giving clients discounts knowing that they will later fetch good money from the semen.

Zimbabweans are hunting the American dollar by any means necessary. At one time, I was in Norton waiting to buy fish when one woman whose big, fleshy and oiled breasts were tumbling out of her dress loudly said to another, “Asikana ini ndakauya kuHarare kuzotsvaga mari. Zvekuti yauya sei handina basa nazvo, chero ndawana mari chete.”

Selling flesh and fish is an interesting interpretation of Zim-Asset and indigenisation.

In the 2008 era, we had become a nation of hunters and gatherers. There were serious shortages and people left their homes very early to join queues for fuel, maize-meal, bread and other basics. I remember back then, a friend who had been to South Africa brought me two precious loaves of bread. As I left the office at the end of the day to go to my car, I was nearly mobbed by people who wanted to know where I had bought the bread.

When I explained that I had got it from a friend who had just gotten back from South Africa, there were long faces of dejection before people dispersed. However, one woman in her forties followed me pleading that I sell her one of the two loaves I had.

“Mukuwasha, vana vangu vakapedzisira kudya chingwa kare kare. Inzwaiwo tsitsi munditengeserewo chingwa chimwe chete zvacho.” I tried to explain how we had also not eaten bread for a long time, but I could not shake her off. Eventually I gave her the loaf of bread for free.

Gone are the 2008 days of hunting, queuing and hoarding. The shops are full of basic foodstuffs and luxuries. Yet, what has become elusive and hard to get is the American dollar. While some are being innovative with the church, the flesh and its by-products, there are some who are also dealing with the problem of poverty through redistribution of local resources.

In the high-density suburb of Highfield, my sister’s neighbour woke up around 4am after hearing some strange noises. He went outside to investigate, and nearly had a heart attack when he heard the voice from his mango tree saying, “Baba vaBarbara musatye, ndini hangu. Kumba kwaita nzara, saka ndangoti ndingotsvagawo tumango twushoma. Zvinhu zvacho hazvina kumbomira mushe baba. Mamuka sei?”

This man had decided to harvest his neighbour’s mangoes without permission.

It is funny how the neighbour who was up the tree actually ended his statement by politely asking Baba vaBarbara whether he had slept well. How does one answer such a greeting from someone who is stealing your mangoes at 4am? Cross examiners would have asked this man who was stealing mangoes to explain why if he was only collecting a few mangoes to eat, he actually had a big sack for his loot and a bicycle.

Depending on the size and abundance of the mangoes, a sack has the potential to fit a quarter of mangoes in a tree at a particular time. Why did he bring a bicycle when he was only going to get mangoes from the house next door? Was the bicycle part of risk management to guarantee a quick escape in the event that someone shouted, “mbavha”?

This mango thief could have been killed if he had not quickly identified himself. His death would have been tragic. The media would probably miss the real story behind the story – that of hard times and poverty, and instead go on to report that a neighbour got killed after he was mistaken for a thief.

After the voice from the tree had identified itself and explained its business, the owner of the mango tree did not take any action. He just walked back into the house, leaving his neighbour up the mango tree.

Recently, I was reading a poem by a Kenyan writer when I failed to understand a line that had some Swahili words. The Swahili words were, “Sukuma wiki” and they were totally new to me, unlike the usual mzee, matata, safari, matatu, shauri yako and others. So, I decided to ask some Kenyan friends the meaning of sukuma wiki, and I loved the story behind “sukuma wiki”.

They told me that “sukuma wiki” is the Kenyan word for muriwo wemavheji that is your rape, tsunga, kovho, cabbage, etc. They said it is actually pronounced as “skumawiki”.

The word is said to come from the literal meaning: sukuma, which means to push, and wiki, which means a week. The story being that, one can eat muriwo wemavheji all week because it is cheap enough to buy and push you through the week as opposed to meat, which is hard to afford or considered a luxury.

Yet in Harare, there are people who are not even affording the bunch of tsunga, kovho or rape vegetables, but will seed and buy holy oil. So, there is really nothing to push the week with except hoping for a miracle. I think a cheap packet of maputi for lunch and the nutritious City of Harare water can better push your week!

Not having anything to push the week creates a dog-eat-dog situation. This is the reason why some have resorted to commercialising God while oiling their pockets with fortunes. Jesus was poor, and although he probably saw an opportunity in making a killing by selling the two fish and five loaves that he had multiplied to feed the 5 000 people, he instead used the event to give glory to his father and did not take advantage of their lack.

A couple of years ago, I saw a remarkable cartoon in a Western magazine that really disturbed me. It was during that famine in Ethiopia, which shocked the world. The cartoon depicted a very thin and malnourished African child sitting on a mat made in the image of Africa eating the dove of peace! The cartoonist had made his point, but I was deeply disturbed by the implication that Africa’s problems are a result of “eating” peace efforts or opportunities to bring peace.

The ordinary people, a mother and her sick and dying children do not know who Boko Haram or ISIS and why they are killing people? There is big politics in most conflict situations and the ordinary people do not understand the politics. They are just pawns to be sacrificed. Whether your interpretation of Zim-Asset and indigenisation is starting a church that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and eternal life, do not be your own people’s Boko Haram. And to you fellow Zimbabweans, do not let gullibility be your ISIS.

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