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Christmas without Mugabe in State House. Meet me in Chimanimani

08 Dec 2017 at 09:02hrs | Views
I had everything that I required for an unexpected voyage to green terrestrial ecstasy with me: a bag full of clothes, one sizzling hot music CD and plenty of passion for life. I left Harare at ten o'clock on a Thursday morning and reached Tsonzo, a village in Manicaland, a little over two o'clock in the afternoon.

It was a bright and sunny summer day, so I enjoyed the 300 km long journey.
My ancestors had travelled this route over a million times and I had laid my eyes on this fine stretch of glorious earth several times a year since the day I was born.

So I knew the road well. I knew the struggles of the characterless people ferrying blocks of firewood in small wheelbarrows on the small farms adjacent to the highway very well.

I knew the terrain perfectly well as I raced down the ever-winding scenic highway with Credence and Wellington, two close friends. We stopped by a roadside shop in Headlands for refreshments and made another stop by the shops located at Odzi Bridge.

We talked a whole lot about sweet nothing and listened to the sounds of Zvakanaka Zvakadaro echoing in the background. We laughed about nothing in particular, but enjoyed the camaraderie of a trip to rural Manicaland.

When I got to Tsonzo in the early afternoon I greeted Babamukuru Arthur and Maiguru Maggie and a few relatives that lived nearby, exchanged pleasantries with everyone I thought I should know well, and promptly had a cold beer at the bottle store run by my nephews.

I was ecstatic and animated in such company. So I paid my grandmother a visit before the inebriating spirit of the occasion numbed my faculties.

Mbuya Mhaka lived on the opposite end of the communal homestead. I found her seated in her kitchen hut in grave silence.

Mbuya Mhaka was fairly fragile and old then and had no electricity in her homestead. A small fire under her old-fashioned rural stove set-up emitted a trickle of smoke and a little lamp lit the kitchen as she and I spoke.

This is how she liked it. Besides tending to her maize fields whenever she had the energy to, she relished her solitude and the silent whispers of her voiceless thoughts.

I never heard her complaining about her situation. She had lost her husband the day I was born and subsequently spent the rest of her life alone. And she lived a simple life clearly detached from the extravagant conveniences of technology, electricity and tapped water.

But she loved her rural household and loathed spending time in Harare away from the deep red soils she tilled for food. Tsonzo is a quiet village that is situated about 10 kilometres from Watsomba. You will find Watsomba about 40km along the Mutare-Nyanga highway.

It is an unsophisticated place where all is stuck in the past and simplicity rules. That afternoon I stayed long enough to catch up with everyone and left for the shops at Watsomba before the sun set. There I drank alcohol and conversed with old friends, family and strangers until late in the evening.

I woke up before six o'clock in the morning and bade all farewells and headed for Chimanimani on business for the first time. It was such an absorbing and fantastical ride. The entire landscape could have been heaven on earth. So when I got to the small town of Chimanimani I didn't sleep much.

I danced the night away at a small shopping centre and grooved to the energising pace of friendly villagers and raw humour and helped myself to plates full of roast meat and delicious mazondo. I danced to the chilled sounds of the Eastern Highlands and began to feel like I was living the life.

I made friends and enjoyed the priceless hospitality Ngangu Township afforded all and sundry. I could never have wanted more than this communal glory and infinitely picturesque side of Zimbabwe and gathered I would never have reason to leave such lush green life behind.

I could not have imagined a cleaner and richer life on earth. I could hear the bass-filled sermon from Mwari Wenyasha rustling through the leafy trees in the near distance. I could hear the soundtrack of our young lives building up to a climax.

I could see and hear a thousand stories of simple men and women who survived on the principles of faith and hope night after night. But the times had let them down and tales of poverty and social estrangement discoloured the fabric of family ties.

Still, they held their heads high in honourable defiance and lived life to the fullest. And I felt an affinity to their struggles and way of life.

So I imagined that I could dance sungura style and shuffled my feet with playful determination and carefree indifference. I imagined I was Alec Macheso in his prime and slyly escaped the harsh world I lived in.

I hardly needed dance lessons, though.

They called me Cheso back at the liquor store in Sunridge. John and them boys called me Cheso. It was all about that Cheso life. It was all about them Bob Marley and the No Woman No cry woes. It was all about that Tracy Chapman life and that Fast Car struggle.

It was all about Macheso and the Chira Chimwe struggle. John and them boys knew the struggle.

Only John worked a 9-5, at NetOne: everyone else relied on brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers in the diaspora for food and beer. And them boys drank alcohol with the jobless and penniless arrogance of a gangster on the run.

They loved the music that reverberated from the speakers of my company issued Mazda Bantam. So they called me Cheso.

As I danced on the veranda of a bottle store the tragic pitfalls of social and political chaos and economic failure weighed heavily on my mind. Man, I missed half of the people I had ever known.

I missed half of the people who had made a lifetime of memories for me. I missed family and friends who had absconded to foreign lands.
What if everyone had remained in the country? I imagined what family and social gatherings would look like over the festive season. I used to love Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

I loved Christmas carols and Christmas celebrations and spending time with the people I was related to and associated with in such jovial times. My hopeful and naive spirit thrived on the innocent optimism of fresh times.

I loved the Christmas jingles on the radio and festive season advertisements with incredible year-end specials. I loved the unbelievable vibe that sounded on every corner in town.

I fed off the exhilarating spirit of satisfied shoppers in downtown Harare and shared in the commercial happiness that an extended holiday season manufactured and sold.

I loved the summer rains that fell in December. Somehow I believed that the rains that fell in the festive season would always guarantee fresh life, fresh harvests and fresh elation in the country.

I loved the taste of freshly roasted mealies, salted peanuts and freshly boiled sweet potatoes whenever I visited Tsonzo. I loved the taste of life.

I felt the abundance of our restricted ecstasies could be matched by the fresh hopes we held for the coming year. That was the beautiful reality of Christmas when I visited Tsonzo over the Easter or Christmas holidays.
Nothing much changed over the years but we hardly complained. The shopping centre at Watsomba hardly changed. Only the buildings appeared progressively older and derelict with the passage of time. Oppah Muchinguri never did do anything much for us but represent herself in parliament.

The dusty road that we walked from the highway to the family homestead from the Nyanga-Mutare highway remained as bumpy and dusty as the first day I remember seeing it.

But that did not bother us much: we would talk stories and laugh all the way from the bus stop to home. We would run through the valleys at night.

We would walk through the forest to go to church. We witnessed weddings together. And we would bury our relatives at the family cemetery and mourn with friends, associates and Anglican churchgoers.

Our closeness solidified our sense of purpose.

Our unity defined our family lineage. Our separation sounded the end of the extended family and created a sense of statelessness and cultural depreciation.

Our societal stagnation generated power and wealth for violent elites. Our dreams made way for an African Graceland.

Life that began so promisingly well in a high-density suburb called Mbare ended so ingloriously in a multimillion-dollar mansion in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale.

Mugabe and his whole family made it to paradise all right: but he left you and I behind.

Source - Tafi Mhaka
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