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75-year-old retraces colonial days, cycled from Buhera to Gweru in search of work

07 Apr 2019 at 16:20hrs | Views
BORN in 1944, Naison Dhakwa Muganyi still looks fit and his memory is as sharp, telling jokes captured mainly from his early days as a youth working at BATA Shoe Company in Gweru, then Gwelo.

He latter spent most of his working life at Zimbabwe Iron & Steel Company as an electrician.

As a young man, it was not easy for him to get from his rural village in Buhera to Gweru as there were no buses or any other form of transport except bicycles.

The distance from his village to Gweru was more than 200 kilometres.

He remembers: "As a young man, I cycled from Buhera to Gweru together with a friend as we went in search for jobs. Then there was no enlightenment at all about the city because all we used to do was stay in the village — herd cattle and plough the fields. So this trip was special and we spent more than 12 hours cycling."

When he got to Gweru, he stayed at a relative's house before finding a job at a restaurant in the city. "The white owner of the restaurant loved me so much that he gave me money to buy new clothes so I could look presentable. I worked there for years before joining Bata," said Muganyi.

It was at Bata that he was to meet his first nasty experience around white men. "I had a nasty experience at Bata when this white boss slapped me. It was a horrible clap and I vividly remember it and the horror it brought afterwards," he said.

Muganyi, however, said his most disturbing encounter with whites was when they visited his rural village in 1942. "We just heard that there were white men around the villages who were erecting fences. No one knew what was happening and no one could ask a white man at the time. So after some time every other village was inside some fence. Then wholesome villages were called for a meeting where the whites announced that the place we were staying had been designated for cattle and that everyone was to move out and a new place was being cleared for us," remembered Muganyi.

Muganyi said while people thought it was a joke that they were moving, the move was enforced and they were taken to a new place where they were told to build houses in a single file.

"Everyone had to comply, so that is why you see our village houses in a single file. But when we finished building the houses, we discovered that they was no land to plough. Until today I do not have enough land to farm," he said.

The biggest shocker in the relocation exercise was when the white men came back to address them. "They said we had to build a dip tank to dip our cattle and that we did in a short space of time as they forced us to work — for free. We could only receive meals. But the shocker was their announcement that each household had to remain with only four cattle," said Muganyi.

He said people from those days used to keep a lot of cattle and they rarely slaughtered them for the family. "They could only slaughter a cow after it had fallen into a pit and broken its leg or when there was a death within the family, otherwise they hardly killed cows for meat. So there were families who owned more than 300 beasts and the whites were telling them they should only have a maximum of four."

He said the whites ordered those with extra cattle to sell them off at the market. "They were sold cheaply for as little as 20 pence and this affected a lot of families. Some had to distribute the cattle among family members who had none, so as to preserve the herd. It was one of the cruellest experiences I have ever witnessed and I will always tell you about this."

Muganyi said while the whites brought all the good things — clothes, roads, vehicles and technology "they had certain bad things that they did to communities.  They destroyed our village set up and grouped us like animals. They took away our livestock and through the markets found a way to dispose us of our generational investments."

While Muganyi has vivid memories of the recent economic and social strife befalling Zimbabweans, he remembers the trauma also witnessed in 1947. "There were floods in my rural village and everything else subdued due to excess rains. Houses and fields were all drowned and livestock died in numbers. It was a natural disaster that was to affect everyone," he said.

Muganyi said with everything flooded, the only place to get food was in Chivhu town, several kilometers away. "The children would cry and look at parents, so the latter had to travel to Chivhu using donkeys and cattle-drawn carts so they could carry maize, then known as ‘Kenya'."

The 85-year-old recalls his hey days at Ziscosteel which has now been turned into a ghost company. "My heart bleeds when I see what is happening at Zisco today. There was a time when this company was a marvel as production was at its peak. Goods trains could run across the company like toys but now the sound of a goods train scares children. I remember during the management of K. K. Kuhn, a German national who stirred the company to unimaginable heights."

He said those yesteryear memories usually visited him. "We had a number of social programmes for communities; Christmas parties for wholesome communities; company funeral policies; running and subsidised hospital facilities; good schools and sporting facilities that were not easy to match. That is all gone. We had buses ferrying workers to and from work, but today they walk to and from work. And they are not paid at all their salaries."

Muganyi, who loved to bet on horses, said this game was disrupted during the chaos that resulted in inflation. "I miss betting because it is no longer the same. The betting offices are no longer in existence."

He said the future depended on the political willingness of the current crop of leaders. "I hope during my time I would be able to see a new Zimbabwe flourishing as it used to be, but under black people. Things have to change for the better and I am very hopeful."

Last year, Muganyi lost his wife Judith. "The secret to live long is just to be a good person, do good things to others and have a loving family around you. I am no longer working, but my children are taking exceptional care of me. I am one of the smartest old men around; I can change into a new suit every day of the week. This is all because of the nice things done by my family."

Source - Daily News
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