WE are going to the vote in a couple of weeks. I felt you needed a mind-jolt before you put your “X” where you would decide to put it. Perhaps you have a short memory, I don’t know. But picture this scenario. If it weren’t for the fact that he was in Luveve, one of Bulawayo’s oldest suburbs, Sipho would have bet that he was in rural Lower Gweru, eMziyathi, where I hail from. It was around four o’clock on a bitterly cold morning some time in 2008. It was so early one could easily bump into a witch riding a hyena returning from her nefarious errands.
Report by Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga
But it’s not the witch that we are on about. Here he was being nudged in the ribs by his wife. It was Sipho’s turn to make the fire. Excuse me? Sure, you heard her right, a fire, a flame, combustion, get the point? You see, the power had disappeared the day before courtesy of Zimbabwe Electricity Sometimes Available (Zesa). As Sipho cursed under his breath, he recalled that the firewood he had dutifully poached in Inyathi had to be chopped with a very sharp axe, the very axe he was supposed to have borrowed from Siwela the neighbour two days previously . . . and clean forgot.
Sipho had to bribe the chap from the Forestry Commission stationed at a roadblock for the sole purpose of preventing city slickers like him from decimating the countryside. He had flashed Sipho a toothless smile (at least they had something in common) as he counted the sheaf of Zimkwacha he had kept with him just in case the creaking wheels of bureaucracy needed some greasing. The swiftness with which the Forestry guy pocketed the money left him with such admiration. He gave the term chioko muhomwe/vala umlomo wengwenya new meaning altogether.
But then we digress. It’s early in the morning and Sipho was supposed to have started a roaring bonfire by 5 am, right in the middle of urban Zimbabwe. The kids had to have their bath and mealie-meal porridge and happily be on their way to school. In the eerie pitch darkness he fumbled for the matches. He had to inquire from the increasingly irritated spouse where she last placed the box the last time the power went out only a few hours previously.
“It’s Zesa’s fault, not mine,” Sipho cursed under his breath again. At this rate, he was thinking to himself, “I wouldn’t make it to heaven with all this swearing.” Yet again there is the firewood and the very blunt axe to contend with. If he was given half the chance to rename this contraption he would gladly call it a hoe but we are supposed to be cutting wood not cultivating it aren’t we?
After several back breaking blows Sipho had a few splinters that would at least scare away a ghost. Unfortunately these were not enough to fuel a fire that was supposed to boil, cook, fry and warm. At least that is what the “supervisor” thought because she was standing there with a very dissatisfied look on her face in spite my being drenched in sweat on the verge of the major coronary that the heart surgeon warned us about.
With clucks of derision, the wife takes over and in no time there is a fire. Imagine, a few pieces of the local newspaper (what else can one burn?) and a couple of twigs, blowing strategically under the billowing amalgam, then hey presto! It’s not anyone’s fault that Sipho is a “born location”.
Snap out of it, we are talking about making a fire here, Sipho thinks to himself. “Is this we have been reduced to?” Fresh in his memory was a certain politician who belonged to the “Party” who once told him not so long before that we were all lucky that at least we got “some” electricity.
“Look at Nigeria,” he said with an air of self-importance, “they celebrate when they get just 10 minutes of power!” Sipho cursed once again that at this rate we would soon be celebrating the discovery that we never needed electricity in the first place. Come to think of it, there would be advantages of not having any power. First, no electricity bill to pay and fewer domestic fights in the home. We are spared from Dead BC (ZBC), so little stress and less likelihood of heart failure.
We get closer to nature, having to take long walks into the surrounding bush looking for firewood. Who among us can afford the firewood sold by vendors? In fact, at the way these guys were making money, it would have been prudent for Zesa to diversify into the lucrative alternative fuel (firewood) market. Looking at the empty supermarket shelves in that year there was basically no reason why they couldn’t be filled with firewood.
Talk about empty shelves in 2008! Enough said.
The main problem with the fire thing is that you go to work smelling as if you just dropped off uSuka Sihambe bus from Majinkila eRenkini. The only comfort was that you were not the only one because no-one is spared. Even Jones from Burnside would pretend to having had an early morning barbeque with the family. No fuel for the generator, mzala. Remember the minister who said that the fuel was on the high seas as we speak when some Qataris promised us lotion motion. It never arrived, even Muammar Qaddaffi’s!
So the question is, as you get into that polling booth you should be asking yourself ukuthi, do you want to go back to the Stone Age where Sipho found himself, or do you want to move with the rest of the world? The answer is in your hands and in that answer lies your fate.