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Ghetto dances: The long walk back home and I bumped into Rasta

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With Onie Ndoro I found Baba VaTata hovering by his gate. To say gate would be respectful. It was more like a soccer goalpost as all the wires and some angle bars were all missing. Because of that, it could not be a gate. Baba VaTata had witnessed everything. “Hehehe, my friend, I see you […]

With Onie Ndoro I found Baba VaTata hovering by his gate. To say gate would be respectful. It was more like a soccer goalpost as all the wires and some angle bars were all missing. Because of that, it could not be a gate. Baba VaTata had witnessed everything.

“Hehehe, my friend, I see you are in hot soup,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. He pointed out within his fingers in the direction of my home.

“This time I am in trouble,” I said in agreement.

“I suggest you better go back home and sort out your mess with your wife,” he said.

“I just want her to cool off before I can go back,” I said.

“I am not Sirizani Butau,” he shook his head.

“I am not a hero; I can’t save you from Mai Maidei.”

Sirizani Butau was the talk of the town. He had saved eight lives from sure death when the Beta bus and a fuel tanker had collided and burst in flames just 20km from Mutare.

“Alright, I am going back, but can you lend me some money,” I said.

I was in need of cash to feed my family.

All my money had seemingly gone down the drain for the past two weeks as I had tried to impress Jessica with all sorts of goodies, airtime, and data bundles and so on.

I had used the seed and fertiliser money.

“How much?”

“Let’s say one thousand or US$10,” I said.

Baba VaTata always had money. He was the ghetto borehole baron and used some ghetto youths to collect money from everyone wanting to draw water from the council borehole. What am I saying? The council or some donors drilled boreholes around DZ for everyone to have access to clean running water.

But some like Baba VaTata found a cash cow in these. They soon personalised the boreholes.

I knew for a sure fact that Baba VaTata had three boreholes under his control. Before anyone could draw water from the borehole, one had to pay $20 for a 20-litre container.

He was minting money and without any investment at all.

This is Zimbabwe and this is ghetto life, marwadzo, painful. Survival of the fittest! All because the council, our City Fathers could not simply supply clean running water to their residents.

In the beginning, the residents had tried to resist the extortion but Baba VaTata had brought many bouncers. The residents finally succumbed to fate.

Covid-19 and its twin processes of lockdowns and curfew hours had seen more job losses and more poverty. It became dog eat dog so to say. But let me come back to my woes which I would want to forget anyway. And as quickly as possible, it reminds me anyway, that almost everyone in the ghetto has some stress, of one sort or the other. But mine was a hot potato for now.

He was a good friend. And without much ado Baba VaTata gave me a 10 greenback.

“Thanks my brother, let me dash back home,” I said. This was not the only money I had borrowed from him. I knew that he had an A4 black book where he recorded all his debtors. And I was sure my name featured prominently in that little black book of his.

His spidery like handwriting made the debt even more ominous. This was not just debt, but I would pay back with 20% interest. Chimbadzo!

  • I had to go back home via the shops to buy groceries like bread, beef, milk and sugar. This time I avoided buying the Tsaona stuff, that would be cooked only for a meal. And this is not a novelty in the ghetto. That’s one good thing about the ghetto.

There was always something to buy even if you had little money. For instance, sugar was repacked into teaspoons and with as little as $1, one could buy four slices of bread, one teabag, two or three spoonfuls of sugar. And if you were like me who did not like black tea, there was also a spoonful of powdered milk in the bargain.

I wanted to remain with at least US$5 of the borrowed money. However I ended up with US$2 change. I whistled to myself in disgust. The prices were outrageous, extortion in the real sense of the word. I hoped to buy peace with Mai Maidei. Anyway the groceries were my ticket home, so to say.

  • Just as I had finished buying my groceries, I bumped into Rasta or Rasta conveniently bumped into me. I don’t know why everyone still called him Rasta as his dreadlocks had long been shaved off. I heard that his father had some connections from the northern end of the city, that other side of Samora Machel Avenue who had promised to give him some clerical job at some logistics company.

Rasta had apparently showed up at the interview with his dreadlocks and the interview was over even before it had begun. When his father heard about it, he had gone berserk and actually shaved off the dreadlocks himself. And Rasta had spent days in hibernation, afraid to venture into the streets as he was too ashamed to be seen without his famed dreadlocks.

  • When he saw me at the shops, he gave me one of his big smiles which showed all his decaying upper front teeth.
  • “Ah mudhara, uri chibaba, nhasi wapefoma but haa you are not the only one,” he said, laughing and trying to reassure me at the same time.
  • I also noticed that there were many onlookers, who had been amused by the whole drama but they did not have the courage to make any comments. They feared my wrath. But some of my fellow imbibers just waved as I passed by. Rasta was trying to cox me into talking.

Rasta acted like this because we had a long history together as I send him on some not too innocent errands of which I gave him liberal tips which  sponsored his mutoriro addiction or anything that made him get drunk and sick simultaneously. But this was not the day.

  • “Nhasi imbondisiya shamwari, handiti wangoona drama randaita paden,” I said.
  • “Yes sure, aah you picked wrong chimoko, sorry hako,” he said. I moved away quickly from him as I tried to prepare myself for a sure confrontation from my wife, Mai Maidei.
  •  Onie Ndoro is a writer, educanist and IELTS teacher. For feedback email oniendoro@gmail.com or call 0773007173 and Twitter @onie90396982

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