By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
A long time ago, like kuthiwakudala amatsheesancwebeka, study time in school used to be largely devoted to the writing of letters to deliver at “see-me time”.
Except we did not call them letters then. They were “missives.” Boyd Maliki, that famous son of Bulawayo, has a lot to answer for: his “so ornithological bird of identical plumage perambulate together” cartoon was twisted and turned until it said something loving, or so we thought.
“I write this missive to communicate to your heart that its ornithological partner of identical plumage in mine ribcage is burning civilly ”- was a favourite of my friend the late SM (RIP). I didn’t think that was a word, civilly. Turns out it is, but I have no idea what it meant to him.
But, as love letters go, none will ever surpass Lovemore Majaivana’s great ode to the City of Bulawayo. And it is easy to see why. The man was (and likely is) so in love with his hometown that he pined after it so: “Ngabe mina ngiyasebenza, ngabe ngigadi mbombela, ngiyobona abadala, koNtuthuziyathunqa”.
I was in Bulawayo at the weekend. Living in Harare, where water is supplied by several dams and lakes around but is not suitable to wash one’s face in, let alone drink, where “everything happens”, where every Lebanese sheik with a diamond to make and every Chinese “mining expert” with an environment to rape ply their trades and spend their money, one knows a dirty city when they see it.
Not so in the City of Kings.
You point out that the Harare City Council should fix the city, they cry that the Urban Councils Act stops them doing it, as if this Urban Councils Act does not apply to Bulawayo. They mourn about government interference in Harare as if a different government superintends over Bulawayo.
Meanwhile, they clamp cars for fun and party on rates for no services being delivered, and organise tours to their party’s MPs to go and see the water treatment plant that no longer works because it needs treatment. hell, they even have a soccer team that can afford to lure a coach from the team currently doing very well to their team, and one wonders, why do we need a football team when we cant have our rubbish collected every week? But, I digress.
eMagumeni, koNtuthuziyathunqa, Komfazi utshaya indoda, Bhuruwayo, or just Bulawayo if you are lazy, is clean, and things work. Of course, the “vagaries and vicissitudes” (another favourite from the missives) of the economy have not spared this part of this beloved plateau, in fact it has been worse given the climate, but Bulawayo works.
The streets are clean. The kombis, especially the ones belonging to BUPTA and Tshova Mubayiwa, run on scheduled routes and queue for passengers at their main pickup points in the city. In fact, staff of the latter wear uniforms and speak to you courteously, if you happen to speak only Shona they try in their accented voices to help, instead of the Harare kombis that take pride in saying to Ndebele passengers “Shona is the dominant language in Zimbabwe, you must speak it”, then drop the person a kilometre away from their stop just so that they make “the Ndebele person walk”.
It makes sense that Majaivana felt compelled to say that no matter where he was, his heart was in his town, koNtuthuziyathunqa. The poignant “ngabe ubaba laye uyasebenza, ngabe abamgumulanga, ngabe thina siyasutha, koNtuthuziyathunqa” makes sense when you see that even in this great deprivation, the people want their town to work.
I was in Bulawayo when I saw the unfortunate headlines that 65% of Bulawayo residents have mental health problems. No matter what survey was used, this kind of reporting about the city perpetuates an unfounded tribal stereotype and hides the fact that it is probably the only city that really functions.
I suspect that the people of this noble city saw this headline and just shrugged, because I suspect that they know that those of us who are not from there just simply don’t get them. It is easy to think that the people you don’t understand are mentally unwell, even when they are not.
Chamisa, the head of the political party that leads all cities including Bulawayo, would do well to spend some time in Bulawayo to see how people from different paths can work together to build something good.
I went to a place where they sell food, (a very clean place mind you, no dust and whatnot like you-know-where), and I saw a branded Zanu PF car next to one adorned with MDC regalia inside. The people sat next to each other, and talked and laughed like it was the most normal thing to do. Which it is.
It was Chamisa that introduced us to Maikoro, his long-suffering photographer. Right now, this moment, I feel like saying “Gijima, gijima Maikoro, uobatshela abadala, ukuthi mina ngithe ah ah, ngisake ngikhumbule kahle……ngithi mina umoya wami kawusekho lapha, khangela usukhatshana, koNtuthuziyathunqa.”
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a qualified lawyer and social worker, living in Harare where he practices as an Advocate. He is a member of the ruling ZanuPF. Follow him on @TinoChinyoka