By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
That great poet, John Chibadura, has a song called Madiro about a man who has heard that his partner has been cheating on him.
Instead of flying into a fit of rage, the man informs the lady that he has heard about her infidelity, plus the fact that she plans on leaving him, and makes the following declaration:
Zvino ukandiramba ini hazvindirwadze, Jenny
Kana ukandiramba ini hazvindinetse, Jenny
Ukandiramba ndoita madiro, madiro, madiro,
Kana wandiramba ndoita madiro, madiro, madiroooo.
It seems almost celebratory, a fact confirmed by one of the spoken lines in the song that says “manje ukandiramba ndoita zvandinoda”. It sounds like he has not decided to leave her, but will wait for her action, but if that action is to leave him, he will do madiro.
That word, madiro, always reminds me of my once favourite nephew (until he was convinced to ghost me, that is, but that is another story for another day).
A long time ago, just after Rhodesia made her unlamented departure and freedom came calling, when in every town Dairibord still sent men (always men) on little carts dropping milk off by the gate and collecting the money that would have been left there by homeowners, my nephew was a precocious little boy that tormented his brother, who was a year older.
Being the older brother, the ‘victim’ never retaliated, but kept telling my sister (their mum) that he was suffering from this little boy with a lisp. One day, my sister, perhaps tired of the constant complaints, told the older brother to stop coming to her with complaints, but to deal with the problem himself.
When it became clear to the little boy that dealing with the problem meant that his older brother was being given permission to hit him, my once favourite nephew looked up to his mother and said, with his lisp and a sense of betrayal saturating his question: “saka ongoita hake madiro?” Very few members of the family fail to remind him (now a family man) of this line.
Madiro. Like most things vernacular, it does not translate well to convey its full meaning. It does not just mean doing whatever you want, but suggests doing it with an almost reckless abandon that celebrates the fact that you are doing it.
It suggests the doing of whatever you want where you either previously couldn’t, but you suddenly can, or where you have previously thought yourself incapable. Picture caged hens suddenly let free, picture cows on a truck suddenly let free to run down a veld, picture slaves suddenly told they own the plantation. Recall the images of the farm invasions, those shirtless men kicking in farmhouse doors and announcing that they now owned the land. Then you have some idea of madiro.
Better yet, remember how prior to November 2017 you couldn’t sneeze while driving without being accused of breaking some road rule or other? Now picture the situation afterwards: we now have madiro on the road. Cars with no plates are vying for a majority on the road, those with no insurance took that title a long time ago.
A person drives along Samora Machel Road in Harare and decides to stop in the middle of the road, walks out to rush into a bank, nothing happens. I have seen a Toyota sedan meant for 7 people carrying 14 passengers being driven past a police roadblock and nothing happens. Madiro.
And madiro is now everywhere. As a nation, when we arrest mothers and deny them bail on crimes they will never be convicted of, then everyone in the process ari kuita madiro with the power that they have been trusted with by the law.
When we send youths into the streets to demonstrate without following the law, we are playing madiro with people’s lives.
Shops charge prices pamadiro, with no regard to the customers. Goods and services are priced on one principle: what can I get away with? Schools fees is fixed pamadiro, even on exam fees they tried madiro and government intervened.
On social media vanhu vanongotuka hurumende naPresident wacho madiro, and it is like no-one cares. Even when you patiently wait in a fuel queue that is a mile long, some people will be allowed to cut in the front pamadiro. Hell, even visitors from China are allowed to go around the country pamadiro, coronavirus be damned.
Prophets, bishops, apostles and other fly by night religious people are taking people’s money, wives, and daughters pamadiro. You cannot go a week without hearing of some shenanigans by a religious person akaita madiro nevanhu.
Vendors set up stalls pavanodira, even in front of shops that pay a business fee, selling the very things being sold by the shop. In towns settlements sprout pamadiro, with no regard to the provision of services.
Transport companies charge fares pamadiro, especially in the rural areas. Retail outlets will inform you that when you use your debit card or Ecocash, they will charge a percentage, which they set pamadiro. There is no appeal, you either take it or leave it. If you want cash you have to buy it, the price is set pamadiro. Even RBZ yacho seems to be changing goalposts pamadiro.
Job Sikhala got acquitted for saying Mnangagwa must go (something for which no citizen should ever be arrested for of course, it’s his opinion no matter how stupid), and now wavakuita hake madiro.
At every gathering, he says the exact same things (quite why no-one in the PG’s office saw this as the only possible outcome of that stupid prosecution beats me), and asks for the President to go. I can bet that once Joana Mamombe gets acquitted for her own ‘treason’, she will be posting the same ‘offending remarks’ on her facebook pamadiro. Vava kungotitukira President vatakavhotera pamadiro.
When we have reduced our laws to mere words on paper, when we have gutted our institutions to mere job creation and skills parking hubs, when we have reduced our politics from being a contestation around ideas to a race to the trough, when we have stripped our people of all dignity and reduced them to scroungers and hustlers, we create an environment of laissez faire.
Without regulation, things fall apart. Without restraint, politicians and policymakers become servants of no-one. And once madiro takes over, only the unlucky, the unconnected and the cursed go to jail.
Perhaps, that might explain why, some two years into the second republic which has put the fight against corruption at the fore, we still do not have a single person in prison that has been convicted of corruption. Because time time pamwe mbavha dziri kutoitawo madiro kuma department kwadzinosungwa nokutongwa ikoko, you never know.
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 Zanu PF. Follow him on @TinoChinyoka