Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Zimbabwe: Ode to the Muhacha Tree

Zimbabwe: Ode to the Muhacha Tree

Picture this: you work for one of those governance NGOs, themselves a big part of the political question and problem we have to resolve in this country. You are employed to damn this country and are quite good at it. You get paid handsomely, get paid in United States dollars.

Monthly you drive to Gaborone, fly to Johannesburg, to pick your salary, your fuel, your grocery, thanks to your externalising white masters who give you enough food for thought and stomach. Up until now, life has been quite comfortable, in fact unfolding in the rarefied sphere of angels you so delightfully inhabit. You eat well; you dress well; you drive well; you sleep well in one of the leafy portions of Harare. Your life is green, well manicured. Your child goes to expensive schools, with single parenting no longer a drawback, no longer a stigma.

When all sin

But below and beyond you zone of cushioned comfort, lies a world, a cosmos of biting and boring hunger. It is furious hunger which has been eating into the entrails of the poor, including the poorest of the poor who survive in rural areas.

The goods they could not find in shops yesterday, today exist in abundance, and can be gazed from the undiscriminating, permissive windows of FOLIWARS, the endowed foreign currency shops. But these necessaries shockingly transact above our means, well above our earning ways.

What only matches their daily soaring prices is the poor’s needs, always unmet. Only those operating below the labour or wage counter begin to afford them. Such as those who have mastered the art of "burning". Yet live we all must, and in fact do, rich and poor. Which means daily we live and have to live below the counter, beneath legality, to become the systematic criminals we have all become: rich and mostly poor: the former from vapid greed; the latter from burning need. But before the commandments we all stand sinful, perhaps evenly sinful if the Mighty God who puts this evil world right is as judgmental as the scriptures tell us He is.

Misdeeds and prophets

Yet by blood, the poor stand connected to their better circumstanced peers, who live so delightfully. And since they belong to the tribe of the poor, they are the majority of this small earth called Zimbabwe. They are the wretched lives that are sublimated to dismal statistics by rich workers of the NGO world for proclamation to polities abroad.

Their plight, their poverty is so vital, so central to the upkeep of the conscience industry which now employs so many of our elites. Spouting adjectival superlatives on the condition of the poor has become a speciality and livelihood.

Our NGO experts have become prophets who work for the realisation and passage of own prophecies, seers who project and exteriorise their misdeeds as agents for those seeking "democratic change", a.k.a. regime change.

Death too in the valley of the rich

Yet a wonderful development has been shaping up surreptitiously in the land. The rich tribe’s Nemesis has been coming, stealthily too.

Both by vivid plight and plaintive pleadings, the poor have broken into the barricaded world of the rich, past the high, surreted dura-walls. By their sheer wretchedness, the poor begin to levy the conscience of the rich, ensuring the asking price is devastatingly considerable.

The plight of the poor is beginning to exert pressures on the fat purses of the hitherto rich, happy brethren. They cannot eat alone. The poor cannot suffer alone, die in their faces, these our eating chiefs. The rich cannot ignore the poor, much as they may want to be left alone.

They know the consequences. They fully know that the blighting effluvia of Chitungwiza and now Budiriro, will blow northward, efficiently conveying pestilential cholera into their manicured homes. Today the rich can postpone the malady; tomorrow they may never be able to buy it off, these our rich ones. Soon carrion, human carrion, will visit their happy valleys, happy vleis. And before the carrion, the stench of the poor’s shrivelled, and now rotting flesh loosely fastened on bones so ashen-ed by hunger, shall begin to suffuse their once salubrious airs. But before the poor’s death, crime — itself the poor man’s register for his troubled existence.

A few shots ring in the Brook, a few ounces of rich blood dissolve into the hungry earth, a few violent deaths from the rich tribe. Before the poor begin to lose our lives, they make sure the rich begin to lose their peace, their security, their estate, even a little of their well-endowed lives. The poverty imported into their lives becomes the violence they export to the world of the greedy eaters of this earth. The rich shall know no peace; they have killed sleep.

The stench of God’s manna

Do the rich know what is happening in the countryside? If they still follow the ways of our forebears, I am sure they still go to mourn and bury the dead. During such rural errands, I am sure they have discovered that far faster, far stronger than the poor’s welcome, is an enveloping stench of pounded or ground rinds of chakata or hacha generated from rural homes of our poor.

This fruit the poor now call food. Once, it used to be food for scabby donkeys. Today this dank, foul smelling wild fruit sustains our people.

The stench greets these rich sojourners, well before they settle in the real homes, well before the poor reinforce the unforgiving stench through their belching bottoms. It is wonderful vengeance by the poor on the rich who eat well, whose rich farts pass for sumptuous aroma the poor can only feast on in dreams.

Away from the manicured lawns of our rich brethrens, the foul-smelling hacha fruit has become porridge for the rural poor. Away from the overflowing kitchens of the rich, the hacha fruit has become the poisonous drink that pretends to wed the poor’s body and soul, yet in fact slowly sundering them.

Or it has become just itself: a fruit that fills the poor’s mouths, one moment churning inside the left cheek to create bumpy nodes, another moment hurriedly posted to the right cheek, right jaws for a similar fate.

The sunken cheeks vainly hope the dank fruit could re-inflate them to newfound chubbiness. Before dawn, man and beast jostle for the fruit that may have ripened and dropped the night before.

There is fierce territoriality in all our rural areas which teem with broken lives and hopes. In that pebble-sized, imperfectly round, soft, foul-smelling, saccharine fruit lies the forlorn hope of men, women, children, widows and all. Unlike other years the boughs of michakata trees bend from the abundance of this fruit. Who says God in cruel?

Sweet death

But well beyond the struggle to catch the ripened fruit stalks a bigger tragedy. Whether taken as drink, porridge or as fruit, hacha can never be a staple food that it has now become. However inventive the womenfolk is with the fruit, hacha can never become a foodstuff: more accurately put, it is a sweet-stuff that smells implacably foul, that tastes implacably sweet — sweet enough for boundless energy, too, too sweet to nourish and sustain balanced life.

Beyond surfeit glucose, it dispenses little else. No starch; none absolutely. Taken gratuitously, taken on an empty stomach, taken in the sweltering heat of October, it begins to ferment inside the belly which begins to boil, in no time, bringing real ruin to the eater.

Taken to excess and on an empty stomach, the fruit begins to mix with the other fluids that inhabit the stomach, to create a lethal concoction in the body. It is terrible. Many have died — many rural poor — away from the glare of our well-fed tribe. Are you, my gentle reader, familiar with this other side of Zimbabwe today, sanctioned Zimbabwe?

The great link I miss

I am told there is a link between the creation of an inclusive government and the state of food security in the country. I am told there is a link between the elusive agreement between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations and the recovery of our economy.

I fail to grasp the linkage. I hope someone can help me. Yet the connection between these sets of magnitude is being made so repeatedly, to a point of being overbearing. By failing to strike a deal, we are being repeatedly told, politicians are causing hunger, are delaying the recovery of the economy whose decline has become vertiginous. For the first time, the censure is all-inclusive, like the government wished for in Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF and MDC politicians alike, are increasingly coming for a roasting. Why don’t they just agree, everyone importunes, for once undivided by party membership. We have united in condemnation, undivided by slogans.

That is very hopeful as it suggests the pangs of sanctions are beginning to be felt evenly, to be distributed evenly across the political divide.

Why these politics?

But why is it easier to draw a connection between talks and food insecurity, and yet harder to connect sanctions to food insecurity? How do the two disputants cause hunger? How do they resolve it once they have recovered amity? This is not the first time we have faced a cereal deficit as a country. We have had it from 1982, soon after our Independence. As now, the cereal deficit has always played itself out in circumstances of political differences. And even war between 1982 and 1987. Yet Zimbabwe has never been this desperate. Why now? Why these politics? Why this hunger?

These are the questions, which we will not ask, or seek to answer because hunger bites. Which is why we could give ourselves false explanations, false hopes. Surely we know that in all the past years of drought, the Zimbabwean has stood by Government, fed from it? Surely we all know that Government has always gone out to source food to fend off hunger. NGOs and foreign governments have always been a complementary factor, with the State taking a lead. Why now? Is this not the big clue to the political economy of Zimbabwe’s hunger?

The great targeted sanctions.

Until we come to terms with the fact that the war against the Zanu-PF Government has in fact been a war against our own social security, we will never begin to understand where the rains began to beat us. There is a causal link between the siege laid against the Zimbabwe Government through sanctions, and the present state of food insecurity and hunger.

What has been under attack has been the State’s loco parentis status, its ability to defend our collective welfare threshold against the vagaries of nature. Today, the consequences extend to all of us. No one can escape the consequences, rich or poor. We have all been sanctioned by America’s ZDERA, by the EU. Are we all Zanu-PF?

That is how smart the sanctions have been, indeed how targeted the MDC-courted sanctions are. When Chamisa tells us that Zanu-PF must concede to an unconditional power transfer to end people’s sufering, he is telling us MDC and its handlers will continue to lay siege on Zimbabwe until the people buckle from hunger. Mati maziya? Hamusati. Muchati mosanoziya chaizvo-izvo, Tsvangirai once said. A prophet who describes his misdeeds?

Why have we allowed the MDC to build its regime change politics on our hungry stomachs? That, to me, is the question, which MDC must never be allowed to duck. But worse may come. I see the media is already agog with speculation on the substance of the forthcoming Sadc Summit on Zimbabwe, sitting as the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. Such a Summit strongly suggests the issue afflicting Zimbabwe is both internal and related to the partition of power. Is this so?

Why has no one bothered to ask Chinamasa why he keeps drawing an analogy between Tsvangirai and Savimbi; between the MDC and UNITA? What was the substance of Zanu-PF’s presentation to the Troika? Power-sharing? Why has the MDC not obliged the charge of banditry by a response? What is the link between this charge and the dispute over the security Home Affairs Ministry?

What is the link between the MDC and a place next to us called Break-the-Heavens? Who is there in small groups? Doing what?

Hondo mutsvairo vakomana.


feedback — nathaniel.manheru@zimpapers.co.zw

No comments: