Chitungwiza vendors bring smiles to stressed residents

via Chitungwiza vendors bring smiles to stressed residents – DailyNews Live 25 AUGUST 2014 by Francis Harawa

HARARE – Chitungwiza’s opera starts early, and there is no charge.

Lights, camera, action!

Enter, the mother and child duo whose only song is Mitsvairo, (brooms).

They are the harbingers of the day’s repertoire which starts as early as 5am.

With her daughter in tow, the duo wakes up the lazy house maids and housewives who are still snoring as they shout in high-pitched tones that pierce the morning air.

Their act is a fleeting one and they are soon gone. But who wants to buy a traditional grass broom at this hour, or sweep the yard with dried shrub branches in August when the soil
is dry?

Hot on their heels are the “egg men.” Their eggs are the freshest in town,  they chant. It is difficult to figure out why one sells his at a dollar for seven and the other at a
dollar for six.

In hot pursuit is the soloist, the “dead battery” man. Clutching his megaphone, powered by a “dead battery”,  he announces: “Tinotenga mabhatiri akafa.” (We buy dead batteries), as
he pushes his cart along. His is an interesting use of the royal “we”

He must be a man sold out on ZimAsset. He has “beneficiated” one of the dead batteries and powered a megaphone. That’s being innovative.

The “dead battery” man must have heard the pitter patter of the “pothole sealer’s” feet — a sign for him to leave the stage. The sealer does not do the kind of potholes you’re
thinking about —  the ones on the road. It’s those on the real pot — the cooking pot.

One wonders what Chitungwiza mayor Phillip Mutoti thinks when the pothole sealer passes by his house in St Mary’s. He must wish he could deal with the potholes on Chitungwiza roads.

Mutoti desperately needs pothole sealers to seal what for him is the real thing — the potholes on the municipality’s roads. The roads are in a bad state of disrepair — what with raw
sewerage spewing on the roads softening them.

During school holidays, it’s ten o’clock only when the cow bell rings, scattering young boys and girls who will have hidden empty bottles from dad’s last drinking escapade.

His is an “instrumental” performance. Sometimes instruments speak louder than words. Remember Petrovic Pavlov the Russian psychologist and his experiment on conditioning dogs using
a bell. It’s scary what the cow bell does to these kids.

These days, dad brings a plastic bottle, having been forced by circumstances to drink opaque beer.

They have been rummaging the storeroom for old returnable empties to exchange within the “cow bell man” for a packet of pop corn.

During school days, he times his arrival at the nearby primary school to coincide with break-time. But the women who sit in the sun waiting for pupils who buy their snacks give him
nasty looks. He is unwelcome competition.

The women have a few barbs for him and he is gone as soon as  break-time is over, announcing his goodbye by ringing the bell. The women react differently from the children. For
them, it’s good riddance.

The tall lanky woman, followed by a tall thin boy is next on stage. The tall thin boy must be her son.

She always wears a smile. She touts her wares stopping once in a while to allow the thin boy to catch up with her.

Being tall, she has long strides.

Makota peyaaaaa!” (avocado pears) is her favourite song this time of the year. It dates back to the period of the country’s economic meltdown. Avocado pears were the favourite
bread spread. She has other seasonal songs namely; nzungu nyoro and nyimo nyoro (fresh nuts and bambara nuts.) At times it’s mbambairaaaa! (sweet potatoes).

These days, Sungura maestro Alick Macheso has persuaded many to spread butter on their bread. His “Zorai butter” advert declares in no uncertain terms. But what he is persuading
them to spread is not butter, but margarine.

With the economy squeezing many people’s pockets, it’s a matter of time before residents return to the natural “makotapeya” spread.

Just before midday, Chitungwiza’s own Luciano Pavarotti, with a slightly deeper voice announces his arrival on the stage, singing “vhimuuuu yauyaaaa” (I have brought you vim),” he chants in a booming voice that can be heard from a kilometre away. He’s just a pint-sized man, but boy, does he have a deep voice?

In the afternoon, as the shadows begin to lengthen, the man who steals the show takes to the stage. He dances weaves and bobs as he announces his entry on the opera stage.

He is the “rat poison man, Chitown’s version of the Pied Piper. He swears his rat poison will rid families of rats that have been nibbling at  their children’s fingers, especially
those  who go to bed without washing their hands.

For those who have not heard the story of the Pied Piper it goes like this. The town of Hamelin in Saxony, Germany, was infested by rats and mice, way back in the middle ages.

A man later known as the Pied Piper of Hamelin promised to rid the town of the vermin for a fee, which the residents agreed to pay.

He played his flute and all the mice came out of the houses and were led to a nearby river where they drowned.

But when he came back for his money, the residents dilly-dallied on paying him. That sounds like Zimbabwe, two centuries later.

He disappeared only to come back to play the flute and have all the town’s children follow him.

He disappeared with the kids into a mountain cave and they were never seen again.

As the “rat poison man” chants the virtues of his products, housewives, maids and children rush outside to catch a glimpse of the showman. Hopefully, all the housewives are paying
for their rat poison, considering what happened in Hamelin.

Refuse being dumped on roadsides and in open spaces has provided a breeding ground for rats and mice and with Chitungwiza municipality failing to pay its workers, refuse collection
has been erratic. The rat poison man has got his job cut out for him.

The Chitungwiza mayor dares not attempt to hire the rat poison man, he can’t even pay his workers and is desperately looking for money to clear their 12 months’

salary areas. They can be tricky, these men who deal with mice.

As the sun dips in the western horizon, the showman disappears with the sinking sun to await his turn the following day.

But before leaving, he jokes that there is not a single path he has not traversed in the sprawling township of one million residents.

“If I were a car, I would have needed an engine overhaul, fortunately, I am human,” he says, as he continues on his journey.


  • comment-avatar
    Angela Wigmore 8 years ago

    What a charming and original vignette of daily life in Chitungwiza. Well done and thank you Francis Harawa.

  • comment-avatar
    Zuwarabuda Nyamhute 8 years ago

    Francis, this is brilliant. You are a talented writer. This could as well be a REALLY stage play encapsulating the entire Zimbabwean tragic drama. Thanks. Unechipo chepenzura, hama yangu.

  • comment-avatar

    KKKKKKKKKKK kuseka nhamo serugare

  • comment-avatar

    You know when you laugh but you know you shouldn’t laugh. I had to chuckle but I still hope for everyone of these people the Gods smile upon them soon and they all get a beter life. God Bless Truly.

  • comment-avatar
    stewart mayakayaka 8 years ago

    This is a brilliant piece of work. It caricatures our real every day lives not only for Chit town but the whole country. Just take a stroll along any street in Harare, God have mercy. One can write a series.

  • comment-avatar
    Msizeni Silwelani 8 years ago

    What a brief, excellent, hope this is heading for the theatre halls across the country. Indeed Zimbabwe has become a stage, everyone of us has become a performer, hilarious, satirical, name it.

  • comment-avatar
    Tendai 8 years ago

    Well written.
    One but wishes that the Mayor of Chitungwiza would sort out the potholes, rubbish and sewage in his town, and that the Government would sort out the economy and bring jobs back to the people. “Unfortunately”, that would mean an end to most of the street vending and we would not have such stories.

  • comment-avatar

    Should one cry or laugh. The dilemma with this well written piece. Well done !!!!