Surely this is taking indigenisation too far. But if you argue this new practice is lekker why don’t we have the Full Monty? We should be using boughs of the msasa tree in the place of the pines for Christmas trees and instead of snowflakes perhaps have hailstones. For the deer we could have young impala or, come to think of it, warthogs! And Santa would be emerging out of a real burrow seeing the North Pole is not very near!
Before globalisation took on its sinister meaning I always thought Christmas was the best thing to unite people round the globe; but obviously there are some who see it as one of the last vestiges of Anglo-Saxon hegemony. But we have never eaten turkey preferring goat instead.
This little setback aside ooh la la! Christmas is back! We received our first Christmas card in 10 years this week. We dutifully put it on the mantelpiece of the fireplace and sat down to reflect what Xmas (pronounced as spelt) meant to us. The rains are falling, so that’s fine, we will go kumusha and find the folks all excited by the blood intimacy of the land as they till it with their straggly beasts.
There was no Xmas last year, or the year before it. Or even the year before that. There was no money for it. Last year there was nothing on the shop shelves; so Comrade Santa sat forlornly at the entrance to Greatermans.
There was no money to go kumusha; even for the few who had it, there was no fuel at the filling stations. If there was, the fuel attendants had turned themselves into sickeningly powerful little tsars who banished you to the end of the long queue if you greeted them without a bribe. Know how little men suddenly become powerful in times of shortages. Now things have changed somewhat; they even clean our windscreens and check the oil and the water.
This time last year good old GG had printed the biggest note in the history of the human race –– a $10 trillion bill –– which everyone rejected. There were queues to queues; one had to stand in queue in order get into the queue for bread; many just bought places in the queues, it was a lucrative business for some.
For some reason the country was awash with the greenback; some said it was because of the illegal goings-on at Chiadzwa. There was a new breed of entrepreneurs in Harare; and I suppose countrywide. They changed money on the black market and became very rich. There was a name for them –– machange money — they disappeared penniless as soon as usage of foreign currency was formalised.
Remember the beer? Our local brewer had broken down due to lack of spares and we were flooded with expired South African stuff which left those with tender guts running for the latrines.
That beer was expensive, going for anything up to US$15 for a six pack; now it’s probably down to US$3.
For the children there were neither sweets nor ice cream in the shops. Those who could, crossed the borders into either South Africa or Botswana to buy groceries. The children of the less fortunate, who were many, made do with wild fruit such as hacha, masawu and mazhanje.
Christmas in the city is insipid enough in the good years with endless meals of rice and chicken; in bad years such as last year it was painfully dreary. We had tea on the leaves (as in Scotch on the rocks) because there was no fresh milk. The bread was tasteless because the ratio of real flower to maize meal was much skewed towards the latter. Few could afford chicken for lunch and even fewer went to kuMbudzi to buy goats.
The police were at their most corrupt. Any cop who had access to reflective clothing could set up a roadblock and demand a bribe. There were so many roadblocks it sickened you. It was clear most of the young cops had no clue as to the rules of the road; motorists going about their legitimate business were stopped for the flimsiest of reasons. There was no recourse; senior officers when approached also demanded their pound of flesh.
This year incidents of police corruption are fewer; maybe they are aware of the scarcity of the greenback but corruption is on the rise generally in the country; visit Makombe Building for example and see if you can get a form to apply for a passport.
Christmas is always more romantic at the Growth Points in the rural areas because of the rusticity. This year it should be “wicked” as the young would say. Unable to come home for Christmas in the past few years, this year is likely to be different. Young men and women from literally all over the country converging on the growth point to show off their latest clothes and latest toys in the name of cellular phones to the rural folks.
But two things always define Christmas in the rural areas: the tea parties and the fight against the local bully at the growth point. Unable to have access to tea throughout the year, the beverage is brewed in huge quantities and its consumption and that of bread, also rare here, is nothing short of a debauchery.
In the afternoon it’s off to the Growth Point or township as the business centre is commonly called. There is always a bully who dominates the township; often he can dominate it for a number of years but eventually he would be dethroned. He is like the Alpha male in a troop of baboons which has banished all the other males to bachelor gangs. So throughout the year the bachelors would be plotting to dethrone or cheapen him (kuchepesa). It is the fight which everyone looks forward to. If he is cheapened it a a big occasion to celebrate.
So, while city folks are contending with Comrade Santa, I will go to the rural areas to see where the bachelors are at with the bully, hopefully he will be cheapened this year; and as dusk approaches it will be romantic to see the bachelors walk their unshod girlfriends into the sunset.
Merry Xmas (pronounced as spelt).