ST Mary's — Excited barefooted kids donning all manners of tattered clothes ran up and down the dusty streets as their brothers hid their faces in their armpits to avoid eye contact with strangers.
Onion-shaped girls who peddle flesh for survival were giggling on one street corner thinking potential clients had landed, while on the other was a group of boys blowing weed and hurling obscenities on anyone female who had the misfortune of passing near them.
Women were going about their chores, sweeping around their tiny yards, watering vegetables and bathing children in big dishes made from disused cars.
What however, boggles the mind is that almost everyone will be selling tomatoes, onions and leaf vegetables. You just wonder who buys what from who.
Each time a car zooms past, men and jobless guys either climb up the nearest tree or run inside the house.
Welcome to St Mary's, Chitungwiza, one of the country's oldest suburbs so full of life and drama.
Popularly known as "Santas", the area has two popular shopping centres - Huruyadzo and Chigovanyika.
It has a fair share of both worlds - the good and the bad.
People there are mostly of Malawian extraction hence the presence of nyau dancers and initiation camps.
There are times when these camps will be sealed off. No one will be allowed anywhere near while nyau dancers sometimes beat up people willy-nilly.
There are houses where women are taught life skills, including Chinamwari, at an undisclosed fee.
N'angas are also awash in this bustling suburb where it is not unusual to find expensive cars parked as their owners will be consulting the bush doctors.
So given to consulting n'angas are some people that each off day or lunch hour is spent kumba kwagodobori.
Those who believe in the traditional African religion trek to St Mary's where they hold their cleansing ceremonies in Hunyani River.
Members of apostolic sects also stay in the area.
In fact, there is an area that is popularly known as "Kumapositori" where these people hold their nights of prayer.
In this area, there are unreported cases of infants that die soon after being delivered and the cases remain a secret because the church does not accept the use of herbs and medicine.
Girls who are barely 14 can be seen pregnant after being married off to rich churchmates.
These members of apostolic sects reportedly do not send their children to school.
So expansive is this area where the apostolic sects live. Most people in the area survive on repairing motor vehicles, working as tinsmiths and praying for people with various ailments.
Almost every open space is now being used as a prayer ground. Mapositori ekwaMugodhi, Johanne Masowe WeChishanu, Venguwo Tsvuku, Vekwa Mwazha, VekwaNzira, VeKwa Simion and VeKwaMutopo are awash in the area.
There is just everything for everyone like a multiple choice exam which has a set of answers for both winners and losers.
Some people in St Mary's use bush roads popularly known as "Bhinya Road" to visit Harare.
Kombi drivers use the same road to evade police officers who have mounted endless roadblocks along the highway leading to Chitungwiza.
Even those being pursued by the police sometimes use the closes and alleys in the area to fling themselves off harm's way.
To be safe in St Mary's, you need to keep your mouth shut and ensure you have adequate security at home.
People who are building houses flock to the area for cheap river sand, pit sand and bricks which are moulded on the edges of Harare-Chitungwiza Road.
Old trucks with completely worn out tyres will be on site to ferry the materials to the buyers.
It is not strange to see someone being assaulted while people continue with their life as if nothing has happened. But not all people from St Mary's are bad. Some are professionals who earn a decent living.
Being a stranger there is as if you have committed a crime. Greeting a woman, asking her the time of day or directions is taboo.
People there are so united that they will never tell you where a known thief stays for fear of having him arrested.
In return for this, the consumers of the fruits of other people's sweat buy people in the area food and drink.
Funerals in this teeming suburb are like wild parties where people drink themselves motherless and perform lewd dance routines under Dutch courage.
In St Mary's there seems to be no weekend.
Every day of the week people will be merrymaking, making the source of that money questionable.
Shebeens there do not sell beer to strangers.
If you are, however, afforded the chance to drink from the house, you are given strict rules never to talk to the police and avoid bringing women there.
Falling asleep in a shebeen is suicidal. Your shoes, jackets and cash will vanish while the owner of the house accuses you of drinking excessively on credit.
In St Mary's there are known drug dealers who sell the prohibited stuff openly.
Police there have a torrid time. They will never visit alone for investigation for fear of being attacked.
Bars there are not any better.
If you are a stranger, the barmen will serve you warm beer, refuse to give you change and arrange that you be beaten for having the courage to ask for that which belongs to you.
Falling in love with a girl in the area bids on you to be a very good fighter or to have a lot of money with which to buy freedom.
"Blaz. Saka mauya kuno kuzoti torera mabhebhi edu munoti isu hatimadewo here? Kana usati wambozhagadzirwa nhasi unochibata," I heard a certain bloke being told straight in the eye before his body was used for a punching bag.
If you are craving for a real ghetto experience, it might be worthwhile paying Santa a visit.