The Herald (Harare)

14 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Valentine Gift From Botswana

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This villager will not spit his venomous ink on this year's Valentine's Day as requested and expected by his legion of readers, for, in the village in the land of milk, honey and dust, or Guruve, there is no such celebration.

If anything, the colour red insults the spirit mediums Karitundundu and others, the autochthonous oracles of the people and might attract punishment that manifests itself, mainly through a lightning bolt. A thunderclap is mostly a warning. But when the thunderclap roars and rumbles lightning lays its eggs. One day it comes back to hatch. That is when it strikes.

Red conjures memories of blood. The blood spilled during our protracted war of liberation in which the spirit mediums were the vanguards. The spirit mediums do not wish to be reminded of the war.

Besides, the moon of February this year has nothing to celebrate for the soothsayer. Born on February 29, the village soothsayer has no birthday this year.

Have you ever imagined how many times the soothsayer celebrates his birthday in a decade?

This year he is not adding a year to his age.

This is precisely the reason why he is ageless. For those who wanted to bring birthday presents, please keep them for next time. Make sure you double them next time, when February 29 appears on the calendar.

But on second thoughts, my neighbour had a Valentine's Day gift from the land of bleating goats, frolicking donkeys and mooing cattle - Botswana, the other year. Back in the village, if your cornfield is far from your house, the birds will have a free feast. The elders with cotton tuft heads say during a time of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build dams!

Does the village soothsayer, the ageless autochthon of wisdom and knowledge not say if you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents? And the soothsayer even says by the time a fool masters a game, the players will have dispersed?

Many Zimbabweans, this villager included, may still remember the financial crisis we went through in 2008-2009. Driven by the ancient rhythm of life to survive, thousands of our sisters - married or single - got into the thick of things. Some men did but most of our sisters became serial cross-border traders. Then they would go to Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique and South Africa to buy stuff for re-sale or family consumption. Yonder Kenya, DRC and Namibia, even! It was the test of the time. This villager is sure many cross border traders have stories to tell.

In June 2009 Bianca, crossed the border into Botswana, Francistown to be precise. As usual she left her husband behind. In Francistown, she would do a series of menial jobs for a week or so, raise some cash and buy goods for both re-sale and consumption. It was her second time in Botswana! She was still struggling to gain better employment. For a week she would do hairdressing, laundry and yard cleaning. Her day started with a door-to-door hunt for jobs. Shen never rested.

One day after a week of hard work, mainly doing domestic chores for the rich, she decided it was time to shop and go back to her family in Harare. She went into a supermarket, pushed a trolley and started picking goods. She needed to go into several other shops for different goods. She had the Ramakwebana Border to cross on time too. Pressure mounted. Then on the till, she found out she had no money. She searched all her pockets and could not find her money. Her handbag, had no money. Stolen or lost, was the question.

Tears immediately cascaded down her cheeks, uncontrollably. The rivulets peeled off the layer of the foundation of her make up, exposing a multifarious array of dotted pimples, for long hidden under the face powder. That is trouble. All she had worked for was gone. Only the passport remained in the front pocket. She sweated. Then there was the family in Harare. Her husband . . . her children . . . her relatives! What would they say? How would she go back home? There was a marathon of questions. Ideas. Questions. Questions. Unanswered questions. Re-searching the pockets. Tears . . . tears . . . tears. Breakdown! She passed away momentarily.

When Bianca gained consciousness, a white man was offering to assist her. The people who had gathered had offered nothing more than comforting words. But the white was so touched by her plight. He only identified himself Boyd. He took her to his house.

There, she was, in the hands of good Samaritan. She was left home alone to ease up while awaiting assistance. The house was furnished to totality. The pantry could not breath with goods. He stayed alone. His wife was on holiday with kids in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Towards nightfall, Boyd came back with more goods in the car. He had literary replaced almost everything she had bought. She was given more money to go shopping the following morning, than she ever had.

After shopping more than she had initially intended or rather more than she could ever afford, she went back "home" and bade Boyd farewell. It was heart-rending. He was a real Good Samaritan. God and the ancestors were great.

Instead of hiking to the bus station, Boyd drove her there. She boarded the chicken bus with several other women. Back in Harare she was split on whether to tell her husband, the father of her two children about the Botswana ordeal. For once she decided to keep it to herself. Do villager elders not say life is when you are together, alone you are an animal? After all, she brought the goods and her husband was more than happy with her work rate. She was a germ of woman. A gift from God! A paragon of beauty and probably the best product of nature! She was a total package for her husband.

Adults know what happens that night when your spouse comes back after a long time. It is hot. Village elders simply say, coffee and love taste best when hot. This villager will not delve much into that for, in the village, sex is not a spectator sport. No one sits in the terraces to watch. In the village it is taboo to discus it in public. The village, the village!

Life changed with the introduction of the United States of America dollar. Things stabilised and Bianca and her husband rescinded the decision to continue letting her cross the border. Besides they had agreed to have their third child. The pregnancy grew without complications and the family lived happily. The expectation of a third child, excited them. It tingled their brains.

Being good-natured people, Bianca and her husband were much loved by their neighbours. When labour pains visited her on Valentine's Day, her husband was away on duty and neighbours drove her to the maternity clinic. A few hours later she gave birth to a boy. Nurses checked and certified that child, normal and healthy.

They wrapped him. Then they turned to deal with the mother, removing the placenta. When the process was over. She looked at her child and her heart and eyes almost jumped out of their sockets. The child was white! Do village elders not say, a secret is like a silent fart, it soon announces itself. No matter how long the darkest night is, dawn will eventually break!

She screamed at the nurses: "You mistook my child and exchanged with someone else's! What am I going to tell my husband?"

The nurses could not hear of it: "Mother, this is your child! No one else gave birth in the past three hours. It's only you. This is your child!" There was dramma and pandemonium. Commotion!

The Botswana tears revisited. This time around, there was no face powder foundation to erode from the face, for the labour pains had already done the job.

In the village, elders always tell women to dine with strangers but never to forget to save their love for their husbands. That was a gift from Botswana!

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