The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Anything Goes During the Tobacco Selling Season

A young lad stirred the fire, while his shirtless elder brothers jointly prepared sadza using a homemade cooking stick which resembled a paddle blade with their beads of sweat trickling into the pot. The trio's industry was akin to affairs of an anthill where work gets done with no commander, no overseer or ruler. Next to the brothers was an old lady donning a dirty apron who was cutting a single chicken into countless pieces which looked enough to buy her four more birds at the price of one.

Adjacent was a dreadlocked vendor selling roasted fish, potatoes and pumpkin leaves.

On one end sat a group of traders selling a motley of goods from second-hand clothes to blankets, kitchen utensils and skin lotion, while on the other were tired farmers desperate to catch a nap in the noisy place.

A stone's throw away, fly-by-night builders were going about their business with a wheelbarrow so old you would think its components were being held together by rust.

Few agile and drunk guys were dancing, showing off their village acrobatics and unpolished dance routines.

Scantily-dressed flesh peddlers could be seen walking about in search of prey, as were hordes of other vendors selling homemade agro chemicals.

Bedraggled vehicles, some looking nothing more than heaps of scrap metal, were also on display, as were disused pieces of furniture.

"Uyai muzvionere mapadza endebvu nemutengo uri pasi pasi. Tine mbeu yederere, mazai ehanga nezvimwe zvinoshandiswa pamusha," one vendor shouted.

"City-Mbare. Copacabana music iri tii. Chop, chop vabereki," a kombi tout shouted while beckoning farmers to a kombi which zoomed off at lightning speed at the sight of a police van.

The area had no distinctive odour.

It reeked booze, sewage, fish, beans, onions and cabbages depending on what was near you.

Welcome to the tobacco selling season, gentle reader.

The gamble by the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board to start the season earlier to boost sales has transformed the usually sleepy auction floors into a hive of activity. Everyone with a skill to offer and something to sell is running around to make hay while the sun still shines.

Everyone is at the station waiting to set foot on the train of development. Hapana anoda kuve weshure.

People living near the auction floors have long tales to tell and wish the season could last longer, while a handful wants the selling season to quickly end so they can enjoy their peace. As I commit pen to paper gentle reader, people seem to have shifted their focus from the politics of the land to matters of the stomach associated with the tobacco selling season.

Residents of Waterfalls, Hopely, Southlea Park, Glen Norah and parts of Chitungwiza, which are near the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, are cashing in on the tobacco selling season.

The same can be said of residents of Highfield, Mbare, Lochnivar, Rugare, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana and Mufakose who are near the Tobacco Sales Floor and are smiling all the way to the bank.

In Msasa it's the same with people setting camp at Premier Tobacco. Judging by the crowds at the floors, I am sure a famed wonder worker in downtown Harare has lost some of his followers to the auction floors. They, too, want money.

While people are still waiting for the second coming of Jesus, to some the Messiah has come in the form of the auction floors.

Kuri kubatwa zvakakomba kunzvimbo idzi. Purezha yadirwa sugar.

People who run businesses in areas near the auction floors are straddling on the fertile crescent.

Business is brisk and those with good customer care and well stocked shops are reaping huge benefits.

Some butcheries in these suburbs are running out of meat and beer. Others are having to open until very late into the night as fun-loving farmers keen on drinking themselves motherless won't stop imbibing until they have squandered everything in their pockets.

Vazhinji vatove vanamusiya dzasukwa while their wives are complaining of loneliness saying baba munouya ndapinduka runa. Some of them have literally relocated elsewhere so they can rent out rooms to tobacco farmers in desperate need of accommodation. That the farmers are being paid promptly has also heightened the euphoria in these suburbs. The farmers are awash with cash and have capacity to pay for that which they buy including bottled smoke.

The tobacco farmers are paying to use the toilet, take a bath and even while their time in the ghettos.

Rag tag musical outfits have also invaded bars near the auction floors to cash in on the selling season.

Some of the farmers, I am sure. will not be alive during the next season after splashing all they have on those of easy virtue and drinking themselves to the grave. Foreign spirits, infamous for their high potency like Lawidzani, Zed, Kenge, Tambirano and Blue River, which are relatively cheaper than locally made brands are selling fast and drowning many farmers.

Some parents are even failing to control their children. Young boys and girls have grown wild because of the tobacco selling and only God knows whether the sales will end with them alive.

There is so much going on at the tobacco auction floors. Like gentle lambs led to slaughter are most farmers because of the number of people waiting to wring cash from them.

Prostitutes are waiting and so are thieves, sellers of defunct gadgets, unroadworthy vehicles and uncertified agro chemicals.

The farmers need proper education on how best to use their money so that they have enough to plant next season and get a sound return on their investment.

Once some people get money, they start buying things on impulse and this is the time they make huge mistakes they will live to regret.

"Tengai mota yakakura musavhairirwe naJohn. Handidye sadza risina nyama ini," most people say after making huge amounts of money only to wake up poorer the next day.

Police should also play a leading role to keep thieves at bay. Most of the farmers should be encouraged to communicate effectively with their wives or travel together to curb the misfortune of splashing all the proceeds on prostitutes.

The selling season also bids on the authorities to educate farmers on where to buy certified goods and services. Yours truly felt pity for a farmer who was asked to part with his cash on the promise that he would get cheap fertilisers which was never delivered.

People working in the auction floors can also do the nation a good service by not undervaluing the crop being delivered to them so that farmers can taste the benefits of hard work.

Gentle reader, the selling season must be joyous and let's protect our farmers.

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