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Musings of a vegetable vendor

It’s 4 am
I wake up-it is early morning
I splash my face with cold water
I grab my tswanda (basket) on one hand
My little purse with the few dollars on the other hand
I rush out onto the street

"Town here mother?(Are you going to town?)"
"City patown? (Going to town?)"
"Town via Mbare?"
The hwindi (tout) shouts
Ehe mukwasha (yes my son)
I respond
I rush into the commuter omnibus

It's now 4:30 am
At Mbare musika (market) I get off the combi
I rush to the varimi (farmers') market
At least there I will get the tomatoes at a lower price
Iiii anhasi akanaka ende akachipa
"Today's are lovely and cheap"
I say to my friend Amai Rwizi
I buy my goods
Parting with all the money I have
Except for my 5 Rand coin to take me to my market

It's now 5 am
"Ndidengedzewo tswanda yangu shamwari"
"Help me carry my basket my friend"
I say to Amai Rwizi
I carry my heavy load, back to the combis
I decide today I shall go and sell my stuff in town
I need more money and selling in my neighbourhood will not work

"City patown-city patown" again the touts shout
I manage to get into the combi
The tout helps me get my basket inside (bless his soul)
The prissy miss sitting next to me pushes away from me
"Muchenjere kundisvibidza netswanda yenyu ineguruva"
"Be careful not to make me dirty with your dusty basket", she says
I ignore her and face straight ahead
If only she knew that if I had had the chance to get an education
I would not be a vendor
I was a bright student
But poverty made me what I am

"Bhadharayi vabereki (pay up please)" the tout shouts
I hand him my 5 Rand coin
"Koyetswanda? ( How about payment for the basket)"
"Munhu here nhai mwanangu? (It's not a person my son, how can it pay?)," I ask
"Manje kana musina yebhazi motosiya madomasi e5 Rand"
"(If you do not have the money you have to leave 5 Rand's worth of tomatoes)," he says
I take 4 big tomatoes and give them to him (oh what a thief)
18 passengers in the combi
No one rises to my defence
No one protects me from this thief
Not one!

It's now 5:30 am
I arrive in town
The sun is just beginning to filter through the clouds
So warming, cutting out the chilling cold
I lay out my tomatoes on my small makeshift stall
I sit in the sun, eagerly awaiting my first customer

A few minutes later a woman comes to me
"Mangwanani amai (Good morning mother)"
She says to me, her broad smile brightening up my day
"Ndaona madomasi enyu akanaka saka ndipei e$20"
"(I saw that you have quality tomatoes so give me tomatoes worth $20)"
I am overjoyed-that is almost half the box I ordered
All bought by one customer

Little do I know my joy is about to come to an end
Mapurisa ekanzuru! Mapurisa ekanzuru! Mhanyai madzimai mhanyai!
(City Council officers! City Council officers! Run, women run!)
I am slow to gather my goods, slow to run away

They take all my tomatoes
They tell me I have to pay a fine of $50 for illegal trade
I tell them I only have $20
They take it
They take it all
All of it-except for 5 Rand for me to go back home

I go home- dejected, depressed, dead broke.

How shall I pay school fees?
What shall I feed my children?
Where shall I get the rent?
Who can I tell?
Who shall help me?

It is 1 May today
They say it is workers' day
They say workers have rights
Where are my rights? What are my rights?
Who shall protect me?
When shall this end?


megha's picture

It's really heart touching

Dear madube,
I must say that you are really a wonderful poetess........but it was a really sad poem reflecting the inequality,corruption and prejudices present in almost every society.


MaDube's picture

Dear Megha

Thank you. This was my second attempt-I am not much of a poet but I am willing to learn more.
I wrote this poem on workers' day. I had fought with one of the touts the previous Friday when he wanted this poor woman to pay for her basket of vegetables when it was so clear she had struggled even to buy them. We see these injustices each day and I am ashamed to say sometimes I don't act nearly enough to defend these women. But thank you for your comment.



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