Post-election piss and things-you-would-rather-not-talk-about!
Post-election piss and things-you-would-rather-not-talk-about!
I am sitting in my car, waiting for a turn to fill up my water drums. We have been without tap water since Election Day. Before elections we could get the taps hissing once every two weeks. This time it has gotten really worse. The queue is long, and waiting patiently are the women.
“Next time you will know where to put your X in this constituency. How could you vote for the puppet of the imperialists? Now let that your MP bring you water. Mapenzi evanhu. Vakadzi hamunzwisisi mheni!”
The man is drunk, dead drunk, and he staggers on. No one pays attention to him. He has chosen his way of drowning his sorrows. The women in the queue do not lift up their heads. They are all busy tapping on their phones. WhatApp! It has taken Zimbabwe by storm. Last week the leader of one apostolic church I attended summarised how modern social media have really become a threat, even in the church.
“I will only tell you what the Lord has said,” he beamed.
“The prayer is simple. All those who want to get married, it’s very simple, sekudya derere! You need to deal with your generational curses, the spirits of your dead grandmothers. Go and get soil from your father’s homestead, and the same from the homestead of your husband for those who are married and of your would be husband for those who are not yet married. Combine the soil and bring it here, then I will tell you what the Lord has said for you to do with it. I will not disclose the finest bits here because once I do it, it will be on WhatsApp and all over the world before sunset. Then every other prophet will know my secret. WhatsApp is here to destroy our faith. Rufaro kwamuri!”
“Amen!” the congregation sloganeered back.
“Yes, and the Lord says beware of hyenas who come in sheep’s clothes, they will tear you apart,” went the messenger of God.
“I see some people here whose mission is not to pray but to spy. Hanzi naPio varikudenga ngwarirai nzira dzenyu. Riiiii tititititiii, erii! Pio Dhamureta!”
Before I know it I pull at my sister’s hand and quickly walk away from the congregation. She silently follows behind me, straight to the car and off. Hundred meters away I stop the car and remove the white clothes that were disguising the citizen journalist in me. I look at my sister who is also busy disentangling herself from the bondage of white.
“Pio Dhamureta will get you hey!” Our eyes lock and we burst out laughing. Despite everything else, the man has a huge following. It sends me thinking. What is it about the Christian movement that we as feminists are getting all wrong?
Sometimes I can’t help digressing.
I am still at the community hall, typing away on my blog journal, waiting for my turn to get water.
A woman comes to my car window.
“Can you please charge this phone for me, the battery is almost finished. Last night I could not wake up when electricity came back at 10pm. I was donkey tired.” Donkey tired indeed, de nigga woman is de mule of de world oh!
I do not answer. I just turn the car ignition on and connect the woman’s phone. She is keen to talk. I am not interested. Not that I am ignoring her, but I am also trying to drown my sorrows in my writing, “channelling the rage in creative directions”, as one of my mentors would say.
The woman will not budge. She wants a conversation while she waits for her phone to charge.
“These are the joys of it all. You see that woman over there,” she says, pushing her chin in the direction of the queue.
“The one in blue jeans”, she continues. I do not look at the women, I pretend to though, least I lose my thought track and miss the point I want to highlight in my piece.
“She was the one leading the door to door campaigns for the winning party. She caused us so much trouble wanting to know who we would vote for. But look at her, we are all on the same boat today, queuing for water. And where are they now, flying in aeroplanes while their green loans are watered with treated water. Kikikiiikiii, aah!, zvakaoma!”
I can only feel sorry for the woman and for myself too, but I can’t talk. I just want to write. I have so much on my mind, and I want to ‘channel the rage’ in positive directions.
It’s now the woman’s turn. She rushes to the queue to push her buckets to the front. I keep typing, channelling the rage, while I wait for my turn to fetch water. Typing and thinking.
How time flies! I take my mind back thirty five years ago, back in the village. Fetching water became my area of specialisation at age 7. We always had enough water at the natural spring by Mutorahuku river. If ever we had to wait at the spring, it was to play nhodo with my cousin Tari, Miss Know-it-all, while I listened to her village gossip stories. Tari knew all the people in the village by name, she knew all their troubles, and could try to count all the hairs on their heads and add them together had it not been for the household chores that plagued us every day after school.
One day Mudhibhis passed by as we played nhodo near the water spring. We had filled up our containers, but needed an energiser before we turned back home. This one, Mudhibhisi, the notorious village cassanova, passed by.
“Can you guess the colour of his underpants?” Tari asked me, her mischievous smile written all over her face.
“How can I ever know Tari? Have you gone mad? Can you guess yourself?”
“I will not guess, I will tell you. The pants are black and dirty.”
She giggled and threw her head backwards until Mudhibhisi turned from his path and came back straight to us. I threw sand over the nhodos and straightened my dress to get up, ready to run. Tari remained seated, giggling still.
I can still visualise Mudhibhisi’s big, strong, veiny hands grabbing my cousin’s breasts, fondling and squeezing them hard.
Giggles, more and more giggles.
‘Mhai!’ I called for help, impulsively, and thanked God for delaying to send my breasts down.
Mudhibhisi let go of Tari at my cry and proceeded with his walk. Tari got up, wiped her tears away quickly, dusted her dress and motioned for me to help her put the water bucket on her head. I did, silently, before I lifted my two 5 litre steel water gallons, one in each hand and followed her down the footpath towards home.
Mutorahuku kept flowing, drowning all my surprises and sorrows in her sparkling blue waters.
“Usataure, tinodzingwa chikoro. He is the head of the school committee!” she turned and looked at me, her second finger on her mouth.
“But Tari, what and why does a school committee matter?”
“You ask too many questions Miss BUT. I will not answer.”
The dogs at home barked. Grandma turned and looked in our direction.
“Manga muchiri kuitei?”
Tari started singing.
Handiroorwe, nhai amai hwe
Bhazi rikauya ndoenda
Nhai amai hwee
Mbuya winked at me and smiled, shaking her head and pointing her second right finger at Tari. I loved her toothless front gums, she was beautiful. Mbuya was always smiling, and always spoke to us with a soft voice. The only times I heard mbuya speaking with an angry raised voice was behind closed doors, and it was usually to my father, and sometimes to my mother. Tari would hand-motion at me, her right ear hard pressed against the closed door, and pull me to stand behind her. I never got to understand the conversations from inside the hut, but the way Tari shook her head and nodded showed that she was at the same level with them.
Tari, free spirit! She sang this song all the time. She kept longing and longing for the bus to come and carry her to the city of freedom. I guess she also wanted to go and drown her sorrows, away from the head of the school committee and from the household chores.
When I look up all the women have gone. It’s getting dark, but I still want to write. I want my pen to write about post-election safety and security for women. What is it? Is it the story about women said to be running away from the villages because they have been threatened with death for refusing to be assisted to vote? Is it about donor funding that must be used and reported on via women’s imagined predicaments?
Yes, my pen will roll and tell it all. It will write and write about millions of funding manipulated in programming for the privileged women to benefit individual pockets, when women die slowly from fatigue after queuing for water from one borehole in the whole suburb for the rest of their lives.
My pen will struggle to conceptualise peace and security. What really is peace and what is security? Am I at peace to programme for women’s peace when I can’t openly criticise the opposition’s empty alternatives without being accused of supporting “a party that has caused so much misery to the whole country”?
And who ever said male dominated political parties are the best for women, and that the opposition is always right even if it offers nothing different? Why should discussions about Zimbabwean politics always end with Mugabe and Tsvangirai, and why can’t our minds be allowed to discourse and conceptualise an even better future? We are tired of a single story, and of monotony! This politics of individuals ceased to make sense to me years back. I keep yearning for a political manifesto that takes into consideration our history as Zimbabwean women, what we have been through and out of, connecting that to our present material conditions and in turn laying that as a solid foundation for egalitarian societies.
I want my pen to dance and write, write and dance about spaces meant to be for women’s emancipation turned into stifling and suffocating elitist women’s clubs. Turned into paces where change is not allowed and where issues must be conceptualised in the same manner because,
“we-have-experience-in these-issues-we-have-worked-for-so many-organisations-in-and-outside-the-country-we-have-published-the-thermometers-and-the-atmospheres-and-do-you-know-US?”
Am I at peace when each time I walk into a space I am greeted with a plastic smile and “God bless you messages, messages of God opening other doors as soon as one door closes”, and as soon as I walk out I see with the back of my head’s eyes, faces being made at me and fingers poking my back, and as soon as I enter the other room I hear giggles spiced with despise? Can I ever be safe when I even turn against myself, accuse myself of failing to cope because I am also struggling with my own insecurities. It gets worse once this self-confrontation starts, and-I-get-bouts-and-bouts-of-hay-fever-and-unending-sneezing-and enlarged-tonsillitis-I can’t-come-to-work-for-the-next-two-or-three-days.
Am I safe and secure when I know that women who meant well for women in certain spaces were confused and ‘bewitched’ with lies, rumours and misrepresentations until they fragmented and sought to leave? And can I ever be at peace to know that open minded ‘newcomers’ are being sized up on a daily basis, ready to be pounced on for manipulation and malice.
Can I be at peace, when my colleague’s eyes poke at me all the time to try and discern the ‘truth’, and she even wishes to beat me under the feet until I confess how I am different and crooked because they have told her I am different and crooked when the rest of the women are the same and straight? And how am I different and crooked or how different and crooked am I?
I am a feminist my dear
A product of so many people and events
Do not struggle to understand me
I am just a product of a system, and of systems
I want to remind my colleague who I love so much because she is a young woman that she is paid to understand the system that bred me, and to help change the system for the better so that it breeds stronger women than me and her. I want to shout, but realise I can’t, because I am in the elitist women’s club, and the constitution says No to genuine shouts and Yes to plastic smiles, so I smile on. The constitution also says yes to silences, there are things that cannot be talked about in this space. So I zip my mouth, but WRITE STILL.
My pen will sing about human security, the security of enough clean tap water and adequate electricity for women. My pen will dance and dream of gender sensitive peace and security programming for women. Programming that departs from always dialoguing with male dominated institutions with results that only help perpetuate hegemony at the expense of programming that recognises self-care and body politics for female political leaders as transformative means of confronting and dismantling the master’s house.
Bhazi rikauya ndoenda
Nhai amai hwe, handimboroorwa ini