By Onnie Ndoro I never thought that Baba VaTata would come to me with a brilliant idea of making money. So, while we were standing outside and I kept my gaze on the feet of passers-by in vain. I say in vain because no one was displaying his or her feet. This zvigunwe (toes) story really tickled me. The sacrifice for one’s toes was a new low for me. The love of money went beyond the bounds of sanctity. I said it in the previous story.
“You were talking about making money, so how do I go about it?” I was bold enough to ask Baba VaTata.
“Yes sure, let’s go to Zororo Bar. On this, you need to see the actual people or can I say actors!” He replied. Zororo Bar was his favourite thirst quenching well so to speak. The name in simple terms meant resting or relaxing whichever word you wanted to use. And Baba VaTata was not making it easier as he acted more and more mysterious. He was not making it easier for me as I wanted to go back home soon to appease my wife. Zororo Bar was just several metres away and before long, we had joined the other imbibers. And for those not in the know, Zororo Bar was right in our street. And our children in the ghetto were exposed to intoxicating habits at any time of the day. Families were literally living in beerhalls, having a nightclub as a next door neighbour was akin to someone anogara mubhawa!
The day was still young and I had not expected to see many people. I was wrong. We took our seats in the far right corner which was diagonally opposite the door. We could easily see those coming in and those going out. “Look in that other corner!” Said Baba VaTata. I looked in the direction where his forefinger was pointing at. I could see about three deadbeat guys crowding around a half-empty bottle of Chibuku, a popular traditional brew. I say popular because one did not need to dig too deep to buy it and get drunk I am digressing, but please allow me, but whoever came up with this brew invention had communism in mind.
Even if you came penniless to the bar, one could be sure of getting drunk. On most occasions, two, three or more imbibers would sit round one Chibuku bottle and take turns sipping the beer. Before the bottle was opened, it was given a big shaking and froth would rise and sometimes spill out. The foam was a good sign of the good quality of the brew. It would then pass from one person to the next, literally from one mouth to the next.
To the imbibers, whether one brushed his teeth or not was something else. And at times, the foam would drip on one’s dirty beard and would be wiped off by the back of the hand. No offence. It was all merry. If you did not have money on the day, you would still get drunk. The logic was that on the morrow you would take your turn to buy.
Once the beer was finished, someone in the group would buy and it could go on until all were drunk. Simple, life in the ghetto was not complicated. The spirit of sharing was profusely abundant and was a sort of microcosm of communism, what communism could have been like as espoused by its founders like Leon Trotsky, that great Bolshevik. Enough of this now, let me go back to my story.
Of course, they were familiar. I had often seen them hanging around quite often. “That is the War Veterans Corner, when they come here, they prefer to sit in that corner,” said my friend Baba VaTata with some air of importance. These are the liberators, had waged the war against Ian Smith’s army in the 1970s. I looked at them carefully. The surprising thing about two of them is that they looked much younger than me. They were barely in their 30s, meaning they were not even born by the time the war ended in 1980. I felt Baba VaTata’s hand on my shoulders.
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“And this is the story I was telling you about, these guys can register you as a war vetaran,” he dropped the bombshell.
“After that you are guaranteed a life pension and school fees for your children and don’t forget free inputs. If you are riding Lady Lucky, you can even get an A4 farm into the bargain.”
My friend never ceased to amaze me. This was a scam of course. And in this country of ours, anything was possible. Why am I even saying so, since 1980, the numbers were trebling. One can only surmise that new war veterans were being born.
This also brings to my mind, my friend from Ghana. I will give him a name, Daniel. He spent four good years teaching in South Africa. And for each of those years, each and every month he continued to receive his full salary with full benefits back home in Ghana. At the end of four years he decided to go back home to Ghana. He went back to his old school and continued as if he had not been away for four good years.
I cannot fathom as to who was taking his classes for all those four good years, but one can be sure that it is a well-oiled system, rotten to the core with grand cover-ups. But what Baba VaTata was telling me could never add up. At a sign from Baba VaTata, one of the guys strolled over to our table. When he was closer, I could see that he was much younger than me. He could not have been anywhere near a war zone as he could not have been born yet by the time the country got its independence. He gave me a hard look that was full of suspicion. At last he shook his head. All the time, I was looking at Baba VaTata.
He then gestured at my friend and walked away. Baba VaTata followed him. They conversed in low tones for a while and then my friend came back.
“He doesn’t trust you, he thinks you can blow up things for him and his friends,” he said.
I protested. “I never agreed to this, it’s a scam, obviously they want money for doing this,” I said.
Baba VaTata went to the counter and bought black label for the both of us.
I was half of a mind to tell him not to buy the beer for me, but instead to give me the money. It could certainly go a long way to solve my problems of the day. When you don’t have money, every cent, even bond note counts!
- Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS Tutor. For feedback, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @Onie90396982. Mobile number 0773 007 173