A Loaf of Bread

Some kids recently came to me requesting help on a school assignment that asked them to describe the time in which we had hyperinflation in our country. Anyway, that period is still fresh in my memory, and it got me reflecting…there are a few days/incidences that stick out, and this is just one of them….

*****

My cousin Douglas (we called him ‘Dougie’) and I woke up just after 2 am on one Friday night. We quickly put on warmer clothes and dabbed our eyes with damp towels before stepping outside. It was the first time I found myself walking outside at that hour, and I was very afraid. My only comfort was that I was with Dougie, who was four years older.

We were greeted by a stinging breeze of cold air, and we walked briskly to try to escape it. I expected to see a few people on the way, but the dusty path felt lonely. We must me too early, I thought. As we walked, all my attempts at maintaining a conversation with Dougie were fruitless,  and perhaps understandably so. We were both annoyed at being up so early. But I still talked to him because I was afraid.

When we turned the last corner toward Spar, the local supermarket, we were greeted by a collective murmur of grumbling voices and the characteristic commotion of a bread queue. My heart sank as I studied the queue and realised how long it was. There were well over a hundred people huddled close to each other, one behind the other, all expecting that priceless reward in the morning – a loaf of bread. Dougie and I made our way to the back of the queue. Out in the open space, we were at the mercy of the unrelenting chill.

In a bread queue, some authorized person – usually a security guard – handed out numbered ‘tickets’ to the people in the queue in order from the one at the front to the one at the back. Usually, the highest number corresponded to the quantity of whatever we would be queuing for that was available. For example, if the last number was ‘150,’ it meant that there were a hundred and fifty loaves of bread available. But sometimes this was not the case.

On this night, the security guard decided to hand out the tickets well before shop opening time, presumably to allow people to return to their homes to get some sleep before returning to use their prized tickets once the store opened. As soon as people realized tickets were being handed out, there was a sudden uproar.  There was a sudden frenzy in the queue as people tried to hold down their positions.

My feet barely touched the ground as people behind and in front of me pushed and jostled. The queue now resembled a giant snaked caught in a trap. The body of the snake – children, adults, women, men, young and old – convulsed wildly under the dim security lights. What has happened to us? I thought. People were screaming obscenities. Men and women were grabbing at each other in unimaginable ways. But here there was no time to consider morals. I just had to hold on to anyone – or anything – just to stay in the line. I had to get a loaf of bread.

The chaos was not abating, and two more guards soon arrived – with them a guard dog. As soon as it arrived, the crowd-control monster began lunging at people, its masters ensuring it did not sink its teeth into anyone. But the poor dog had underestimated the magnitude of the task. A few moments after arriving, it had already sought refuge in a large trash can that the crowd had overturned. The snake had reared its ugly head.

Although I do not remember how, calm did finally prevail. I did receive my ticket – a small piece of clumsily cut-out cardboard inscribed with the number ‘247.’ It was not promising. Even as I walked back home to steal some sleep before returning, I had little hope. Dougie, however, had a better number – he had been more adventurous than me, taking advantage of the chaos to move up the queue. Our hopes were with him.

Dawn brought its fears, and they were duly realised. We returned to the supermarket with my mother, and we found that they were using different tickets from the ones they had handed out several hours earlier. They must have handed them out while we had gone to sleep. It was unfair, but not at all surprising. This was our new society.

While we stood by wondering what could have been, I caught sight of a local vendor. She already had several loaves of bread stacked beside her, and it seemed like she was waiting for more. She was our only chance of getting bread that morning, but her double-price was prohibitive. We left with drooping heads, afraid to think of what lay ahead.

And what lay ahead in the coming years was far worse than we had ever experienced, or imagined.

Scientist Discovers Self

Originally posted on The Scrutiny:

A researcher at the University of California at Berkeley’s Applied Nuclear Physics Department has made a stunning discovery. Ron Foester says he was sitting in a recreational area inside Stanford University’s famed linear accelerator complex SLAC, now a US Department of Energy lab, when he found his true self.

Speaking to fellow researchers at Berkeley, Foester described how he made the discovery. “I was sitting there sipping on my coffee, when I suddenly discovered myself – as in, my true inner self. That is what I have been searching for in the past few years, and only just now have I truly found it – my true being. And it happened – would you believe it – at Stanford University, of all places!”

Foester says his discovery is significant, as it will help reduce self-discovery costs world wide. He posited that people usually go on expensive retreats, hire expensive life…

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Burundi President Discovers Possibility of Being President for Life Through ‘Constitutional Error’

Lez:

Trying my hand at satire. Please be gentle :)

Originally posted on The Scrutiny:

Speaking today in Bujumbura, Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza said that the revelation had come to him while he was taking a shower.

“You know all this time I thought I could extend my tenure by just one more term, but now I know I can extend it for life,” he said to rapturous applause. “You see, the constitution says that the Head of State can only run for two terms, but my official title is not “Head of State,” but “President.” Therefore, officially, I haven’t been running the country. Next month, I am still running for President, then after the end of that subsequent term I will run as Head of State. That will make me a life president.”

Supporters were elated at the revelation; however, at the announcement, there were fears of more widespread violence in the troubled country, but supporters downplayed these fears. Nicayenzi Miburu, a fervent Nkuruzira supporter…

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And We Are Off [ON]!

Lez:

Computer Center Open!

Originally posted on Kindle:

We finally kicked of the computer center this past Friday! Several kids came by and they were excited at the prospects of learning computers.

We have three fully functional computers which we installed inside a small church kitchen. It’s a start and the little place actually looks great!

While the kids enjoy typing, math and Super Mario-like games, we’re already planning ahead. We figure it would be great to have Internet for the kids and older people alike. The set-up fees are relatively high, but I believe we’ll manage to set it up eventually.

It has been great watching wide-eyed kids have their first encounter with computers. It takes me back to when I first used one myself. There are no words to adequately describe the feeling.

the opening ceremony had kids pulling out their dance shoes the opening ceremony had kids pulling out their dance shoes

I enjoyed being DJ (i.e. clicking PLAY and PAUSE) I enjoyed being DJ (i.e. clicking PLAY and PAUSE)

volunteer Nokuthula helping the kids volunteer Nokuthula helping the…

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Trevor Noah for The Daily Show? Yes!

Upon catching wind of the recent announcement that Trevor Noah would succeed Jon Stewart at The Daily Show, I was elated. My favourite comedian had just been parachuted into one of the shows I went to for political refuge in the United States. Let me elaborate.

Although the primary reason why I fell for Noah’s comedy is that he didn’t swear that much, I grew to like his social commentary and political satire even more. For a man who virtually made it his personal mission to criticize South African president Jacob Zuma, and rightly so, he did a very fine job. In fact, I’ve watched a stand-up act of his which sounded more like a funny political critique than it did a comedy show. It is difficult to tread the often tumultuous political waters, but Noah does it effortlessly with humour – and I love it. What’s more, I met the guy at Stanford University when he came to present at our annual African Cultural Show. He is very intelligent, funny  and also humble!

And now he’s coming to The (Jon Stewart) Daily Show, a satirical show that I often went to for political news during my stay in the US. Stewart’s quips were particularly pleasurable whenever I watched them right after a session of Fox News propaganda. (A note on Fox News: From my experience, ALL major news outlets in the US do doctor the news. However, Fox News takes it to mind-numbing heights). The Daily Show rounded up on all the ridiculous political mishmash and made the ridiculous appear really ridiculous. In away, that was political refuge for me. There’s something about political satire that is so satisfying and vindicating – it’s a kind of tonic. And when you have the best satirists doing it, such as The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert, it’s something enlightening.

And Trevor Noah is right up there with the best, in his own way. If you’re familiar with American politics, at this point you probably believe that I am a Democrat and that I absolutely hate the Republican Party. That is probably because you know the Daily Show goes to great lengths to attack the Republican Party, while Fox News is a Republican apologist. The thing with Trevor Noah is that, because some of his comedy is a scathing critique of American society as a whole – both Democratic and Republican – he has the potential to rise above this Dem versus Rep dimension. And that is why he could bring the Daily Show to a whole new level. He’s one outsider who has the wit and the gut to take on the untouchable United States itself, and not just one of its warring political parties. He can take on both its political and social ills without being partisan, much like he has done in South Africa.

Consider it. How about a mixed-race guy born of a black mother and a white father who pretended to have a homeowner-maid relationship just to be together with their child in apartheid South Africa? How about a guy who speaks Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, English and German, and does accents better than most people? How about a South African born ‘black’ man who has the guts to talk about ‘European’ Americans in front of an American audience? How about a guy who takes on America’s drone programme right in the U.S. of A? How about a guy who takes on America’s African stereotypes – who turns the ridiculous into the really ridiculous?

I say yes! But Fox News says no. Apparently, Trevor Noah is not qualified to critique the very fibre of America – Jon Stewart was at least patriotic, they argue. Already, they’re afraid Trevor Noah can pop the bubble and even go after the Holy American Constitution. Why would that be wrong? Every day, prominent Americans wipe their noses (you know what I wanted to say) with the constitution, yet it’s out of bounds for satire? Perhaps for an American, but not for a non-American. Especially not for a smart, knowledgeable, observant and funny non-American. He can go after that ‘fibre’ and help the Americans look deep into themselves. He won’t be content with the mere Sarah-Palin-Said-What? Ron-Paul-What-the-Heck? and Barack-Hussein-Obama level. He’ll want the ‘Native’-Americans-Are-the-Real-Americans level. What makes him qualified? Well, he’s like a person looking intently in from afar. Much like an eagle.

But I am actually afraid they might clip Noah’s wings. I just hope they do not. I hope he will slap America out of her global slumber and ask her the hard questions. I hope he’ll take the Daily Show in a non-partisan direction and smack American partisan politics right in the face. I hope he does it relentlessly, until perhaps the powers-that-be gag him, just as Jacob Zuma did. (And I sure hope he hits Fox News out of the park. Judging by their hysteria right now, they know that it’s coming).

I have said it before on this blog that while I was in the US, I felt more alienated for being (black) African than for being black. A lot of it was caused by the ignorance of America, and not least by the relentless mass media. When I watched Trevor Noah perform in the US, I felt my voice in his. Here’s somebody who made it okay to be (black) African in America. And when I spoke with him personally, he was just like me (only more handsome and funnier). He made me feel alright being myself in the US. And I hope he feels alright being himself on The Daily Show. For himself and for America.

Uhm, one more thing, my good Americans: Trevor Noah is referred to as ‘coloured’ and not ‘mixed-race’ in South Africa. In his own words, if you called someone ‘mixed-race’ there, the reply you’d get is, “Mixed-race? Your mama’s mixed-race.”

Hazardous Silent Treatment

Hello! I haven’t written in a looong time and I’ve lost a step or two. Here begins my blogging road to recovery…

She’s hurt and she wants to talk about it. He’s angry and he doesn’t want to talk about it. She talks to him, but he remains silent and tries to avoid all conversation with her. She starts getting frustrated. He gets angrier and resolves to keep ignoring her. And so the silent treatment builds.

Researchers have found that the person giving the silent treatment and the person receiving it should….

Wait, you really thought I was going to write about relationships? A gigantic NO!

There’s a blind curve adjacent to Pretoria Portland Cement’s Bulawayo factory, just over 10 kilometres east of the Bulawayo city centre. In the past few years, there have been four or five buses involved in fatal accidents at the curve. The most recent one occurred just a week ago. The curve is notorious for causing fatal accidents, most of them involving single vehicles skidding off the road before crashing or overturning. Contrary to what you would expect, that section of the road has not been changed by a bit.

Local residents of Cement Siding, fed up with the accidents, took to the curve a few years ago. With the help of the police, who barricaded a section of the curve, they held a prayer service there. It is normal for locals to engage in ‘cleansing’ rituals when they feel that unforeseen, similar deaths occur at the same spot repeatedly. In this case, it was Christians who took up the task. And they had the support of the police department.

There was a quiet period following that prayer session – right up until last week, when another bus overshot the curve and crashed, killing at least one person on the spot. The blind-curve-accident had struck again. At least one more death. Yet again – for the umpteenth time – the curve had caused an accident, but what seemed to be on most people’s mouths was the question, “Did you go see it.” The answer was almost always, “No, have you?” Not many people seemed to be talking about the underlying problem, and that it had to be solved. The responsible authorities, as always, did not say a word or take any action. They just came by to clean up the scene. And then…silence.

I wonder why the roads authority and even the district authority haven’t identified this recurrent tragedy as a serious issue and attempted to rectify it. Not even a lazy gigantic sign reading “CAUTION. DANGEROUS CURVE AHEAD” has been erected. And having guard rails built along the curve seems like a pipe dream. Nothing has been done beyond the accident clean-ups. But, at the very least, they could begin by acknowledge the problem. Perhaps a dialogue with interested parties could set things in motion, and the situation could be ultimately rectified. But the silent treatment is all there is.

The residents who once took the matter into their hands, by taking it up to the Lord, have virtually given up. I am not sure if any of them is willing to engage the police again, or some administrator or politician about the accidents. They’ve given up on the dialogue, and now they perhaps feel that it is not their concern anyway. And so the fatal accident count will continue rising for that blind curve on the Bulawayo-Harare Highway, just over 10 kilometres east of the Bulawayo city centre. And the authorities will keep silent about it.

Researchers have found that the person giving the silent treatment and the person receiving it should both take some responsibility.

Zimbabwean Armed Robbers: What A Joke!

Every “Armed Robbers Strike” headline is almost always immediately followed by another “Armed Robbers Caught” headline in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean police need a pat on the shoulder for their magnificent work. Or do they?

If you consider the situation a little more, you will find that the police do not really need to be at their best to catch these misfits. No. These armed robbers simply hand themselves in. I don’t mean it literally, but it’s so close to literal it’s appalling.

No, I am not on their side, but they are Zimbabwean armed robbers. In whatever capacity, they kind of have that ZIMBABWEAN label on them. Watch crime series in the US and learn about the methods that the armed robbers there use (let us only refer to the ones that do not actually harm anybody). I once watched an episode about a guy who at some point had robbed nearly 20 banks! And  how was he caught? He robbed a bank that had tracking devices hidden in some of the cash he stole. (And this after he had evaded something worse –  he had previously stolen a bunch of cash that exploded on him and sent flares all over).

Now compare: how were a bunch of armed robbers recently caught in Zimbabwe? Well, three of them robbed an “Agribank” and I think they made off with about $80,000 in cash – well, made off temporarily. One of the robbers (incidentally the one who was carrying the only gun that had been used in the heist), was caught an hour or so later. He was found counting the bills under a bridge, not too far away from the bank he had just robbed. As the story usually pans out, he led the police to his two friends. This, my friends, does not belong to a crime series TV show. It belongs to a Funny Videos kind of show.

I am not kidding you. Four other robbers – in Bulawayo this time – decided to rob a Baker’s Inn. The (Zimbabwean robber) logic here is that, when you want to get a lot of money from an armed robbery, you have to hit a bakery.. Hit a bakery big time!This is how it went…(I know how it went because one of the robbers probably narrated the whole story after getting caught).

They went to a bakery at night. Lo and behold, the place was locked! What were they to do about this unforeseen obstacle? Believe it – they were witty enough to scale the wall and jump onto the roof, break through the roof and land into an office – a bakery office full of cash. In a few – eh several- minutes they had hurled in a whopping $1! That is before they got startled by some noises coming from within the building. They all quickly hid under the tables – even the guy with the gun.

When that little scare passed, they made a run for it – up through the roof. There was honour among this bunch though, because they helped each other up through the roof. Except there’s the one guy who remained behind because nobody could help him up through the roof. His three friends had already gone. He was therefore left behind – just like that. He was the first one to get caught, and again he was the one who had the gun (it’s always the one with the gun!)

By now, you should be asking: what is up with Zimbabwean robbers!?

I don’t know! It must be poor planning or something. Think about it, poor planning runs in the blood of many in our population. What then do we expect from the robbers in our number? It makes sense: they cannot even plan an intricate enough robbery for the police to get some excitement. Imagine this for a report: “Ah, Chef, we just found him here outside the bank counting the money. We’ll bring him in now, but we’ll buy some soft drinks on our way.”

The situation is really not too bad, because we do get to have these robbers off our streets, and we also do get a laugh out of it in the process. Regardless, it still bugs me! Imagine all those international onlookers reading about our armed robbers. They must think we’re all idiots because we can’t even plan a decent armed robbery.

To save face, perhaps we should include the occasional great-ending robbery stories next to the funny ones. I think those ones would better showcase the actual effectiveness of our police force when it comes to dealing with these kinds of issues. For starters, I have heard about one where the police used a local phone network provider to track down an armed robber. Now that is more like it!

Zimbabwe Republic Police, keep it up with the apprehension of armed robbers. Armed robbers, just stop.

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