The Sunday Mail
IF you are as old as Bishop Lazi, you probably would never be able to banish the irrepressible memories of those chicken bus rides from the village to the city, or vice versa.
However forgettable or unforgettable these memories were, they were usually shaped by two main characters — the driver and the conductor — who often had the effortless ability to draw attention to themselves.
The drivers, most of whom were invariably old-timers with a fetish for those fedora hats famed for their signature plumes, were the subject of rural legend.
We used to know them by their height, hue and temperament. Funny enough, we also had this canny ability to tell their buses apart by the way their engines consonantly growled to the peculiar way their drivers shifted gears.
In the village, they were also known for unbendingly abiding by their timetables so much that being a minute or two late to the bus stop meant postponing the journey altogether, as the bus would have been long gone.
But for the Bishop, it was the garrulous conductors, who had the inexplicable knack to pick up arguments and fights over anything and everything, that were the main attraction.
These chaps were unbelievably multi-talented. Back then, long before luxurious coaches plied our rural roads, most of the heavy luggage and baggage was fastened on top of the chicken bus, which was so named because there was usually no limit to the things people could put on and in the bus — chicken, goats, dogs et cetera — except for the odd weirdos who sometimes wanted to smuggle their “pet” snakes. Kikikiki.
And this is where the conductors showcased their full repertoire of skills.
They could balance an incredibly heavy load on their head and at the same time use their prehensile arms to dexterously scamper up the steel stairs that were affixed at the back of the bus. Because time and schedules were sacrosanct, if you wanted to disembark and you had luggage on top of the bus, it was incumbent to tell the conductor beforehand, which essentially signalled the most daring stunt ever witnessed by man.
Even with the bus at full speed, they could open the door and somehow, Spiderman-like, squirm their way to the top, where they would begin unfastening the luggage.
As soon as the bus screeched to a halt, they would fling the luggage in the direction of the owner and quickly descend using the steel staircase. Banging the side of the bus was a coded message for the driver to begin moving, and as the bus began moving through the gears, these rare human species would athletically sprint by its side, only managing to open the door and ease themselves in just as the bus picked up speed. It was a daring and incredible skill.
Overall, in the village, some drivers and conductors were popular and infamous in equal measure because not only did they bring parcels sent by loved ones in cities, but they brought much more, as they notoriously planted their seed in many villages and growth points along frequented routes.
As the late Charles Mungoshi would say, the milkman doesn’t only deliver milk.
A leopard and its spots
Come to think of it, with hindsight, these two key characters were the forebears of what we later came to know as the notorious duo of kombi drivers and conductors.
Their traits and characters were more or less the same.
Clearly, human behaviour, traits, circumstances and character rarely change.
While every generation believes that it is better than the next, the fact remains that reality is just a current version of a bygone era.
So life becomes a sequel of the same movie with different and constantly evolving characters. Just as traditional bus drivers and conductors morphed into latter-day kombi drivers and conductors, the pickpockets and “beerhall rangers” from back in the day have similarly mutated to conmen and slay queens.
This means every generation has its fair share of heroes, saviours, prophets, looneys, crackpots, villains, witches and — yes — sellouts. We always had and will always have them. And this is why the Bishop was not surprised when he saw some people who call themselves Zimbabweans cheering the UK House of Lords’ misguided discussions on our teapot-shaped Republic.
It was as comic as it was tragic, as members of this institution — which the UK Guardian columnist Catherine Bennet described in June last year as a “tarnished and fundamentally ugly institution” that was full of “living statues of a bygone era” — struggled to roll their tongues to pronounce names of the Zimbabweans they say they were concerned about.
Some of them even failed to distinguish whether they were talking about Zimbabwe or South Africa. Kikikiki.
These arrogantly heedless old-timers — who conveniently forget that they are talking about the internal affairs of a sovereign country created after a bloody armed struggle to extricate it from the exploitative and heinous colonial system presided over by the British Empire — had the nerve to talk about by-elections, the mulled Patriot Act and court cases involving MDC-A activists that are before the courts.
However, what the Bishop finds rich and even outright insulting is for the UK Minister of State (South Asia and the Commonwealth) Tarid Ahmad — whose country jailed nine climate change activists for between three and six months as recent as November 17 for blocking roads in London — to have the temerity to publicly state that the UK embassy in Harare is in constant contact with lawyers of incarcerated MDC-A activist Makomborero Haruzivishe.
“The UK remains concerned about the political situation in Zimbabwe . . . Our embassy is also in touch with Mr Ruzhiwi’s (sic) — (Makomborero) Haruzivishe — lawyers as we await the outcome of his appeal,” claimed Ahmad.
Would the same British brook the Chinese discussing UK elections or court cases involving British nationals? Where does a country that has such a chequered history of looting, killing and enslaving through imperial conquest, and which still has unresolved racial issues in its own backyard, get the moral standing to pontificate about morality, human rights and justice? Well, while it is unsurprising that the UK might still be nursing a heavy colonial hangover from its looting binge, the same cannot be expected from our nationals, who are ordinarily bound by fealty, blood and birth to be loyal to Zimbabwe.
But some of us know that most of the issues that found their way into the so-called House of Lords last week were actually transmitted by the MDC-A, some of whose members’ infatuation with Kate Hoey — who was given a seat in the House of Lords last year — is a matter of public record.
You just cannot imagine the immoral liaisons that take place between some opposition members and politicians in Western capitals.
On August 19 last year, Hillary Clinton, a former Democratic presidential candidate and ex- US Secretary of State, posted a very curious message when Government decided to blunt the putschist efforts of the opposition through the purported July 31 movement.
“I am calling for the Government of Zimbabwe to release all political prisoners, including Godfrey Kurauone, who represent the country’s future. Justice demands it,” she said.
Apparently, this was the first time the Bishop heard about this politically insignificant chap. Do you think Hillary knows anything about him? Can she even pronounce his surname?
Do you think she even cares?
So how did she come to know about him?
This is why prospects of the Patriot Act is freaking the hell out of the MDC-A and its handlers. Romans 13:1-7 makes it clear that people ought to be loyal to their country and its leadership.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.”
It also adds: “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.”
Imperialism is still alive; it only shape-shifts.
And, as it was before, sellouts are still alive; they only shape-shift.
The spirit of Morrison Nyathi — the ancestor of all sellouts who was directly responsible for the 600 lives lost at Nyadzonia in Mozambique in 1976 during the liberation struggle — is still alive, and also shape-shifts.
We will crush it as we did before.