Zimbabwe: The Queue-Queue Republic

By Moscow Mutema
If streets could talk, what strange conversations would they reveal; what nasty goings on, what stinking truths about every Zimbabwean, what moral meals defecated within them.

Ah, Zimbabwe, what are you doing to us? What are we doing to you?

It seems to me for all the ideals our independence is supposed to represent, we have maintained the same old ox-wagon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. There’s even an attempt to make poverty a holy and acceptable condition. When you say you are hungry, shameless politicians peer over their double chins down at you and say Comrade rambai makashinga, you are the backbone of the Third Chimurenga.  We have become Charles Samupindi’s pawns in the political chess game while local ‘kings and queens’ enjoy lavish lifestyles, the rest of us toiling in queues.

Yes, queues. There are acute shortages for essential things. In back streets, on grimy pavements, people queue. They queue for cooking oil, for matches, for milk, for bread and now they queue for their savings in banks. Go to any Zimbabwean town these days and you’ll find queues everywhere, like an invasion of giant pythons slithering into every supermarket door.

There is an unspoken etiquette in queues. Only those in police or army uniform get to ignore the queue entirely. The rest push and shove till they get whatever is available. Conversation in the queue is about unpaid bills and the ever-rising cost of living. People talk about fights that broke out in queues elsewhere, or how a supermarket fridge or window or door was broken when tempers got frayed. Although people often share their anger, most find it difficult to break through the layer of distrust. There are passing friendships in the queues, and most don’t exist outside the queue. You never know who is standing near you in a queue.

The queues always take ages to move forward. It is like following Stanley Nyamfukudza’s non-believer’s journey – going and not going. There may be no arrivals. If you ask for a fag from the next man, he begrudgingly shares it. Fags are hard to come by these days, they are gold. There are no words shared. Only the silence speaks volumes. Mothers sit on the grimy pavement breast feeding screaming babies.

Zimbabwe is now a country of nightmares, not nightmares of sleep, but queue nightmares. Even in their sleep, Zimbabweans have nightmares of queues. Those who create queues seem to think the absence of a queue is a sign of incompetence. They strictly ensure that the queue be seen to be as long as it can be. Without seeing queues, bureaucrats out of their 10th Floor offices seem to think that they have no power. Zimbabwe and the making of small dictators!

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