A lawless state

Some may remember a little fuss last year when someone started building a service station on Cripps Road, next to the Siya-So market.

He was stopped by people who claimed to be zealous citizens, who also claimed that space was needed for a People’s Market, which we took to mean a further extension of Siya-So.

Now, some 18 months on, nothing more had happened until last Thursday. It seems that, once the election was safely NIKUV-ed and a suspected non-member of Chipangano had been stopped from providing a public service, extending Siya-So was no longer urgent.

Providing a service station, on the other hand, seemingly was deemed necessary. One was built and very quickly opened for business a few hundred metres along Cripps Road.

That summarised the situation on the evening of Wednesday 27 August, except to mention that somebody recently put an unofficial-looking sign board on the Cripps Road side announcing this was a free place to dump rubble.

I didn’t pass that way on Thursday, but on Friday morning the footpath from Matapi police station to Cripps Road had been closed at the Cripps Road end by a wire mesh fence, and an attempt had been made to direct pedestrians round the end of this fence. There were also more new fence posts dotted across the area, with no visible regard for the boundaries of existing vegetable plots. One stood, firmly hammered deep into the ground, in the middle of the footpath, threatening further disruption.

It proved unwise to take much interest in what was going on, because an angry individual roaming the area proved easily moved to further anger. Questioning him would have clearly produced no clear explanation. It did produce a lot of shouting in that language used by people drunk enough or mad enough to forget their mother tongue, and by foreigners. He might have been any of those three, but his accent wasn’t Nigerian, so he probably wasn’t an “indigenous” foreigner.

You may well wonder why I am taking up space with such an account of everyday events. I wonder how we have grown so used to such events. I suppose we were so used to Englishmen doing that kind of thing, in a Rhodesia that framed its laws so as to give them a free hand that we didn’t ask at Independence how soon those laws were to be repealed and replaced by new laws that tried to defend the rights of all the people. For example, any land rights in communal areas were only valid as long as nobody decided to stake a claim to minerals he believed to lie under your fields. Or, to return to our present point, those laws were made by English settlers who did not like the English Common Law which provides that a habitually-used footpath is recognised as a “public right of way”.

It even provides that if people make a new footpath across your land, without doing damage to growing crops or timber or to grazing livestock, and you do nothing to assert your right to close it within a year, it becomes a “public right of way”. In many rural areas people walk all the public footpaths in their area once a year in an organised way to preserve rights of way.

Now your Rhodie wasn’t having any of that nonsense. Nobody was going to stop him pushing anyone around who wasn’t strong enough to knock him out – and if they did that, he’d call the cops on his side.

Keeping Rhodie laws, administered by a police force who only investigated crime when it was on their side of the colour line, leads to a new class of black Rhodies, who want to be called “boss” and only change the colour line to one denoting the limits of a class or a political organisation.

What has really changed?

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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