My Sunday Soliloquy, Vol. 10: The Idiocy … of Helipads, Ten Bedrooms and V8 SUVs

Mukuvisi Woodlands, along Glenara Avenue, Hillside, is one of Harare’s well-preserved vegetation and animal reserves surviving medieval and heartless plunder by political land barons, corrupt City officials and heartless property developers. 

The others are Haka along Harare Drive, Cleveland Dam on Mutare Road, Wild gees in Hatcliffe and of course the picturesque Manna Lodge of Glenlorne off Enterprise Road. In a normal civilisation where sanity prevails, nature and wetlands thrive because now than ever, it is critical to be sensitive to climate change matters exacerbated by reckless exploitation of forests that digest deadly atmospheric carbon dioxide. A ‘greenhouse effect’ lesson for another day.
And so last week I decided to take a ‘refresher walk’ on Mundy Drive – a boulevard of fun opposite Mukuvisi – from visiting my mechanic who works along Chiremba Road. Zimbabwe’s viciously relentless African sun has no mercy on jaywalkers, but when you are under protective canopy of five kilometres of green summer shade, it’s a worthwhile health treat. I am 63 years old and neither imbibe beer nor smoke ‘anything’, my boyhood village life conditioned me to take walking long distances with arrogant defiance. I remember my last great trek was as an 18-year-old at the height of the liberation war, in Shurugwi. My parents were determined to avoid me being recruited into Mujibha ranks by ZANLA guerillas, and by then no public transport was functional. Early morning after a short prayer, my father placed a rucksack over my back; I clutched my beloved acoustic guitar and hit the road from Mudzengi Village, via the now named Tongogara through the homesteads of Matsa, Dera, Sokuseka and Matamba, onto Chachacha Business Centre where my young brother and I boarded a bus to Gweru. This was a whopping fifteen-kilometre or so early dawn walk along rugged countryside terrain!
Hillside, just like Chishawasha Hills, has a few spectacular homes carved off mountain sides. As I strolled past them, I remembered a WhatsApp video of Emmerson Mnangagwa commenting casually on a helicopter flight over Chishawasha when below him was an impressive array of expensive homes some adorned with helipads. A helipad is a landing space for a helicopter in this case placed atop a multi storey building, and of course that can only be afforded by the ‘big boys’ of Harare. If you can afford a helicopter, then your Nostro or offshore account must be suffocating with Greenbacks! Which really is what temporarily occupied my mind during my Mundy Drive walk as I saw the ‘hillside’ homes.
You see, we Africans have a strange way of flaunting our wealth. As a rural teenage boy in the 1970s, my perception of ‘wealthy’ men was basic. I knew of people like A.D. Mpephu and P. Hall who boasted lots of buses (Super, Shu-Shine). There were ‘shoromas’ like Trynos and Broadway with supermarkets in Mkoba, Senga and Mutapa. By the time I went to secondary school, I heard a lot of other ‘rich’ African bus, shop, and tavern owners like Matambanadzo, Ruredzo. Mucheche, Zwambila, Madonko, Mushandirapamwe, Musopero and so on and so forth. In all my school and short college life in Rhodesia, I never met a single child from any of these wealthy families. But what I can tell you is that their parents flaunted wealth through large homes, expensive cars like Pontiacs and of course, them kids going to ‘multi racial schools’ where ‘real English is spoken’.
Funny enough even at Lower Gweru, Hanke, Nyazura or Solusi which were then epitomes of Seventh-day Adventist education, white ‘Christian’ missionaries who administered those schools prevented their children from attending classes with ‘black’ us. Instead, they sent their kids to a then ‘white school’ Anderson, Gweru. So much for being equal in the eyes of God. Humans are hypocrites, nxaa! Later in life, the explanation was that Rhodesian government did not ‘allow white kids to mix with black kids’, but this was nonsense in that Christian schools – SDA for that matter – are supposed to take the lead in racial integration. As it turned out, the children of the likes of Mpephu, Trynos, Hall, Broadway, Matambanadzo, Ruredzo. Mucheche, Zwambila, Madonko, Mushandirapamwe, Musopero and others were also sent to ‘white schools’ as an expression of wealth and opulence. Black idiocy on steroids!
Therefore, I am not surprised that as ‘late’ as 2023 – in fact – even well after Independence – there are still black Zimbabweans who think helipads, V8 SUVs and ten bedroomed houses in Chishawasha, Glenlorne and Borrowdale are the best way to show one’s wealth. Their kids ‘can only’ attend school at Peterhouse, Watershed, Convent and Christian Brothers where ‘real English’ is spoken. But because I am a liberal capitalist myself, I would not agonise over how a man spends his wealth if he is not a corrupt crony profiting from plundering taxpayers’ money, smuggling precious minerals and drugs. There are those that say all humans are equal before the law. I am one of them, but we are not born equal. Equal opportunity yes, yet life’s preferences and attitude towards hard work and innovation are different. It’s a legitimate class struggle for life.
The real catastrophe is when modern-day likes of Mpephu, Trynos, Hall, Broadway, Matambanadzo, Ruredzo. Mucheche, Zwambila, Madonko, Mushandirapamwe, Musopero start thinking hoarding many wives and ‘700 Solomonic concubines’ is a legitimate exhibition of wealth. But in the first place, does one really need 10 bedrooms, a helipad or even drive to work in a Toyota V8 SUV? Perhaps I am uninformed, but people like C.J. Rhodes and A. Beit invested ill-gotten wealth in education foundations, high schools, and nature reserves. Rhodesians were racist yet modest. My elderly Belgravia consulting office neighbours told me Ian Smith used to cycle to work – sometimes – and drove a Peugeot 504 with practically no convoy. Robert Mugabe (had) and Emmerson Mnangagwa has a vehicular convoy half a kilometer long … of V8 Toyota SUVs! I’m not a Communist or socialist but just an enlightened village boy from Shurugwi. A little modest will do just fine with me. Don’t you think so?
Rejoice Ngwenya, Sunday, 19 November 2023, Ruwa, Zimbabwe

Post published in: Environment

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