I decided in the new year to return Kuumba, my beautiful pet tortoise, to his wild, natural habitat of Matojeni.
by Zifiso Masiye
Besides my amazing wife, few sights and few life experiences have left a greater impression or ever etched as permanent a place in my heart as do the bouncing boulders, rolling staccato mountains and balancing rocks of Matobo. Replete in their splendid ancient gallery of art, deep mystery of their history, the soaring black eagle and the enchanting enigma of Njelele, Malindidzimu and a myriad rumbling spirits in the belly of those mountains and the throbbing Matebele underworld — the Hills of Matobo have eyes to see and a soul of their own — one that Cecil John Rhodes set out to immerse and marinate his dead bones in.
I too, long resolved, in the fullness of time, to nestle my twilight years in the backdrop of that bewildering mountain repertoire, there to behold the twin-wonders of my wife and that sprawling splendour of Matobo Hills before I bid earth farewell.
So it is, as our rugged road wound around those meandering mountain curves and crevices two Christmases ago, my beautiful sister, the Mother of Goodness, aka NoKulunga spotted Kuumba, the tortoise, lumbering precariously, with no care in world, in the middle of the road, dicing nonchalantly with certain death.
She screamed and slammed on the breaks, and Kuumba froze under his dazzling, chequered shell, in the screeching stench of tarmac and tyre smoke, a fraction of a millimetre from his crashing death. And so, against all her empathetic and frightened admonishments and much reasoned protestations, I convinced the Mother of Goodness of the wisdom of rescuing Kuumba, the tortoise from the wilderness and creating a safe pet haven for him at our city home.
I could feel her heart sink. And ever so often, Sis Noe calls from her lounge in London to check on the welfare, the health, the happiness of the tortoise and its real place in our lives.
The Mother of Goodness was always right about the rightful place of a tortoise. Kuumba may excite the infant fancy of Zothile , my granddaughter and the curiosity of her friends. He may offer fleeting aesthetic entertainment to a passerby, but the tortoise simply has no business in my yard! It has no clue how it got here. It has no clue why it was brought here.
It is restricted and confined. It is out of its breath and absolutely lost. Dangling, dazed and in such alien territory, every day, it tumbles and fumbles and its sense of purpose diminishes — the poor thing does not have any clue what it is supposed to do!
This grim reality, and the need to immediately release Kuumba to its pristine wilderness of Matobo struck me when, frustrated by ED’s government, an infamous ensemble of motley crowns. My barber likened our politicians to a hundred tortoises perched on top of lamp posts along a country road.
Just like the tortoise perched on a lamp post, our political leaders didn’t get to their position and station in life by themselves. Just like the tortoise perched on top of the lamp post, our political leaders had no clue where to start or what to do from the day they got up there.
Neither have they had any meaningful skilling, training or useful exposure to the positions, expectations responsibilities and obligations that come with the mandate surprisingly thrust upon them .Just like the tortoise perched on that lamp post, the political leaders are removed from their various everyday grinds of life and elevated to lofty positions of immense responsibility that are way above their usual capacities and competences to function and perform.
Like the multiple, confused tortoises sitting on a hundred, uncomfortable lamp posts, our political leaders may derive some weird solace in the comfort of their numbers, clung clueless in deep collective denial, celebrating their collective confusion.
But as does Dr Nkosana Moyo, my perceptive barber concluded that the million dollar question can never be the evident incapacity, the confused timidity, bemused cluelessness and bewilderment of the clan of tortoises perched on a hundred lamp posts. The real question is what kind of dumb idiot put the tortoise up there in the first place!
It is not a wonder, having so painstaking collected tortoises, knowing so fully well the full capacities of tortoises, having so carefully elevated them, for our personal fancy onto the top of the lamp post — with the full knowledge of the height, temperament and climbing specifications of lamp posts — that all Zimbabweans, invariably react in frustrated shock, in awe and absolute disbelief and in anger when tortoises can’t jump, can’t fly, can’t climb, can’t keep up with the pace of the pack, can’t khona!
Poor citizenship and not poor leadership is the problem of our god-forsaken country. Except for greater idiots, who elects absolute idiots into office?
Almost every day for over a whole year, Dr Nkosana Moyo politely reminded Zimbabwean citizens of their duty and asked them a couple key questions: Having diagnosed the problem of the country, what specific quality of leader/s do Zimbabweans need? What specific political leadership skills-kit is required to match the corresponding challenges? Why do Zimbabweans expect plumbers to fix medical puzzles? Or clowns and megaphone populists to fix a moribund economy?
Is it not witchcraft and insane hypocrisy for citizens in their millions to consciously pick from their own midst, thugs and common criminals and incompetent citizens of celebrated impropriety and questionable moral aptitude, to then turn around and scream of governance failure, of inept leadership, and of corruption and plunder and of tortoises simply being tortoises?
The questions candidly raised by Dr Moyo before the elections have become ever more poignant by the week since then.
A tortoise placed on a mountain peak will never become an eagle and soar.
Zii Masiye (email@example.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.