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Count not the years, make the years count

Mathabelazitha/the anvil BY ZIFISO MASIYE

For years now, knocking on 40, this week, every year I celebrate the birthdays of two great imbokodos in my life…my beautiful country, Zimbabwe, and my adorable wife, Sithenjisiwe.

But my cocky barber reckons the one is an elusive beautiful dream, shattered by Zanu PF and he fears, the other may be a cherished promise, bruised and battered by an ungrateful husband!

For I am no great traveller, but what little I have seen of the world suggests, on her 39th independence dance, with gold nuggets spewing and gushing freely from the belly of her broken mountains, that Zimbabwe is embellished with bountiful natural wealth, with bewitching splendour and seamless potential not comparable to any country out there. That sprawling mountain splendour of Inyanga may not escape you in spite of the horror blood-trail, courtesy of Idai.

The unaccounted skulls shoved down Bhalagwe will shock you to numbness, but the bewildering repertoire of balancing rocks, the timeless cave paintings embracing the betrayed bones of loved ones and the Lindibadzimu spirits of Matobo will charm and enchant you senseless. Mosi-O-Ya-Tunya long exhausted the Oxford dictionary for words of awe, though the grinding poverty of the People of-the-River is as legendary as “their” world wonder. A truly amazing people. A truly amazing country!

Neither too am I well-travelled in love, relationships and matters boudoir. But I have broken enough hearts and bruised my own too, to know that after all my travels in companionship and human connectedness, God parked me at the Mother of all Love stations. Thenji is incomparable. Today, at 51 she is more stunning than when she dazzled my eyes back on that university tennis court 30 years ago. I just realised that while my eyes were ever so drawn to her stunning beauty and deeply desirable femininity, what melted my heart year in, year out was the way she thought, it was her disarming humility and the spontaneous sparkle in her eyes when routinely she sacrificed her own happiness to bring a smile to another. Must be Scot Fitzgerald who captures my wife’s kind of beauty “No. She isn’t beautiful for something temporary as her looks. She is beautiful, deep down to her soul. ”

I made the usual error of announcing the double-barrelled anniversaries of my two-delights to my barber…. and soon I was at the receiving end of his customary forked-tongue jibes and salon lectures. His customary toothpick roving playfully from one end of his dark thick lips to another, his knowing eyes shifting from my balding patch to the mirror and his hands working with as expert ease and painstaking concentration as would an astronomy engineer fixing a spacecraft, my barber would, in between his casual humming of a feint Lovemore Majaivana rendition, take a deep sigh and hazard a casual running commentary:

“Congratulations… both to your wife and to your country Khiwa! We thank God for long years, good health and love….But like as it is in politics and sex, it is never the length that counts bro…it is the quality of life and the quality of love you have given the woman you call your wife that counts. I read where they said…Don’t count the years, but make the years count.” (Stops and chuckles his knowing laughter).

I found my barber’s comparison of my wife and my country’s birthdays somewhat jolting in remarkable ways. For he reckons:

Even as unemployment grinds and citizens ever meet their dispersed families as rarely as they cast a vote; even as thriving hubs of productivity… industrial firms fast convert
their manufacturing machinery, lathe machines to pulpits and to places of prophecy, praise and warship; even as hitherto life-saving hospital wards become drugless sites of final goodbyes and virtual body-viewing morgues; even as we stampede for space to bury citizens that die from preventable diseases than do miserable ants on a tarmac; even as
universities continue to off-load droves of graduates out of campuses onto the sewer-strewn streets and potholed mthuliconomy; even as our lives become so short and so brutish, as the condition and quality of human life degenerates to despondent squalor and hopeless poverty… still, the triumphant fist of the ruling party, Zanu PF punches the air with
ever more defiant zest in celebration of half a century of power!

Their most important calendar measure of success is another date with Justice Priscilla Chigumba and “election victory” by any means necessary. That there is absolutely no relationship between the number of years they have been in power and the quality of life of citizens they purport to lead is of no value to them.

And so it is that on my wife’s 51st birthday, my barber posed this question to me:

“Don’t just brag of the year count, but in your own words, how different have you been to your wife than this government has been to its citizens in 40 years?”

He punctured my mojo. This rude barber who has appointed himself to the lofty position of my mentor, my conscience and my life-coach swears by his mother that every husband out there is sentenced by divine decree, not sometimes, but everyday to shower their wives with unceasing rains of love and to bring unto them all the comforts of life, peace, security and joy with or without the excuse of resources! The bastard!

Immediately my mood sunk and switched from self-righteous excitement to deep dismay and guilt.

To both my barber and more to Thenji, my response was another glib excuse. I concede. In love, I am no knight in shining armour and, except you consider me an ordinary sinner that keeps trying, I am no saint at all. I planned to post a simple Facebook birthday message, because I know, as always she would understand — but the barber says wives don’t eat fancy Facebook messages — the cake, the wine, the flowers and that dress are the mandatory bare minimum!

Still, on your 51st and over the years, dear wife, I owe you a greater debt of love than this government owes its citizens.

Still, I owe you that beautiful ceremony, the sound of wedding bells that melts every woman’s heart, thou white dress and the long walk down the aisle. Still, I owe you that spanking new Ferrari… Still, I owe you that holiday trip around Africa. Still, I owe you chivalry and the gentle courtesy of opening doors…Still I owe you the warm hug an good day kiss… and all the comforts of life, abundant resources and peaceful nights, I owe.

Happy birthday Zimbabwe. Count not the years, but make the years count.

My barber thinks this message doesn’t count, but to hell with him and his crooked scissors. Happy birthday my angel wife. Always and forever, I Love You.

Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks

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