And so it was in every home that the father was this imposing tower of authority and paragon of virtue that was not only feared, but also looked up to in sundry ways. The man was a hero and idol. He could do no wrong.
Somehow, his multiple human transgressions always escaped everyone’s attention, let alone scrutiny. When the wily old fellow blew your school fees and drank himself to a moron, you chose to enjoy the drunken spectacle and your mind swiftly created all manner of excuses to gloss over and justify the nonsense. Always, the wife was in the evident employ of covering up for the man and at pains to sustain a squeaky clean public relations portfolio and an air of supreme propriety around the two of them. On their part, all the mothers were virtual angels — saintly in everything they said and did.
So often that imperious team of adults, both in our home and those in the village seemed to retreat into sacred adult territory, into lofty conversations… whether in their bedrooms, in the chapel, at school or (edale lenduna), whether it was about cattle and dip-tanks, a funeral in the neighbourhood, a forthcoming wedding or NakaVanana’s maize crop decimated by a neighbourhood’s cattle. Adults always seemed engrossed in those discussions of serious, life-changing implications that decidedly excluded us children. Their only licence to a life-time of awe and reverence by young people was advanced age, but to us children, adults seemed so complete and organised that they were incapable of error.
It was not until I broke into their ranks, (without an invite) that I discovered, much to my dismay, that adults are only a glorified version of the us, the children they come from — only they are more scared, more vulnerable, they lie more and cheat more — they are twice as selfish, more insecure, more intolerant and uneasy with each other than any of us their children. They have many more skeletons… and they simply keep building bigger wardrobes to hide them.
So much peace and joy we had in our multiple errands of idiocy as carefree children, but I was overly dismayed, on unmasking the adult veil of supremacy and joining in, to learn that far from knowing it all, these fellows really knew much less than the children imagined. Far from being prim and organised in their conduct, this lot were in a greater mess than our children’s play centre. Far from the façade of peace, adults aged so fast because they were bitter and at war with each other and within themselves. In fact, what I grew up seeing as the imperious team of adults in our society, increasingly turned out to be as miserable, an inferior team of idiots as any group of errant, mud-bathing roguish toddlers out there.
As children we allowed ourselves, in collective slumber, to believe hook, line and sinker a carefully crafted monumental fake story of adult piousness and propriety that was neither proven nor questioned, but that was false as the fairy-tales of umvundla lonteletsha.
This revelation of monumental smokescreens struck me on a morning walk as my mind explored the true relationship between citizens of a country and their government at a time government appears wrapped in a prolonged epileptic seizure of another of its customary moments of madness. Just as adult parents can never be better versions of the children or the childhood from which they emerged, it must be true that government is only a mirror of the people that produce it or the citizens from whence in comes. Like little children hopping and prancing on the road-side “skip-skip! henda yenda-fana kamina,henda yenda! Wena uyidoti….idoti kaMazayi, Angfuni wena… mina ngifuna lo!”, Zimbabwean citizens are convinced, rather invariably that the mere act of casting a ballot and sending any selfish thug, celebrated thief or thrifty hooligan from among their circles into parliament and government, automatically converts such thug, thief or thrifty hooligan to a holy saint, a compassionate servant leader and some magical minefield of great ideas and mega solutions to the national crisis that they, themselves escalate every day. You cannot mistake the carefully choreographed national blanket of awe, reverence and dumb faith with which Zimbabweans desert their senses, abdicate their responsibility of citizenship and place absolute trust in an inept government of clueless mortals whose only claim to power is incumbency. So absolute is their queer faith, that Zimbabwean citizens do not consider themselves as enjoined with government in the pursuit of good governance, even in their personal spaces.
Everyone around imagines that when we talk of bad leadership, corruption, greed, discrimination, extravagrance and wasteful expenditure, it is in reference to Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zanu PF and or the government, councils and the people in those institutions. Granted, these authorities we have recklessly entrusted with our national resources are brazenly gluttonous, extravagant and driven more by vice than virtue. But aren’t they just a glorified mirror of ourselves, the wasteful, irresponsible citizens that put them in those offices in the first place? Ever stopped to notice, how many times in a week you, as an individual consciously participate in vice and corruption in your immediate circle, whether as the corruptor, corruptee or facilitator of impropriety?
Watching the balooning population of streetkids in our cities, I often wonder where were they when we grew up? The whole phenomenon of “orphan” is alien to us.
Streets don’t bear children. Why would responsible households, families and clans of African descent ever accept and tolerate the abandonment of their offspring and dumping of their kith and kin onto cold rubbish streets and hunger-havens?
What real difference is there between governments with an insatiable appetite for globe-trotting and donor-begging from hordes of spendthrift, unproductive citizens who queue up every other day at Western Union for freebies generated thousands kilometres away by slaving siblings?
It is not that we imagine that energy and water conservation are responsibilities of Zesa and council that, even in this hour of need, every switch that can be on is left on 24/7, whether or not we need it; that we run a brimful bath three times every day and find a compelling need to throw our jeans and every item of clothing into the washing-bin, even after having it on for half a day?
Why, when those that send us money can’t afford home-helpers, do we find need for services of a maid to mind our tiny homes, clean up after us, cook and feed us like some invalids?
Do we eat because we are sincerely hungry, or we have tuned our fat tummies to time-clocking — eating simply because the sun is up, then again @ 10, then again @ lunch, @ 3 before devouring mountains of dinner…! Why is it we find nothing amiss with throwing away up to 45% of the food we are served, when we are defined as a food-insecure country and when we know so many are starving next door?
Aren’t we just as reckless as our government?
Zii Masiye (email@example.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.