mathabelazitha/the anvil BY ZIFISO MASIYE
I had occasion in my last visit to my discerning barber to try and explain the latest glowing World Bank reviews of the sterling performance of finance minister Mthuli Ncube and the minister’s impeccable global credentials.
Unmoved, he stopped in his shaving tracks, held my chin up in his huge, condescending palm as does a mom washing her baby’s face. I waited for his reaction, watching in the mirror as he hobbled nonchalantly the other way, ostensibly to fetch a moustache-trimmer, and feared he was about to punch holes into my proud
theory of “Mthulimonics” and my gleeful announcement of a happy international funding community.
Ours have become ruthless public spats and brain-blowing hair-salon bouts and the knock-out count has become a sheer embarrassment to me. It can’t be fair.
That salon atmosphere is a torture chamber! For how do you hold a potentially explosive argument every week, always on your opponent’s home ground, surrounded
by his weapons and that muffling chorus of chattering women hair-dressers? Always, you are seated at the man’s mercy, often looking supremely stupid. What with
all that ghastly powder and slimy-white foam he so unnecessarily, but so deliberately smears with unhinged generosity all over your shaven head and face, just
to rule the moment and make you look and feel the celebrated clown you really are! How do you ever score a point when, routinely the barber-cum-analyst slides
incisive, life-threatening instruments up and down your very throat, humming grimly, landing cheap, free blows whilst shoving your scrawny head between his
unprintables? Only the dentist… and a wife could ever make you feel more vulnerable than your barber!
In his blessed time, having processed my proud announcement, for a moment the rehearsed attitude of disinterest may fool you to think he didn’t hear a thing,
the barber sauntered back, dangling that trademark toothpick between his thick, dark lips and wearing his knowing, annoying wry smile, he retorted calmly,
“Mzukulu!” (twisting my head this way and that, it’s his job, but he does this as if it to knock sense into the head that he is shaving) “What family eats CVs
in this country? With our kind of problems, what is the value of a minister that is a World Bank darling and a local villain? Who needs IMF statistics to know
if your friend is a good or bad minister? Are the statistics not in our tummies, in your fridge, in the queues, the mortuaries and the long faces of the
people..!’ Isn’t your Mthuli just World-Bank smart and citizen-foolish?”
I was stunned into clumsy silence. His big eyes rolling pitifully over my bemused mirror-image, he tried to rescue me, reducing his analogy to things my mind might more readily relate to: “Think of it as an African marital union, where a woman completely abandons your needs as husband and primary shareholder, but
becomes the absolute darling and favourite muroora of the larger family and neighbourhood community. If he was starring in an African movie, Prof Ncube’s would
be: “A terrific muroora and a terrible wife!” Now, go choose whose CV-assessment really counts, the starving husband or the happy neighbourhood? It was the
next guy’s turn. I left more confused, but set out to pursue my barber’s warped mind.
Absolutely nothing can be as beautiful, as fulfilling as a solid, balanced marriage union. Yet I always found it outright silly and plain wrong that every
girl’s dream and ultimate aspiration should be a white wedding and that walk down the aisle. I reserve my disapproval for another day. For it is the consequent
marriage, the ensuing conduct and marital behaviour patterns of the malukazana that got my barber drifting to Mthuli and the potentially disastrous marriage that the moribund Zimbabwe economy is serving her unsuspecting citizens.
The incidence of marriage makes every African woman an instant change management expert as soon as the wedding veil is off. The domestic changes that arise
with her arrival and introduction into the typically large African family occasions a springing-up of multiple centres of power and competing interests that
demand her simultaneous attention. Umalukazana is an instant conflict-manager, the chief accounting officer, procurement and resource allocation manager, the arbitrator, pacifier and compassionate fulcrum of all family crises… besides being the boudoir pleasure of her husband.
I’m certain that nothing as frail-hearted as man could ever be half as self-denying a change champion and multi-tasker as a woman. Married women out there will
tell you that the thankless job of muroora is no mean responsibility and not for the faint-hearted. So complete is woman-commitment to change that, as soon as
they sign up, they often have to change their very identity, abandon maiden symbols and proudly embrace new nomenclature. The ruthless surrender and consummate
transition is often accompanied by corresponding relinquishing of a woman’s founding faith, home, habitat, dress code and culture and a seamless adoption and
proud championship of all things-foreign and all things-new. Many are known to perform such successful personality overhaul five-times over in their marital
career. Warned a wise man, as we agonised over “Underlying Motivations of Female Behaviour” at the men’s conference. In all of five days, the grey-haired guru
spoke once, as one who had absolute finality on the matter, “Zwanini, be smart, simply love and cherish your women to find peace. Any attempt to disentangle
and understand the multiple levels of their sacrifice to society and relationships, is the pinnacle of male folly.” He sat down. I agree. Indeed, a married
African woman is an imbokodo… some seven women rolled up into one super-human. But my present interest is the two, sometimes complementary, often overlapping,
but potentially conflicting mandates of “wife” on one hand and “muroora/umalukazana” on the other, as opined by my great barber.
In a world that is increasingly inward-looking and self-serving, yet a society that remains steeped in traditional culture, my learned barber suggests that
marital bliss may be elusive. He reckons it is possible, indeed common in modern-day marriages, that a young wife is completely consumed by the ring-fenced,
selfish mandate of her husband and children, often at the total exclusion of in-laws, aunties, extended family and community. While the marital glow may shine for a while, aunties and gogos often frown at such a “go-it-alone” union. They curse it. Soon, it loses its glow and broader connectivity and sinks in
isolation. He argues that in the opposite extreme, it is not uncommon that an insecure woman may pursue and successfully secure public validation, currying
favour with people outside of her marriage, earning rave muroora reviews from secondary stakeholders and passers-by, at the total exclusion of her own husband
and inner family. This, my barber thinks is the typical Mthuli kind of muroora!
With the world’s highest index of citizen misery, 19 hours of doom darkness a day, 93% unemployment, with 6,3 million, food-insecure, with neither drugs, nor
fuel, nor roads, nor functional hospitals, with a non-existent currency and every young person dusting their passports… perhaps all Africans should be
scared, terrified when the World Bank pronounces anything good about any of those responsible for their economies!
Zii Masiye (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.