Tag Archives: just for laughs

Oh, Gokwe

Some of you may have heard about the drama in Gokwe a few months ago following 26 women apparently waking up without their panties on. The Herald was obsessed with it, providing regular updates on what Chief Njelele was doing to try to solve the “mystery” in his area. I found out about the mystery once they’d already solved it, but I still continue to stumble across pearls of ridiculousness that took place whilst investigations were unfolding… Gokwe and this panties saga really is the gift that keeps on giving.

It seems the whole story started when 26 females, “including schoolgirls” woke up to find their panties gone. All on the same morning. The women were adamant that they had been wearing panties when they went to sleep, but when they woke up, their panties were gone. Needless to say, panic and mayhem ensued and an emergency meeting of all those living in Njelele Village was called.

In addition to calling the emergency meeting, Chief Njelele also reported the matter to the Gokwe Police Station. Eish, the way I wish I had been a fly on the wall of that police station during the reporting of that incident! I’m pretty sure the facial expressions of the police officers as they listened to Chief Njelele’s story must have been absolutely priceless!

Anyway, some time either before or after Chief Njelele’s reporting of the matter to the police, The Herald caught wind of the story and asked Chief Njelele about the incident. “What happened in my area is so scary and everyone is in a state of shock and panic. I have called for a meeting with my subjects in the two villages where the incident occurred and I am scheduled to meet them so that we can chart the way forward,” Chief Njelele said.

The missing panties were discovered later in a “bushy area”, “spreading panic among the villagers”. Chief Njelele confirmed that most of “the owners from the two villages had positively identified their panties”.

So, obviously, a witch-hunt ensued.

In fact, it was more of a “witch-hunting ceremony”, just as Chief Njelele promised it would be when he engaged the police to allow him to conduct it. “I will ask the police to allow us to invite the tsikamutandas [traditional healers] so that we can conduct a witch-hunting ceremony”, he said.

Police in Gokwe confirmed the incident. They said, however, that it was very difficult for them to investigate this issue, they said the only person who could possibly solve the mystery was the tsikamutanda.

So everything was on track for the scheduling of a witch-hunting ceremony. And then, suddenly, Chief Njelele directed village heads in his area to stop the arrangements to invite a traditional healer to conduct the cleansing ceremony in the villages. It was reported that the move came “in the wake of more mysterious happenings in Chief Njelele’s area”.

What were these “more mysterious happenings”? Well, Chief Njelele said a “huge owl invaded village head Pauro’s homestead and grabbed a male mature dog with its legs before vanishing with it while the village head and his subjects were at a meeting to discuss the invitation of a traditional healer following the missing panties saga.” I love the precision of the description of the dog: “a male mature dog”. Just in case we thought it was a female not-yet-matured dog… as though that would make it any less bizarre.

“It is mind-boggling what is going on in the area,” Chief Njelele told The Herald. Mind-boggling.

Chief Njelele stated that most of the women had since claimed their panties from the stash that was found. “Some have burnt them while others said they would perform some rituals before disposing of them. I am keeping them [the unclaimed ones] at my own risk because as the leader, there is nothing I can do”, he said.

At some stage, despite the owl-dog incident, a cleansing ceremony was in fact held in the villages. And then the mystery was solved and reported boldly in all leading Zimbabwean publications:

“A 62-year-old Gokwe man has come out in the open and claimed ownership of a goblin which has been terrorizing women in his village by taking off their panties at night while they were asleep.

“The man, Mr Lameck Ncube of Village Charisekera, under Chief Njelele, made the startling revelations at a cleansing ceremony in the village.

“The cleansing ceremony, conducted by a n’anga from Hwange District in Matebeleland North and a prophet from an apostolic sect, was attended by Chief Njelele, hundreds of villagers and journalists from different media organisations.

“It also emerged during the cleansing ceremony that the mysterious goblin had been tormenting women in the villages since 2004. The ceremony was characterized by drama and chilly witchcraft stories as villagers took turns to stand before the n’anga and the prophet.

“Mr Ncube, who became the 25th villager to appear before the tsikamutanda and the prophet, then confessed that he owned the “menacing” goblin, which he claimed to have acquired long ago to enhance his luck.

“Mr Ncube told the puzzled crowd that the goblin had, however, turned “hostile and weird” to a point of going around sleeping with women. A police officer who had been invited to the occasion to maintain order at one time moved in to restore order after some villagers whose wives fell victim to the goblin’s “sex” escapades threatened to beat up Mr Ncube.

“The n’anga, who was accompanies by six aides, was forced with his team to temporarily stop the witch hunting ceremony as they accompanied Mr Ncube to his homestead to “capture” the goblin which shared a bedroom with one of Mr Ncube’s sons.

“There was more drama as the villagers jostled to have a glimpse of the decorated goblin after the tsikamutanda brought it before the crowd. The goblin, which looked like a living creature, was wearing a pair of blue female panties, which village head Charisekera’s wife, Ms Silvia Marumbe, claimed to be hers.

“Ms Marumbe claimed during the event that she lost her panties in mysterious circumstances in 2004.

“The goblin was later burnt before the crowd.”

“In an interview after the burning of the goblin, Mr Ncube said he was happy that he was now a free man, saying the creature had been giving him sleepless nights for a long time.

“Mr Ncube said he bought the goblin in Chakari near Kadoma in 1983 when he was still working in Kwekwe.

““When I bought this goblin, my purpose was to try and have luck in my life. I also wanted to get promoted at my work as well as acquiring wealth, but when I later retired, I then learnt that the goblin had not performed to my expectations,” he said.

“Mr Ncube said he started having problems with the goblin after he tried to get rid of it through n’angas.

“He said different n’angas he consulted told him that the goblin was now “weird” as it was going around homesteads looking for women to “make love” to.” I’m not sure about you, but I really think that “weird” is rather an understatement.

““As it is I did not know that this goblin has been taking away the villagers’ panties until today. What I only knew was that the goblin was at my home, but we were no longer on good terms,” said Mr Ncube, who at that point looked down in shame.

“Chief Njelele said he was happy that the culprit who had been wreaking havoc in the area had been identified. He warned villagers against engaging in witchcraft. “People in my area need to behave and desist from engaging in witchcraft. Because of this strange missing panties saga, my area is now known the world over for the wrong reasons, which is a shame. I therefore want to warn my subjects that we will deal with the culprits decisively at our traditional courts,” he said.

I just want to know what and/or who they burnt.

And who the headman’s wife had been engaged in “mysterious circumstances” with in 2004.

Such craziness is, however, not limited to Gokwe (although, if we’re honest, Gokwe does have more than it’s fair share of craziness in the news). Montana, USA, also has it’s own brand of crazy. Recently, a man dressed in a military-style “ghillie” suit and ran across a highway, apparently trying to provoke reports of a Bigfoot sighting in northwest Montana.

Anyway, he was hit by two cars and died.

The police ascertained the deceased’s motives by interviewing his friends. They reckon that alcohol may have been a factor. Unsurprisingly.

And then yesterday in Florida, there was a manhunt for a manatee-riding lady. Outraged witnesses photographed an unknown lady riding a manatee:

(She looks like she’s having the most awesome time, right?)

“The sheriff’s department called a deadly serious press conference in which they asked the help of the public in identifying the perpetrator. The lady was wearing a white cap, red shorts and a black bikini top.”

The press conference was described as a “surreal gathering”, which, considering the tongue-in-cheek tone of the news reports on it, basically meant “a total joke”.

The sheriff decried the lady’s abuse of the manatee. “Go ride a Jet Ski. Don’t use animals,” the sheriff said. “She needs to be held accountable for her actions.”

“Under Florida law molesting or annoying a manatee is a second degree misdemeanour.” Manatees are endangered and considered to be pretty much sacred in Florida.

“It’s a wild animal. It’s not something to be ridden,” Susan Butler, a manatee expert with the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainsville, told the Times. “I can’t say that as a biologist I would ever, ever condone that, or say that (the manatee) wanted them to do that.”” Duh. It’s a wonder they had to interview an apparently qualified biologist to get such an obvious (and lame) comment.

Anyway, after the manhunt started and public pressure mounted, 52-year-old Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez turned herself in to police. “Gutierrez admitted to the offense claiming she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees.

“The charges have been referred to the state attorney’s office for prosecution”.

Seriously.


Mr Ugly 2.0 (Harare)

Life in Zimbabwe is ticking on by as per normal… I drove past a house today where the bricks on the driveway have been painted purple. Yes, purple. As in a purple driveway. And I’ve had to swerve to avoid hitting a goat, 2 chickens and a vervet monkey whilst driving in suburbia in the last week alone. The goat was being chased by a large group of suited men who looked like they were supposed to be at a funeral. I couldn’t help thinking that having to chase the event’s meat down the road was probably rather awkward at a funeral… I mean, it’s hilarious, but are you allowed to laugh though?

News-wise, things are much of the same nonsense too. All motor vehicles in Zimbabwe need to be re-licensed (despite the fact that valid licenses were already in place…??!). Anyhoo, everyone had to do it in the space of a couple of weeks, which was a nightmare, so the government announced that it would extend the re-licensing deadline to 30 June to give everyone time to get it done. 6 days later, they were like “oh, just kidding” and cancelled the extension, sending the cops out everywhere to bust people who hadn’t managed to re-licenseAvoiding cops in the last few weeks must be a little what driving through a battle field must be like, with people blatantly doing U-turns when they see cops ahead. Even though the cops can see them U-turning, they have no police cars to chase them down, so they’re forced to watch people avoiding them. It’s ridiculous. And then the government backtracked and reinstated the extension. And then they backtracked on that again. And now no one really knows what’s happening… so we run from the cops just to be safe. Only in Zimbabwe.

Slightly further afield, on the outskirts of Harare, Margaret Masango of Kuwadzana has been charged with defamation after spreading rumours that her neighbour, Lizzie Kamombe, was breastfeeding 26 cats and conducting witchcraft lessons. Margaret also said that Lizzie’s daughter, Theresa, was a goblin and that Lizzie used her when going to South Africa. Seriously. Needless to say, Lizzie was a little upset when she heard that the neighbourhood was talking about her breastfeeding 26 cats… so she pressed defamation charges.

Scanning through the Herald website today, I came across many useful articles on things like the “Effects of overheating laptops” and the benefits of full-cream milk in “In defence of fresh milk” (which, although it’s written in typical Herald-journalist style, was actually written by Dr Timothy Stamps… which I found simultaneously confusing and scary.)

Leading news is that the Mr Ugly competition is back, this time upping its game and moving to the capital. The Herald tells us all about it, encouraging ugly men to take this opportunity to shine. (I’ve left the piece intact to do it proper justice.)

“In the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, no sun sets without its own histories. Even ugliness becomes a brand with its own stories for night talk. Here, the grey haired say, a person who stammers would eventually say “father”. It might be delayed, but the word will eventually come out. So it is never too late! The village soothsayer, the ageless autochthon of knowledge and wisdom says the world is a shallow place and there is no denying it. We are all so busy fawning over handsome guys and beautiful women that sometimes we forget about the ugly.”

(Apart from the fact that autochthon (yes, weirdly, it’s actually a real word) means ‘an aboriginal inhabitant’ (which I only know because I googled it), I can’t really shed much light on what the introduction is really about. And why he speaks about himself in third person is really anyone’s guess…)

“Harare, the city of a forever madding crowd, last week came up with yet another anecdote, about its ugliest man and indeed, our newspapers – for long bereft of good exciting human interest copy – ran full throttle.

“The organisers were looking for a man, very, very ugly and with some face that conjures fear in children and make them scamper for cover or hide behind pillows.

“This villager is told the organisers of Mr Ugly were looking for a truculent wonder – very unattractive or unpleasant to look at, offensive to the sense of beauty and displeasing in appearance and indeed they found him.” (‘Truculent’ means aggressive, brutal or hostile… again, I had to google it. Thoroughly awkward thing to call someone.)

“The man – William Masvinu –a beastly figure, gifted with a furrowed forehead, a pugnacious face and a big nose that straddles both cheeks and squats on the face like a bullfrog, dotted dead pimples, chickenpox potholes and rough, wire-brush hair emerged the proud winner”. (Like wtf tho? How can you actually describe someone like that??!! It’s just so wrong on so many levels!)

And it’s also not true… William really doesn’t warrant that description. And if the photographer hadn’t been such a hater with his angle, his picture would have been at least a little more flattering…

The article continues: “Masvinu has become a celebrity overnight after being crowned Mr Ugly, Harare. He even beat another man who shed tears!” (Men crying over losing the Mr Ugly title… awkward)

But, as the writer reminds us, “If God created man in his image, he must both be handsome and ugly, so it helps.” (Err, helps what exactly?)

“This villager understands that Masvinu is a bitter man, for it is quite some unfortunate oeuvre to be ugly and sad, and to be famous without fortune. The combination is disastrous.” (Oeuvre? I googled that one too… it means ‘the works of a writer, painter or the like, taken a whole… or any one of them.’ And no, it doesn’t make sense to me in this context either.)

“But the full import of this instalment is that Mr Ugly who hails from some village in Gutu, Masvingo and is now ordinarily resident in poverty-stricken Epworth must know that in the village, a tethered goat never grazes beyond the radius of the sisal rope that leashes it. It is this tolerance for states of life close to zero that keeps the goat going and hoping for the better.” (huh?)

“This innocent rhetoric from this domain of socio-moral idiosyncrasy at once appears much less innocent when one grasps which tendency is here draping the mantle of sublime words about life.” (yes… you start wondering where the story is now going…)

“Mr Ugly must be helped to make money from his condition in the same manner our beauty queens have been helped to make money. Our beauty queens are driving top-of-the-range cars and living large.” (his condition?)

“But Mr Ugly doubles up as a street porter and tout at Mbare Msika, carrying luggage on his head in a typical tale of two worlds. Just look at Vanessa Sibanda. It is squarely comparing those smooth cheeks, the cultured smiles, the pencil slim and sleek bodies of the queens to the muscular, rugged and contoured face, the beastly looks, the blood shot eyes, dry thick lips and the stray looks of Mr Ugly.” (Firstly, the “stray looks” of Mr Ugly? So not ok! Secondly, Vanessa Sibanda is the reigning Miss Zimbabwe Tourism apparently… had to google that too.)

“Mr Ugly should build a brand around his condition and this villager thinks that he can be a tourist attraction. In fact he is already one.” (but, like, a tourist attraction tho? This writer is seriously running amok.)

“The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, famed for its rebranding process can rebrand Mr Ugly and turn him into a security officer or doorman. Blazio Kasawala, the ZTA boss control manager could actually find a real worker. They can even find him something to do for, his condition is God given.

“Mr Ugly could also do with lucrative endorsements by fashion designers, blue chip companies as well as advertising agencies. Who said clothes don’t fit the ugly and besides there are too many ugly business executives who are saved by their pockets.”

Mr Ugly himself agrees, saying, “I am expecting to benefit a lot from being Mr Ugly and I hope that this will go a long way in improving my lifestyle. I won US$100 plus a voucher to spend a night with my wife at a hotel in Harare, but this is not enough.”

“In the village, even the ugliest of all men does marry and the wife could be the most outstanding village beauty. The face is nothing to show for life than the heart and the depth of character.

“What makes Mr Ugly, Harare’s story quite a mouthful is that he dropped out of school in Grade Three after the death of his parents. That means he is an epitome of poverty and even though he likes his looks – which are a plus to him – poverty has stalked him day and night.

He laments, “I am happy with my looks and I think it is a gift from God. I’m proud of my looks and I was created in God’s image. But maybe because I an ugly, wherever I go looking for a job they say hapana basa.”

“But this villager has other ideas. How about making him a strong brand ambassador advertising pesticides, killing those insects? How about heavy construction equipment and machinery like front-end loaders? Being uneducated, unemployed, poor, orphaned and ugly is a buffet meal for trouble. It’s a free cocktail.

Finally, “Whoever sees mucus in the nose of the king is the one who cleans it. This villager meant to clean this one.”

I mean… really?  I’m not entirely sure how that conclusion about the king’s mucus even followed from the story. All in all, I’m actually just weak.


runyoka and donkeys

It’s been a while since I last scoured Zimbabwe’s tabloids for general hilarity. This has been partly due to lack of time (I now have a job where I can’t stuff around for the vast majority of my day and get away with it), but also because I’m now living in Zimbabwe and am continuously surrounded by ridiculous news, so much so that my gauge of absurdness has begun to slide.

Being able to buy these papers in print makes me feel that I have an obligation to do so… but at the same time, I feel as though actually spending money to read these stories would equate to passing a point of no return re: the degeneration of my moral principles. This is particularly so with Zimbabwe’s newest (and most ridiculous) tabloid, H-Metro. Words don’t adequately capture the confusion (and other presently undetermined emotions) that I feel when I see H-Metro’s headlines taped to boards on street corners. ‘Wife serves husband son’s head for dinner’ was one of the first I saw upon my return. Seriously.

Good stories in Zimbabwe essentially come down to those involving sex gone wrong and/or witchcraft of some sort. Plenty of clichés should then be applied to the story in a slightly inaccurate way and/or drastic words used when regular ones would have sufficed. Correct spelling and grammar is optional. It’s really that simple.

For example, there was the Tsholotsho man, Petros Ncube, who “has no time for sleeping and having intercourse with girls but prefers donkeys. Ncube, just 18, religiously slips into bestiality six times a week with donkeys. A court heard that, on March 10, Ncube went to a bushy area and ambushed three donkeys.

“He grabbed one and quenched his sexual appetite. However, he was spotted by a fellow villager in the act leading to his arrest. In court, Ncube did not waster time and simple pleaded guilty saying that he does it six times per week. He said the kicked off his act with his own donkeys but moved on to those of other villagers.”

Ncube was ordered by Magistrate Toindepi Zhou to “undergo” 105 hours of community service. As far as I knew, you “performed” community service, but would “undergo” therapy… but, who knows, perhaps a combination of the two was intended.

Then there was the Nkulumane 5 man who called a commercial sex worker to his hotel room and, upon opening the door for her, realised that it was his daughter. I’m sure there are few moments in your life that could be more awkward than that. Needless to say, the daughter of it bolted, the father collapsed on the floor and family awkwardness ensued. He said he then hired a therapist to counsel her (and, no doubt, himself).

And if you can combine sex gone wrong and witchcraft, and throw in a mob that chants outside a police station, you have a real winner of a story. One of my recent favourites has been about a cheating couple who were “caught mysteriously stuck to each other at Matapi Flats in Mbari” in a suspected case of ‘runyoka’, “the famed so-called Central Locking System.”

Apparently, runyoka “is a traditional way where juju is used to lock mainly women so that they do not cheat with other men. If they do, they get stuck together and often only the woman’s husband can help them separate”. Or coming out into public could possibly separate them. Others suggest that “the man has to urinate so as to get released from the Central Locking curse”. WTF right? I literally can’t work out which “cure” would be more awkward.

It was thought that the locked couple were taken to the Matapi Police Station and, as the rumour spread through the nearby market, a crowd of at least 2000 people gathered outside the police station, demanding to see the locked couple (as one does in such situations). Goods traders at the nearby market had their unattended goods stolen while they were busy mobbing, but seeing the locked couple was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

The police denied that such a case had been brought to them, but the crowd didn’t believe them, resulting in the police having to bring in reinforcements to control the swelling, “salivating” crowd and tear gas canisters were emptied to quell their curiosity. The crowd was heard shouting, “If you do not bring them out we will not leave this place because they have been brought to your police station”… which to me sounds like a really long chant to catch on in an enormous crowd, but maybe they were doing it 3-word chunks, who knows.

What the publication made clear, however, is that “if ever there was a SEX WORLD Cup and sex interest, Zimbabwe would no doubt be the equivalent of Brazil in football judging from the drooling mouths and enthusiastic sex talk!”

I’m sure Anywhere, 20, who is married to a kombi driver, Bright, 24, would agree that Zimbabweans are obsessed with scandal. Anywhere gave birth to the couple’s first child at Ruwa Maternity Clinic… and the baby came out undeniably Chinese…

Neighbours initially thought that a Chinese family had moved into the area and that Anywhere was minding the child… then they thought that perhaps Anywhere and Bright had stolen the child… and it was only after Anywhere had adamantly denied that neither of those scenarios had taken place did they begin to suspect that Anywhere had had an affair with a Chinese man… which, of course, she had.

Anywhere said that there had been “a party at work before he took me to a Casino where he gave me a sweet drink which I suspected was mixed with alcohol before we had sex all night long.” We’re then told that “the Chinese” (note: not the Chinese man… just “the Chinese”) fled to Zambia mere hours after the birth of the child when it became, um, clear who the father was.

The story has a nice ending though – Bright has stayed with Anywhere despite her one-night stand and (totally relevant to the story), “Bright is now a truck driver after leaving his job as a bus driver.”

Lastly, we have an article written by Adoration Bizure for H-Metro. Here it is in its unedited entirety: “IT NEVER RAINS but pours for the 30-year-old man who claims to be sodomised by ‘invisible’ man at night. Frank Chifamba of House No. 4070 Zororo Highfield yesterday made yet another startling relation as he claims to be undergoing monthly periods.

“The other thing is that I am having another strange experience, I lose blood through my anus every month. At times, this goes for a week. I have no doubt that what I am experiencing is exactly the same with what women feel during the menstrual circle,” said Frank.

He added, “Well these things are happening to me spiritually I don’t suspect that anyone is physically abusing me. I just thought I have to clarify that point because I was now having bad blood with male colleagues whom I stay with saying that I was suspecting them of sodomising me.”

Earlier on, Frank had disclosed that he had been waking with semen splashed on his bums suggesting that he was being sodomised at night.”


Of goblins and glowing cats

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a number of things that have made me wonder about the human race… like me, all you can do is slowly shake your head with that unique combination of awe, confusion and judgment going through your mind.

Like when you see the new holder of the Guinness World Records longest nails:

And she looks like Medusa, but with the snakes coming out of her hands. She says that her long nails don’t interfere in her life very much, which makes me think that either she’s a liar or she can’t remember what life was like before she had those nails… coz you can’t tell me you can function properly with that jazz going on. Gross.

And the new holder of the world’s widest mouth record:

He’s from Angola and he scares me.

And if its not already too much that people are weird or do weird things to themselves, they also do weird things to animals. Recent research into preventing FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), which is the cat form of HIV, has involved scientists injecting monkey genes into a cat’s DNA. They wanted to see how the DNA replicated, so they marked the monkey genes with luminous jellyfish cells so they could tell which cells had the monkey genes in and which didn’t. So if you look at the cat’s cells under a microscope, they glow, and, well, if you look at the cat, it looks like this:

Like WTF tho?? They made two glowing cats and then made them have a litter of kittens. The kittens were not only all glow in the dark, but also resistant to FIV… like superhero mutant cats or something. My brother said when he has kids, he wants them to be glow in the dark. Then he asked me if I can get him a dwarf for Christmas. Then I got a bit uncomfortable.

The other day, I saw this google ad on my sidebar:

At first I was just confused what a “mirrow” was, and then I was puzzled as to how sangomas have managed to so effectively make use of google ad words. After checking out a couple of such sites, I realised that they have obviously all hired the same web developer, who has literally just cut and paste the same excerpts onto each sangoma’s site. I can’t help thinking that you have to be some kind of brave or stupid to double cross sangomas like that.

Anyway, not only have some sangomas kept up with new technology, but they’ve kept up with offering solutions for new problems facing society, such as the “call-me” spell which places “a very strong yearning in the recipient to call you, see you or contact you by any means available or possible” and the terror protection spells which “will make sure you NEVER will be close to a terror act”. So thoughtful in this day and age.

Some of their other services also made me chuckle, like the cherish spell which “invades the recipient with an irresistible urge to cherish you, cling to you, and to hold you in high regard” or the penis enlargement cream which you should “order now before you get an embarrassment from your woman”. Apparently the cream works even “if you are the laziest person alive”. And the divorce spell which should only “be used in extreme cases for example if your husband has disturbed you a lot and you are tired of his tortures”. Sounds like rather an understatement to me, but whatever.

Being a sangoma sounds like it’s a rather demanding profession. Apparently, well according to Kwayedza anyway, varoyi (witches) in Zimbabwe are using dismembered male penises as whistles. Don’t ask me how that works or why they can’t just buy themselves whistles instead. And an inyanga in Lalapanzi was seriously burnt by a suspected goblin which he was allegedly trying to get rid of in a home cleansing ceremony. I seriously couldn’t be involved in that profession.

Anyway, weird stuff aside, it’s been a year since 3 of my family members were in a crazy helicopter crash:

They all survived by the grace of God and are doing well one year on. I’m very grateful for that.


The return of the diesel mystic

Recently police and state prosecutors in Zimbabwe took a decision to pursue the prosecution of Rotina Mavhunga (more commonly known as the legendary “diesel con”) after Mashonaland Central cops finally caught up with her after several years on the run. Most of you won’t recognise her name, but some will recall her outlandish claim that she could, with the help of benevolent spirits, produce pure diesel from certain rocks in Chinhoyi.

Diesel oozing from rocks is really hard to believe, especially considering the fact that diesel does not occur naturally, rather it must be fractionally distilled off crude oil, a process which, obviously, does not randomly take place within rocks. I didn’t pay much attention to Rotina’s claims at the time, I figured that she was either a loon or that she was trying to take advantage of gullible people desperate for diesel in a country crippled by fuel shortages. What did shock me, however, was the fact that some of our government leaders, including President Robert Mugabe, didn’t share my sentiments… they actually thought there may be some truth in her claims. Either that or they were hoping that Rotina’s mystic powers would mean they wouldn’t have to print so much money in order to settle Zimbabwe’s fuel debt to South Africa.

So Mugabe sent a delegation to Chinhoyi to investigate. The delegation consisted of Ministers Didymus Mutasa, Kembo Mohadi and Sydney Sekeramayi, who happily trekked up to Chinhoyi to see Rotina doing her thing:

There are several things that confuse me about this photograph, apart from the fact that the caption says Rotina “horses” Mashonaland West Governor, Nelson Samkange, with diesel. It took me a while to realise they meant “hoses”… but maybe that’s just because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet. I also don’t understand why anyone would allow themselves to be sprayed so happily with diesel, or why the Ministers present found this ludicrous situation so entertaining, with it being reported that they were “photographed gleefully celebrating instead of verifying the supposed diesel find”. Perhaps they just didn’t have anything more constructive to do at the time, who knows. Anyways, they were obviously fooled and the government paid Rotina Z$500 billion as a gratuity, as well as giving her a farm, three cows and a buffalo. How awkward.

Needless to say, it later turned out that the government had been taken for a ride by Rotina, who had since disappeared with the money. Her farm was taken back, but they didn’t go after Rotina, no doubt shamed by their own gullibility. It was clear that the government just wanted the story forgotten. What was not clear was whether Rotina had actually demanded the money, farm, cows and a buffalo, or whether they had been given voluntarily by the government… so it couldn’t really be established whether fraud and stupidity had been committed, or just stupidity.

In response, Mugabe initially said that he was “disgusted” by the whole incident, but later saw the funny side and admitted that his Ministers were a product of a “society long steeped in superstition”, so he had forgiven them for their moment of weakness. He seemed to have conveniently forgotten that it was his own belief that there may be some truth in the matter that had sent the Ministers to Chinhoyi in the first place.

Anyways, that was back in 2007 and, over the years, everything had been forgotten until the cops bumped into Rotina recently and decided that there was enough of a case against her to investigate her for fraud. One of the cops said that “the Ministers were clearly stupid, but that is not illegal under our statutes. Yet Mavhunga clearly intended to defraud, and there is a law against fraud”. I find his blatant honesty rather hilarious.

It is now thought that the only explanation for the cops and state prosecutors’ decision to pursue fraud charges against Rotina is because the police and other criminal prosecution entities have been infiltrated with opposition MDC agents, who are seizing this opportunity to further embarrass the ZANU government over the ridiculous incident. Well, I guess that conspiracy theorists will continue to conspire… and, meanwhile, the cycle of stupidity will continue.

Maybe the Ministers will be called as witnesses against Rotina, making them unavailable to attend to the more constructive parts of their jobs, such as running the country and, well, assisting in the drafting of a new constitution and the planning of December’s referendum. I think I’m finally beginning to understand why so little progress has been made with the drafting of a new constitution. Sigh.


12 hard days

A friend of mine brought an article from New Zimbabwe to my attention recently. I was generally very confused when I read it. Apparently a man from Nyamandlovu, who was accused of statutory rape, was granted bail out of sympathy by the magistrate hearing his bail application, despite the fact that bail is not often given to those accused of statutory rape. The reason the magistrate was so sympathetic towards the accused? He’d had an erection for 12 days straight. Or “a throbbing 12-day-old boner” as New Zimbabwe so very subtly put it. Seriously.

The 25 year old man claimed that he’d had an erection ever since he’d had sex with a 15 year old girl on 13 July. Although the sex appears to have been consensual, the accused is convinced that someone put a curse on him because he slept with the girl, as he’d never suffered like that before having had sex with the girl. He told Magistrate Godwin Sengweni this, while covering his crotch with one hand, and Sengweni must have felt a mixture of bewilderment, disbelief and, well, sympathy, as he listened to this weird story. It must have been, without a doubt, the strangest bail application he’s ever presided over.

In his application for bail, the accused did not rely on the usual grounds that, in the circumstances, justice warranted that he be granted bail for whatever reasons he could come up with, but instead claimed that he was desperate to seek traditional remedies for his “condition” and needed to be granted bail in order to do this. The prosecutor, Goodluck Katenaire, said that the state was not opposing the accused’s application for bail… “from a humanitarian point of view”. Katenaire obviously reckoned that justice in the circumstances demanded that the accused get some serious help ASAP. The magistrate clearly agreed and the accused was bailed and ordered to appear again on August 15.

Now, maybe I’m just a hater, but is it really possible to have an erection for 12 days straight? Or do you reckon that it was just a ploy by the accused to secure bail in circumstances that he otherwise would probably not have got bail? Eish, sometimes the legal system in Zimbabwe just makes me weak.


Laundering the ZUSA

The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has announced that banks in Zimbabwe are ready to exchange old, worn US dollar bills for new, fresh ones. This has brought much relief to Zimbabweans, not only because most of the smaller denomination notes are so dirty and soiled that you feel you need a tetanus shot after handling them, but because many street vendors, taxi drivers and shops have started refusing the disintegrating notes, claiming that their suppliers, in turn, wouldn’t accept them. Yet the same people who are refusing the old notes are giving people change in notes just as old and worn as the ones that they were refusing… so clearly they are accepting them from someone. Needless to say, this was really beginning to piss people off.

BAZ president, John Mushayavanhu, said that this exchange measure is necessary to repatriate notes back to the United States, so that Zimbabwe can receive new bills from the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. If Zimbabweans banked their money, it wouldn’t be necessary to make a call for people to exchange their notes, but since Zimbabweans don’t believe in the formal banking sector any more, opting rather for the safekeeping under the mattress method, it’s become necessary. You see, avoiding banks means avoiding banking charges, which are exorbitant in Zimbabwe, so you can’t really blame anyone.

Mashayavanhu added quickly that, “the notes can be exchanged free of charge”, knowing full well that Zimbabweans would never exchange them if they had to pay a fee for such exchange. It’s actually not so random to have to tell Zimbabweans that they won’t have to pay for money… there was a time when cash was so short that you had to buy it, at a profit to those lucky few who had access to the cash reserves. You gave them a cheque for, say $100 000 and they gave you $80 000 in cash. What craziness.

This soiled notes situation made me reflect on the journey that Zimbabwe has taken over the last 10 years or so in regard to money. Zimbabwe has been through a lot. I’m totally baffled, still, when I remember the various stages leading up to Zimbabwe being forced to adopt the US dollar (or the ZUSA as Zimbabweans call it) as its official currency. It’s a journey that I’m sure many of you are all too familiar with.

I remember the Zimbabwe dollar while I was at junior school… it was stronger than the British pound and $2 pocket money could buy you a slice of cake at the Friday cake sale, a drink, chips and an ice cream, maybe even with a bit to spare. We even used to have coins back then. My, what a different time that was. Zimbabwe was living large. This started to change in my last year at junior school, when Britain reneged on its obligations to fund land reform in Zimbabwe. Whether Britain acted fairly or not is debatable, but was is certain is that this juncture marked the start of the wrecking of the Zimbabwe dollar.

Things were still sort of ok in my first years of high school. I mean, you could buy individual jelly babies at the tuck shop, which is always awesome. And because they were sold individually, it meant that everyone fought over the black jelly babies, which were by far the best. Looking back though, I realise two things about this jelly baby situation: 1. The jelly babies were far harder than they are anywhere else in the world. It was because they were stale, although we didn’t realise it then. 2. The people who ran the tuck shop clearly didn’t care about the general lack of hygiene involved in allowing people to pick which particular jelly babies they wanted. Never mind, they still tasted great.

During O level history, we studied hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic after World War I. Although things were already tricky in Zimbabwe, we couldn’t conceive of having to carry money in a wheelbarrow, or having to pay for a meal in a restaurant as you ordered it, otherwise the price would triple (or more) in the time it took for you to eat your meal. Workers had to spend their entire salary in one day or else it would be useless the next. That’s if they were lucky enough to have a job and to earn a salary. That was totally WTF-like to us. We probably found it funny.

By the end of high school, we were beginning to see just how devastating inflation, and later, hyperinflation, really was. It wasn’t funny. People’s life savings disappeared overnight and our parents were forced to spend their entire salaries almost immediately upon receiving it. We started using anything other than Zimbabwe dollars. We adopted fuel coupons as our unofficial currency, with a 1 litre = US$1 rate. Salaries were paid in fuel coupons and school fees were paid in fuel coupons. Groceries, too, were bought with fuel coupons and if you were owed change under 1 litre (US$1), you would be given an IOU slip. IOU slips then also became a form of currency… it was total madness.

Even though no one was actually using the Zimbabwe dollar officially, hyperinflation continued to soar. The government responded by printing more money… they printed new denominations on already printed notes, which hadn’t been released yet as they’d only just come off the printing press. I remember the green $300 000 000 000 000 (three hundred trillion) being printed over the pink $50 000 on notes. That’s when I knew that things had got way out of hand. Come 2009, hyperinflation was in the trillions (or was it quadrillions?) of percent and money lost its value in mere hours. The Zimbabwe dollar had to be abandoned, fuel coupons put aside, and the US dollar adopted.

It happened unofficially many months before the United States finally conceded and allowed their currency to become the official currency of another country, which is probably not a decision they’d had to make before. Once it was official, it was no longer against the law to use US dollars, and it was therefore no longer necessary to change money with shady dealers in dark passage ways. It made life in Zimbabwe easier, and now there’s an estimated US$2.5 billion in circulation in Zimbabwe.

It’s just as well that Zimbabwean children aren’t made to learn who is who on ZUSA notes, because the notes are so worn and defaced that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson look the same. Confirm?

As an aside, these old, dirty ZUSA notes are furry. Furry like the algae on the bottom of a pond… you know the furriness that makes your skin crawl because you know it shouldn’t be there. ZUSA notes are furry because they are washed… literally washed… to clean them so that their denomination can be identified and so that tetanus shots aren’t necessary. The notes get cleaned and then hung up to dry on washing lines. Zimbabweans call it “money laundering”… which just kills me! It’s so ridiculous! Zimbabweans are not ok.

Well, hopefully an exchange of notes will cut down on money laundering in Zimbabwe. And furriness.