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councillor, me, no ways
May 16, 2012
feminist political activist Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga recently
tossed a challenge at my restive colleagues and me. She dared us
to get off our urbane high horses and taste the grueling life of
a typical rural Councillor confronted with daily demands of a pre-natal
village clinic. This last Labour Day, I quickly made up mind to
snub two cars in my garage, wave a lift along Mutare Road and head
for Chinyika in Goromonzi - my nearest 'village setting-.
Crammed in a tatty 1984 Datsun Bluebird, I was treated to folktales
of voodoo entrepreneurs milking US dollars off domesticated anacondas
and blood-thirsty goblins as we meandered past dilapidated 'post-land
reform- tobacco barns.
Having been misinformed that Chinyika clinic is 'only few
kilometers- from the growth point, I braved a stroll along
the dusty hill path. Huffing, puffing and scorched by the merciless
autumn sun, I wondered how on earth an expectant mother would get
to a clinic alive under such hostile conditions. I-m no nerdy
couch potato myself, a proven 'proper- marathon runner
many decades ago at Cyrene school! But to imagine an elderly Councillor
confronted with such regular 'exercise- on a have-to
basis! The villagers themselves had big hearts - greeting
me at every other opportunity, especially when I would take refuge
under a Muzhanje tree for temporary reprieve from the climatic cooker.
Despite years of abuse by misguided revolutionaries, citizens of
Chinyika went about their tasks with confident exuberance. Goromonzi
shopping centre itself portrays this subdued enthusiasm, a people
that are keen to get on with their lives amidst the dust and pebbles.
Were I to contest as Councillor, I would still stop one out of every
five villagers and enquire on their unfulfilled political expectations.
The answers would be torrentially predictable - a functional
public health, education and transport system!
Sitting back now working on this piece in retrospect gets me concurring
with Ms Mushonga. Perhaps we urbanites are too simplistic about
rural politics. We take life so much for granted, anaesthetised
with our own material stupor. Imagine a woman who falls [is that
the word?] into labour at midnight in Chinyika. How does she maneuver
her way through that treacherous footpath? Would she hire a car
from the local bottle store owner or get onto a donkey-drawn scotch
cart? If she made it to the clinic, would she find the place open
- let alone stocked with clean blankets, clean sheets, antiseptics,
electricity and running water? Say the sister-in-charge cannot handle
a prenatal complication, is there an ambulance to ferry the 'ailing-
woman to the nearest referral centre? Answers: she had better not
[fall?] into labour at night; rural clinics have very little if
any medical provisions; load-shedding is the rule rather than exception;
the nearest 'zoned- referral centre is Chitungwiza Hospital,
forty kilometers away!
I may be the political delivery type, but certainly don-t
make me your rural council candidate! Being liberal, I-ll
probably flaunt a 'do-it-yourself- manifesto that most
villagers - after 32 years of deceptive ZANU-PF benevolence
- would find repulsive. I would hate to promise all-weather
roads, medicines, ambulances and regular doctoral visits in a country
where central governance has collapsed and patronage has become
a vital drip in the political life-support system. As I walk back
to the bus rank at sunset, I am convinced why most rural councillors
have been reduced to undertakers and food distribution agents. Surrounded
by such desolation, what answers would I proffer to anxious voters
after 32 years of misery?
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