Lenox Mhlanga

Lenox is a public relations consultant and a freelance writer . He has written columns for The Sunday News, "On the Lighter Side," the banned Daily News, "Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga on Friday" and The Weekly Times, "Hard and Low." He used to aspire for political office until Jonathan Moyo rejoined Zanu PF. Politics has lost all meaning

From the Diaspora into the frying pan

IF YOU thought that my having disappeared from these pages was due in no small part to the howling critics that prowl the comments section at the bottom, then you are probably right. While trying to gauge my popularity, I made the mistake of perusing the opinions of the enlightened hordes whose singular preoccupation is to vent their spleen at anything that they disagree with. I was crushed.

Was I so vain by thinking that the world is full of nice people? I have never come across such a bunch of angry people anywhere. If we were to tap the negative vibes some of them generate, we are sure to get rid of the national power deficit at the flick of a switch. No need for the Chinese to construct their environmentally unfriendly power stations.

That reality check may have lasted this long, but there were extenuating factors that added to the enforced hiatus. I have discovered that if I were to allow myself to be controlled by someone else, then I would surely die of the misery some of our colleagues in the Diaspora suffer from. Please note that I said ‘some’. That is a heavily qualified statement lest the critics find fodder with which to construct their case.

Criticism is fine and welcome on these pages as long as it is constructive. So I won’t be Zanu PFish about it and settle for the gag or worse still…  Anyway, having rediscovered the fact that there are people out there who have chosen to be mean, I can also confirm that life can be unfair, sometimes. There two points were confirmed by my rather acrimonious exit from the land of the Batswana.

My exit from the land of the Khama was both acrimonious and embarrassing. I am bitter at the way I was treated by the authorities of that country, particularly the immigration section. For months on end, I found myself an unwilling client at their stuffy offices in Francistown as I sought to obtain a permit to operate my consultancy. I find it exceedingly embarrassing for a potential investor in both cash and kind to be queuing for service with aspiring maids and perspiring farm boys and girls. I now realise the utter stupidity to exercise patience in order for one to be insulted and be called a ‘Mokwerekwere.’

It took Botswana authorities the best part of six months to deny me an investor’s permit with the claim that my business was ‘not viable.’ I will not bore you with the details, save to confirm what Zimbabweans have always known ukuthi abantu laba kabasithandi!

From the arid verges of the Kgalagadi desert, I returned home to Bulawayo in August to discover a city deader than a cemetery in the North Pole. The first thing you hear when arriving back home from the Diaspora is to head north. That statement alone is very loaded. It tells you in the least number of words possible that the south of the country is dead economically unless you are into gold panning. Secondly, it points to where the money is to be made.

So before my feet could touch the ground, I was off to the capital city, Harare, the bane of devolutionists. Those who know me well are privy to my opinions about this cosmopolitan Gomorrah. It’s a city that is so full of itself – kuwonererwa – to use the local parlance. Yet people there are under no pretence about why they are there – to make money and lots of it where possible.

So why blame me of all people, stripped to the bare bones and without a plan, for joining the money making trail to bambazonke? Admittedly, Harare takes on an enduring allure when dollar signs are embellished around its reputation for grabbing all that comes its way. If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then why shouldn’t Mohammed go to the mountain?

Taking the cheapest steel-clad camel available, carrying the barest minimum in luggage, I found myself heading north to what my clansmen fondly refer to as eButshabi. The journey reminded me of the stark reality that is my beloved country Zimbabwe. Not that I regret being back home, far from it. It’s that there are some things that remain the same.

As we negotiated our way through no less than 20 roadblocks, I had a brilliant idea. Why can’t police checkpoints be declared a national heritage? That would turn them into tourist attractions in advance of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly to be hosted next year. We would make a killing.

Another stark reminder was the dingy state of the cities of Kadoma and Chegutu. If rumours of the dualisation of the highway are true, then these are two eyesores the new development can gladly bypass. Perhaps the only positive thing I observed on that journey which was littered with the sight of abandoned and unproductive commercial farms, was the fact that the road itself was being fixed.

If there is one thing that gives an impression that things are indeed looking up, it’s the sight of heavy construction equipment and the smell of fresh asphalt. And also that all the food outlets, except those in Kadoma and Chegutu of course, looked neat, no chance of one catching cholera or typhoid there!

Arriving in Harare was a shock. There seems to be more cars than people and all of them are rushing somewhere. Granted that Harare has always been associated with speed, and coming from a leisurely paced country like Botswana one finds the existence in the capital hair raising. I was swept by the tide when I got there and I just had to hang on to my hat.

As I shook off the effects of my ‘Themba comes to the city’ experience, I soon got into the scheme of things. Wheeling and dealing is the pulse of Harare. Decision makers meet the shady characters downtown. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which is which. The story of survival in bambazonke is one for another day. At this juncture all I can say is, with a hint of sarcasm, it’s good to be back home.

Pause for Thought: Domestos is a locally available brand of toilet cleaner. They are being touted as the official sponsors of the World Toilet Summit. My son Bongani wonders what will be discussed at a world toilet summit. Food for thought!