Do You Know Bulawayo?

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I overheard something that made me
go back into life, that made my heart
cry and bleed, that made my head spin.

Mothers were asking their children
whether they knew Bulawayo: the
real Bulawayo, the City of Kings.

They were asking them whether they
knew Barbourfields Stadium, the real BF,
also fondly known as Emagumeni.

They told their stunned children that long ago
people loved their national broadcasting
stations, both radio and TV.

They spoke glowingly about some radio
and TV personalities and programmes that
kept them glued to their speakers or screens.

They were asking them whether they had
heard of such crowd-pulling programmes
like "Ngisakhumbula" or "Ezemuli"?

They were saying recreational centres
had gone into extinction in Bulawayo.
Where is the Gwabalanda Tennis Court?

They bemoaned the disappearance of
the real G & D Shoes (PVT) Lt, and the
real Dairibord and National Railways.

They lamented the loss of lustre
the International Trade Fair in Bulawayo was
associated with.  All they saw was a dumb squid.

"Butcheries were not known to sell chicken heads.
We were not known to rely on bones for relish like dogs.
Neither did we depend on veggies like rabbits," they declared.

They claimed that some Mickey Mouse business
had eclipsed Bulawayo`s development agenda -
citing the influx of hijackers and mercenaries.

Do you know Bulawayo? they asked.
Not Hillbrow, not Sunnyside, not Soweto either.
Bulawayo in its true colours and metropolitan beauty?

They were playing the 80's & 90's music,
admiring citizens  who lived and thrived
in a magnificent and stimulating city.

They were playing Lovemore Majaivana
of Ngifuna Imali fame, they were playing
the Dalom Kids and the Soul Brothers too.

They were begging providence to turn back
the hand of time, they were not dancing but
pinching their bodies for sobriety and approval.

They were asking their children whether they knew
some of their relatives in foreign, distant lands;
those who disappeared and never returned.

They were asking their children whether they
knew beauty: real life, true freedom to live life
at home in an abundant and dignified fashion.

They were asking their teens whether they knew
money: local currency, the 50 cent coin that
could buy them a bottle of soft drink; yes, 50c!

They were asking them whether they knew
that at Mafakela Primary school and other
institutions, kids used to be served free milk.

They were asking their youngsters whether they
had ever felt the aroma that used to emanate
from a certain Bulawayo confectionery.

Did they know that it was once taboo in Bulawayo
to see  residents being settled in a new suburb
without crucial amenities like functioning toilets?

They said it was unheard of in Bulawayo to see officials
hand over suburbs which did not have running water
or whose roads were in a deplorable state.

They were telling them that the moment
one saw the words "Welcome to Bulawayo",
the city's appeal greeted one warmly.

It was a refreshing sight: the smiling lights,
the vibrating factories, the well-maintained
buildings and roads, a true majestic presence.

Not a disheartening signature: the frowning sight
of darkness, the deathly silence of  the industrial
site and the potholed roads and distraught dwellers.

They were talking about Bulawayo's cleanliness,
the joviality and hospitality of an organised people
who loved and celebrated life and treasured humanity.

Not a deformity, a scrap yard: the ghost and the ruins
their children call a city, not the nightmare the residents
grapple with, not the decay and damage they agonise over.

Then as I drifted away from them, I saw and heard
the determination in the faces and voices of  both mothers
and their offspring to make Bulawayo live and shine again.

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  • This fills me with sadness. I have been to Victoria Falls and some of the surrounds and the people simply astounded me. I truly hope that one day the scenes you depict here become reality again.

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