BY PASCAL MWANDAMBO
If I were Jesus today, one miracle that I would be hesitant to perform was turning water into wine. With the crackdown on suspected killer brews taking a melodramatic turn, with security officers, some of them known to be habitual drunkards, rummaging every nook and cranny of the countryside searching for brews, real and imaginary, it’s wise to play it safe.
As a matter of fact, yours truly cannot stop marveling at their zeal. One would even think that illicit brews have just dropped down from heaven yet this is a problem we have lived with for decades. We might even be part of the problem and not the solution in one way or the other, but now that “orders from above”(of course not heaven or hell) have to be followed to the letter, sometimes even blindly and with disturbing zeal by the leaders, especially in the security apparatus, I can see many frowns on peoples’ faces especially those who have found themselves at the receiving end .
Suffice to say that many businesses have been ruined and huge losses incurred but that is not the point I want to belabour. The truth of the matter is that any alcoholic drink however expensive and “safe” it is, as long as it answers to that name can still wreck lives and destroy the future of consumers alike.
But given that it’s the poor drinker who imbides chang’aa and other stinging drinks at Mama Pimas (and not the minister who imbibes imported whisky at five star hotel and collapses on a leather coach as bodyguards guard his body)who is caught up by the long arm of the law it’s only worthwhile for me to cry for the poor men and women of this beloved country who have died, become blind or lost love and care from their men who have become cabbages due to drinks of whatever nature. I also pay homage to those who were destined to die by the bottle either directly or through withdrawal symptoms.
My cousin Timotheo has also begun putting me into trouble with his drinking habits. I have warned him to style up again and again but my exhortations have fallen on deaf ears.
Now that the chickens have come home to roost, the other day I had to play both a brothers keeper and cousin to Timo after he ended up in the cold cells having been plucked out dead drunk from Mama Wemba’s joint. Mama Wemba is the local mama pima in the outskirts of Matope town.
I have been to Mama Wemba’s place not as a consumer of whatever bootleg stuff she sells but in the company of security officers during the regular crackdowns, before the mother of all crackdowns was ordered from above. Armed with camera and notebook yours truly has always wondered how to piece such stories which at times border on the absurd. Illicit brews laced with strange paraphernalia like soiled women underwear, dead rats and cockroaches, either floating or sunken in the huge barrels, name it.
Timo, I must say has had his fair share of tribulations with security officers due to his voracious drinking habits. He has also had bouts of fighting with Mama Wemba over unpaid bills. The other time Mama Wemba had to confiscate his mulika mwizi phone as ransom. No one can buy such a crappy thing held together by rubber bands, but anyway, he ended up paying up after I bailed him out.
He happened to have bumped into me in town and came up with a long tale of woes of how he had lost his phone to thugs who ambushed him on his way from Mama Wemba’s.
After almost shedding tears he said, “Cuzo, I can’t keep in touch with you about the goings on in the village without a phone. You know you reporters need to be updated on things happening everywhere…blah blah blah. Please spare me Sh 2,000 for another mulika mwizi phone”.
I tell you Timo is a strange one. He seems to believe that I am a well endowed fellow, all the time dishing out money to finance his debauchery and meeting other silly obligations of his. You see, there were unfounded rumours in the village that I had been promoted into a “big writer in one of the media houses,” and Timo took the initiative to actually text me and congratulate me for “being promoted to glory”. Were it not for that fact that Timo is semi-literate, I could have charged him for hate speech.
After bailing him out to go buy a new phone I later spotted him using the same old mulika mwizi which he claimed had been stolen. I do not entertain cock-and bull stories when a close relative like Timo cons me of my hard earned cash, so I stopped short of smacking him in the mouth when he tried to explain that he bought the same phone from another broker who handles second hand handsets. The truth of the matter is that he simply went back to Mama Wemba, paid his pending bills and got back his useless thing.
But it seems my troubles with Timo are not yet about to end.
The other day I met one of his close friends, a worker at a construction site who told me, “ Aren’t you Timo’s cousin. Please try to help him out, the chap is in real shit. He was arrested yesterday during the raid on Mama Wemba’s place. Mama Wemba has also been arrested”.
The first thing that came to my mind was money. Yes money. Not sympathy for this ingrate of a relative who keeps on looking for trouble. You see, it would be foolhardy to go to Matope police station to bail out a person arrested over brews or any other petty crime empty handed. Those potbellied, mean looking fellows will simply give you a look of disdain and tell you to get lost.
I passed by the ATM and made another terrible mistake, that is going to bail out a cousin who has fallen in love with trouble from a nearby police station.
From the gate I could detect the smell of brews both illicit and otherwise wafting out of the station. Brewers and sellers were hurdled at one corner while others were already being booked in.
Some officers were receiving envelopes and whispering things into the ears of the “culprits”, who then vanished out of the station immediately.
“I have come to see my cousin Timothy who was arrested at Mama Wemba’s place,” I said to the fat officer who I later learnt is called Inspector Hongo.
The morose chap did not answer and just stared at me as if I am made of rubber.
“I have come to see …
He cut me short, “Umekuja kuona cousin yako kwani cousin yako amekuwa sinema?”
I felt like spitting on the cop’s face.
Just then a junior officer who knows me came over and pulled me aside. I could master the whole drill. Money talks, money walks…
After parting with Sh3,000 I was assured that Timo would be a free man, after been warned to warn him to start behaving ,you would think my cousin was a nursery school kid who had stolen coloured chalks.