Boterekwa

A lovely road descended from the mountains of the small mining town of Shurugwi in a south-easterly direction, towards onether small mining town of Zvishavane.

It is said the road was constructed by the ltalians around 1945 during the second world war, who used mostly the labour of prisoners of war to accomplish the task.

 It was an engineering feat of majestic proportions. At some of its portions, the road hangs precariously like a shelf in the side of the mountain cliff, and in other parts it snakes smoothly on the summit of the mountain, oblivious of its own  perilous, terrifying height. The road then descends sharply down a steep slope towards Zvishavane, and gracefully straightens out.

It had breathtaking views on either side with evergreen plush vegetation resembling the equatorial rain forest.

The white man named it Wolfshall Pass, but the locals call it Boterekwa, which means the winding way.

The road still exists, but with none of its grandeur.

It is now riddled with pot-holes and the vegetation on its sides is being hacked away by artisanal gold miners. These miners dig everywhere for gold, leaving large, ugly, gaping  and dangerous holes. They even dig tunnels underneath the surface, crossing the road. At one stage the road at the steep slopes of the Zvishavane end of Boterekwa collapsed because of these underground tunnels.

The artisanal miners are generally rowdy and lawless and violent. They steal and fight and die when dangerous tunnels and unsafe mine shafts collapse. They damage the environment and choke the rivers with the mountains of the soil they dig up, which is swept downriver by the rain. And for the saddest part, they destroy the spectacular beauty of Boterekwa the winding way.

It is because of this behaviour of the artisanal miners from which the acronym “MaShurugwi” was derived.

“MaShurugwi” is a word which is used to describe violent machete wielding gangs who take over rich gold mining locations using force.

But few have made a difference in their lives by exploiting gold. Most still live in poverty and go back to their dilapidated homes in the village, with absolutely nothing. Only a handful have bought a few herd of cattle, and one or two have bought stands in urban areas where they are constructing modest houses.

This notwithstanding, hordes of unemployed youths still flock to Boterekwa in search of gold, leaving it scarred and ugly and collapsing, leaving the village without the much needed labour for agricultural activities.

It is therefore almost impossible to find someone to employ in the village to tend cattle and till the land, everyone is possessed with the madness of the gold rush. 

Everyone.

A family working in Harare has a rural home in Shurugwi, some fifty or so kilometers from Boterekwa.

After struggling to find someone to look after their ancestral home, the family which was working in Harare was referred to a young couple with one child who were willing to stay at their home, tilling the land and tending the cattle, in exchange of a modest wage and adequate food rations.

The young couple consisted of two different characters. The husband was talkative and full of l know. The wife was withdrawn. 

So the urban family entrusted Talkative and Reticent with their ancestral home and retreated to Harare.

After some time, word was sent to the Harare urban family that Talkative had been arrested for theft, and that Reticent was now alone at their ancestral home.

Details of how and why Talkative had been arrested were sketchy, but the general thrust was that Talkative was part of a gang which waylaid haulage trucks as they ascended or descended Boterekwa. As the haulage trucks slowly negotiated the steep slopes of Boterekwa, Talkative’s gang would leap onto the load from a vantage point, cut up the truck’s tent with knives, offload goods from the truck and flee.

Two members of the urban family drove from Harare and raced down to Shurugwi to find out what had happened.

Reticent knew very little. She told them that Talkative had told her that he had been asked by a relative who owed him money to accompany the relative to Shurugwi to collect his  money. According to Talkative’s account to Reticent, the relative and onether gang member were on a mission to steal, a fact Talkative didn’t know at the time he agreed to accompany them to Shurugwi. When they reached Boterekwa, so the story went, the other two disappeared into the night towards the road, leaving Talkative at a secluded place. The two returned with what they called “their” goods, and Talkative helped them carry the goods into Shurugwi town.

Whilst they were in Shurugwi, the police pounced, and the other two fled, leaving Talkative alone with what turned out to be goods which had been stolen from a  vehicle which was driving up the steep slopes of Boterekwa.

Talkative insisted that he was innocent, and had asked Reticent to plead with the family for help.

Before commiting themselves, the two family members decided to find out the truth. They questioned Reticent closely.

   “This relative who 

   came to take Talkative,

   where is he?

Reticent replied;

   “He is working at a 

   relative’s place in the

   village of the east, 

   where he is hiding from

   the police.”

So the two family members drove to the local rural police station and presented their story to the Officer In Charge.

The Officer In Charge wasn’t interested in raiding a suspect. He had more important things to do. A senior politician was visiting Shurugwi town and his officers had to be deployed to meet the senior politician. Besides, he had no vehicle, and strictly speaking, this wasn’t his case, it belonged to Shurugwi where the theft occurred. Sorry, can’t help you gentlemen.

The two family members could not back down. They offered their car for the raid, they pleaded with the Officer In Charge, they offered to purchase refreshments for the raiding party, and to meet all expenses associated with the raid. Suddenly, the Officer In Charge had manpower, and would the two family members be happy to be escorted by two officers?

And off to the village of the east they went, the two police officers and the two family members.  They discussed strategy along the way.

Members of the village of the east were co-operative. They explained that Suspect had taken the cattle to the pastures. They agreed to send one of them to bring Suspect and the cattle home, under the guise that someone who wanted to buy a cow from the herd wanted to see it first. It was also agreed that the two family members would pose as buyers, whilst the two uniformed police officers would hide in the house, where the unsuspecting Suspect would be led. Members of the village of the east also agreed to pretend to be going about their business normally while they were actually on the look out for any attempt by Suspect to escape.

The stage was set.

The unsuspecting Suspect and onether villager brought the cattle to the village of the east. As they approached the home where Suspect worked, Suspect spotted the car belonging to the two family members, and  immediately became suspicious. He spun around and faced the other villager who accompanied him;

   “Whose car is that?”

The villager who accompanied Suspect replied as calmly as possible:

   “It belongs to the 

   buyers who have come

   to purchase the cow.”

But Suspect’s antenna was up.

   “It means they’ve 

   brought the police.

   Buyers always bring the

   police to clear the 

   cattle they want to buy.

   I’m out of here.”

With that, Suspect bolted to the east and sped off.

The villagers of the village of the east were ready for Suspect. They ran and intercepted him and caught him and brought him before the two police officers, and one of them rose dramatically and whipped out his handcuffs and slapped them around Suspect’s wrists. He smiled proudly at everyone present and said;

   “I’m the one who has

    has arrested him.”

The two family members, the two police officers with Suspect between them, drove back to the local rural police station.

Along the way, Suspect sang like a bird;

   “Although it was his 

   first time, Talkative 

   knew our mission right

   from the start. The big

   boss promised us 

   money if we helped him

   pull off the job. No, 

   we didn’t steal from a

   lorry. Yes, we stole 

   from the luggage 

   compartment of a bus

   which was coming

   from South Africa. Big

   Boss is the one who

   opened the luggage

   compartment while the

   bus was in motion. Big 

   Boss threw the stolen

   goods our way, and 

   Talkative and myself

   whisked the goods

   away.”

When the raiding party arrived at the local rural police station, the Officer In Charge, instead of rejoicing, began castigating the raiding crew.

   “What must l now do

   with the prisoner you’ve

   brought? You make my

   job difficult. I’ve no

   transport to take him

   to Shurugwi, l’ve no fon

   to alert Shurugwi that l

   have their prisoner, 

   what do you want me

   to do?

The two family members would have none of it. They told the Officer In Charge to make a plan, and drove off after leaving Suspect.The Officer ln Charge ran after their car, yelling for help, until the car disappeared from view.

Talkative and Suspect were both convicted of an offence, which in legal parlance, is called “Theft From Car” and were both sentenced to nine (9) months imprisonment with labour.

The family relieved Reticent of her duties and sent her away. Their ancestral home is now without a gate keeper, the gate keepers having been swallowed by the allure of Boterekwa the winding way, the place of death, crime, desolation and destruction.

The place that was once scenic and serene.

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