The US$, Bond, exchange rates and the dilemma of lobola

We had a weekend of mixed fortunes.

My nephew Elias Midzi, son to my sister Lois Tendai Midzi (born Kufaruwenga) has acquired a wife, a nice cheerful girl called Tarisai Rusere.

May God and them above be praised!

Myself, Stivovo (Minamato Midzi), Bamni Fari (Farai Mposhiwa), Madhufunya (Miriam Midzi), Confused Caleb The Coward (Caleb Kambare), Vongai Msungwa and Tarisai Rusere (Elias Midzi’s bride) set out for Village 4 of Chiendambuya Resettlement area in Headlands.

Our mission was to perform a marital ritual for Elias Midzi’s bride which is called Kusungira in Shona. It entails that the bride is taken back to her family for assistance in delivering her first child, and returns to her husband’s family after delivery.

A goat is thereat slaughtered, and certain other traditional rites performed as the bride is temporarily left with her family, and there is general merry-making.

The in-laws sent word that they expected us to arrive at 9:00 hrs on Saturday.

Keeping the time set for us by the in-laws was a logistical nightmare.

The fuel coupons which were at hand could not be redeemed easily, and fuel was only secured at around 9:00hrs, the very same time we were expected to be in Chiendambuya. We were so much behind time because several attempts to procure fuel at several service stations around Harare were abortive. The fuel service stations simply rejected the coupons for no logical reason.

That’s Harare for you. The abnormal is normal.

But we still set off even when we were desperately late. We passed through Chitungwiza and picked up Tarisai Rusere’s aunt and met with Confused Caleb The Coward at Makoni Shopping Center where we were arrested on trumped up charges of “dangerous parking.” We refused to pay a bribe and our car was impounded and detained at Makoni Police Station for more than an hour before we were released without charge.

Everyone was anxious because each and every one of us knew in our hearts that we were late, and that our in-laws had every right to be incensed. But we soldiered on.

There were further delays in Marondera where we sought to buy food for ourselves and and additional provisions for the trip.

In any other country, buying take-aways and provisions is a simple transaction.

But not in Zimbabwe.

We had United States Dollars (US$) on us. If you use US$ to buy directly from the supermarket, you will be seriously prejudiced. This is because the supermarkets use the official exchange rate, which makes it impossible to replace the US$ you would have used, as the price for replacing the US$ is much higher than the official exchange rate. So before you buy from a supermarket, you first look for someone who wants to buy your US$ at a realistic price. You then use his/her Zimdollar to buy from the supermarket and then give him/her your US$. That way, you ring fence the value of your US$. But its a long laborious and time consuming process.

That’s Zimbabwe for you. Nothing is simple and straight forward.

After completing the complex transaction of buying food and drink, something which is supposed to be simple, we were finally on our way.

We were still tense and anxious. We felt guilty because we were late. It was well past midday and hours past the 09:00hrs deadline that we had already failed to meet.

Word was sent to us that we should purchase beef at Headlands. The butchery was selling meat at a reasonable price in US$. We paid. But the butcher’s assistant had no loose change and he started running around in search of change.

Zimbabwe uses US$ alongside the Zimdollar as a lawful medium of exchange, and both the US$ and the Zimdollar are legal tender. But the US$, especially small denominations thereof, are extremely difficult to get. Because of this, transacting using the US$ can sometimes cause inordinate delays, change is scarce.

We waited and waited for the butcher’s assistant to return, and when he finally did, we had no kind words for him.

But it is not the butcher’s assistant’s fault that Zimbabwe has haphazard monetary policies.

Off we went. And we finally arrived at around 15:00 hrs at our in-laws’ home, six hours behind schedule.

Conduct unbecoming of a prospective son-in-law.

We expected to be slapped with a fine, or worse.

But the Rusere family is a kindhearted family. They received us warmly and told us that they were prepared to condone our delay, and could we get down to business?

The negotiations were oiled by a wise old gentleman who was the go-between. We called him by his totem; “Binga- Mutasa.” In the result, the negotiations were cordial and friendly, but went on late into the night.

When they were finally over, it was time to settle down for a meal. And what a sumptuous meal it was! Beef lasagne, fried coated chicken and fresh green salad. I don’t know how our in-laws pulled off such a fancy dish in a rural setting. But I still stuffed myself like what an orphan does on the sad day of it’s mother’s demise.

We were given a place to sleep and snored away contentedly.

Sunday morning, we woke up and slaughtered a goat and went through the Kusungira ritual. Confused Caleb The Coward showed me a mature approach to the occasion, which I didn’t know he possessed. There was much ululation. It felt like a wedding. I was truly gratified.

We started the return journey happily. We were supposed to drop off mother-in-law and Tarisai Rusere in Rusape, and thereafter make a U-turn and head for Harare.

Towards Headlands, disaster struck. The studs of the left rear wheel snapped, and the wheel was dislodged. After a lengthy delay, we improvised and managed to navigate the car into Headlands to get a mechanic with the right tools and the right parts to replace the damaged ones.

Nightfall engulfed us while we were still in Headlands as we struggled to get the car fit for the journey.

After the car was reasonably roadworthy, we drove to Rusape and dropped off mother-in-law and Tarisai Rusere before heading for Harare.

It was well past the 6:00pm curfew time which was imposed by the Zimbabwean Government in a bid to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

The police were on the prowl, hunting down those who breached the curfew.

We were stopped several times at several roadblocks. We told our story truthfully and described our misfortune with the car with tiny pinches of exaggeration. In most instances the police sympathised with our predicament and let us through.

At Dema Roadblock which was mounted just outside Dema police station, we encountered a stern police crew.It was now nearly midnight. We were now hungry and tired and sleepy. The police crew didn’t care a hoot about our plight and ordered us to park our car inside the police station and pay a fine totalling $14 000 in Zim currency for the seven of us for violating the lockdown regulations. We were to be released only after paying. We didn’t have that kind of money on us. We pleaded, we negotiated, we argued, we threatened, but the police didn’t budge.

We slept in the car.

Around 01:20 hrs, we were released without charge.

We drove into Harare and l was dropped off at my house at 02:23 hrs on Monday morning, dog tired. But I still smiled as l dozed off.

Against the odds, we accomplished our mission.

Nothing is easy in Zimbabwe.

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