By DC Kufaruwenga
Mbombera is the title of a sombre song which was sung by Oliiver Mtukudzi.
Mbombera is also a Shona word which descibes things done by the low class, how commoners show off their chaos and disorganisation, shoving each other for crumbs of Chicken Inn that fall from the Gold Mafia’s table.
This is not about the Gold Mafia and its grandiose theft, and the consequent impoverishment of the populace on account of it.
This is a story of the 80’s when Fletcher High School in Gweru was still Fletcher, and the National Railway of Zimbabwe was still vibrant and functional.
Go to Fletcher High School today, you will weep. Look at the National Railway of Zimbabwe of today, you’ll commit suicide.
This causes anger.
Go away anger, go away!
But the Gold Mafia heist, and Fletcher High School of the 80’s, and Oliiver Mtukudzi’s song, are all interlinked.
Fletcher High School was a boys only school.
Towards end of term, you could feel the excitement among students at Fletcher High School, emanating from the prospect of going back home after three months of classroom tedium.
A sonorous voice of joy would wail from the depth of Burton Hostel;
“I can see clearly now the
exam is gone
I can see clearly now it’s
time to go home.”
And when end of term arrived, the school administration would organise Zupco buses to come down to Fletcher and ferry the students into Gweru City Centre.
Few of the students would be picked up by their parents in fancy cars. Those were the guys with class. And the rest of the students would stare at them with open admiration.
Class separated the boys.
And class still determined where the boys went and how they got there.
Rural boys would scramble for chicken buses at Kudzanai Bus Terminus, the way vulnerable villagers tussle for Chicken Inn thrown at them by the Gold Mafia, while urban boys rode swift neat buses to Bulawayo or Harare, or wherever their privileged fate led them.
Some of the boys chose the train.
Riding train was the epitome of sophistication. But the train too, divided the boys by class.
The First Class of the train resembled a five star hotel, with sleeping facilities and all. The standards and the price fell until you got to the Fourth Class wagon of the train, which was nicknamed Mbombera, for it was designed for the low class. It had hard benches, and sold opaque beer in the buffet.
“Rufaro Rufaro, this beer
Rufaro Rufaro is beer that
is supernatural. “
The boys from Fletcher fell into their respective classes of the train, each in accordance with his means, with the upper class boys sneering at the lower class boys with derision and disdain, while the lower class boys looked at the upper class boys with obvious envy.
The late great musician Oliiver Mtukudzi observed thus:
“Don’t laugh at he who
Comfort of the 1st class
doesn’t mean you’ll arrive
Don’t laugh at he who
And the trumpet of Oliiver Mtukudzi still wails to this day, the way the train of the 80’s whistled. And the drum of Oliiver Mtukudzi still pounds the sound of the rhythmic movement of the train, the way the train of the 80’s transported Fletcher boys.
And the song depicts, to this very day, how the Gold Mafia still sneers at those who ride fourth, and issues a reminder that we are in the same train and that we will all arrive at the same time; the class divisions are illusory.
And if the train derails, everyone perishes.