The closure of Chigarapasi beer-garden and its implications
KUNGWENGWE STAR CHARLES
So far much has been said about the closure of Chigarapasi Beer –Garden ,an entertainment destination in Chiredzi's Lowveld Capital, a factor that forced the local M.P, Darlington Chiwa, to form an alliance with CHIRRA members and call for an Indaba with the residents ,in a bid to expose and address 'the rot 'in the Council. The meeting included all stakeholders: representatives from the Police, Council technocrats, the Auditor General's office, representatives from the Environmental Management Agency, academics and the Judiciary, etc. Residents, who had for long been abstaining, grabbed a rare opportunity to indulge in an orgasmic verbal intercourse with their M.P
No doubt, this facility is one of the 7 classic Wonders of Africa, deserving entry in the famous Guinness Book of Records, in that it is one of the largest beer-gardens on the continent. It was a melting pot, where people of all walks of life used to meet, a cosmopolitan facility and all roads seemed to lead to this destination.
This paper focuses on the possible implications (socio-political, cultural, legal and economic) of this 'unwelcome' move.
The most obvious result is that beer-hall personnel stand to lose jobs and this is already a fact. And this phenomenon has ripple effects on those who draw their livelihood out of these former workers: their children for school-fees plus keep and feed; extended family members; landlords who can no longer get rentals from the jobless people, etc.
A similar comment also holds true for 'ladies of the night, ladies who have become initiative enough to create jobs out of nothing, at a time when jobs are extremely difficult to come by. These people can no longer afford basics for their own children.
The adage 'All work and no play makes Jonny a dull boy ----' still holds true and this issue has been detailed by this analyst in the Article entitled 'Lack of Recreational facilities terrorize Chiredzi' in the Masvingo Provincial Star in 1996 .In that article the writer argues that Chigarapasi was the only source of entertainment in the Lowveld Capital.
What are the implications of its closure on the already entertainment-starved community? Lots of people who had stress used to end up reviving their dampened morale in the bar.Chigarapasi \Tsama Hasi \Sit Down ,according to Headman Masekesa of Masekesa clan in the Middle Sabi area ,is a telling name as it made visitors feel at home ,away from home. Friends could easily be sourced in Chigarapasi. A good number of people have found parties to marry therein, either from ladies of the night or ladies of virtue who had come to seek leisure. The Beer-hall was a source of information concerning : prospective jobs, investigating officers used to get information therein regarding the whereabouts of and how to track down fugitives.And ,of course ,different ladies to pick ,ranging from the so –called classy to cheap ones (some as cheap as a dollar for two!).The homeless street kids\urchins, the disabled and destitute had somewhere to while up the night in. There are also some people who eked out a living by selling foodstuffs, tobacco and other commodities and these people are now jobless. Out of desperation they have joined the world of crime. To some families this was a get-together rendezvous.The pub also served a historical purpose to all 'born –borns', it's a reminder of the good-old days which are no more! I could go on and on. Sadly, all these Tsama hasi related benefits are now a thing of the past! They are now history.
Some of the Ladies of pleasure, motivated by the desire to survive, are now daring enough to call on mobile phones or even follow clients and prospective clients to their places of residence. Apart from becoming a source of public nuisance, they are also causing divorces in Tshovani Township.
Another possible indication is that something is fundamentally wrong with our local leadership: Only yesterday the Beer-Garden used to close at ten in the evening but still affording to remunerate Council personnel, maintain public infrastructure and provide different forms of recreational facilities. Lately it used to be open all night long but could not pay its employees and this is really ironic indeed!.We are told the bar is no longer generating profit!.
On the political front some opportunists are taking advantage of this closure to gain mileage on a vote –catching –election-campaigning trail. A bolt from the blue: some leaders, who were last seen in 2013 at the height of campaigns for the harmonized elections, immediately resurfaced, making vows never to rest till the beer-hall was opened. Chigarapasi therefore becomes to them what Julius Caesar's corpse was to Mark Anthony --a campaigning tool. This was the case with /for\ the Chiredzi West sitting MP, Chiwa, and members of Chiredzi Residents Association (CHIRRA), who became instant heroes and heroines. As he assumed the podium and announced, in his harangue, that the pub would soon open there was a loud applause from the audience as Taurian men and prostitutes, alike, ululated, shouted, whistled and danced in frenzy. One Lady of pleasure who identified herself as Mathau had this to say ''these councilors are really corrupt. At times they offer important tenders to dubious, unqualified people, in order to receive kickbacks in return,''.
The only mistake they made was not to call the Councillors during the fact-finding Indaba so that they had the right to defend themselves.This is the crux of the principle of Natural Justice as provided by section 70 of our Constitution :the Nemo Judex and Audi Alter am Partem Rules. The latter means ''hear from both parties'', the accuser\plaintiff \injured party and the person to whom adverse allegations have been preferred, so that there is a balanced version of what transpired. In their absence , the Councillors were branded corrupt ,insensitive people who operated a system of claptocracy.Heish ,what a high- pitched kick unleashed slightly below these men 's belts!. Fact or Opinion? But subsection 1a of the cited provision says in the absence of either any evidence to the contrary or confession, one is presumed innocent till proven guilty. Maybe responsible people (Councillors) have justified reasons for the closure, who knows? In the absence of evidence to substantiate the claims, involved people could be sued for defamation by the Councillors. The Council technocrats ,who were at the Indaba ,were wrong people to call as they are not only employees of but also get instructions from the Councillors ,the latter of whom ''represent the people''
Related to this is the issue of Rule against Bias, that is, one cannot be a judge in his own case. Contrary to this principle, all those presiding over the 'case' were the traditional enemies of the Councillors; aspiring candidates who are interested parties and, as such, they can never be objective!.The procedure is terribly flawed and there can never be substantive justice as well in such a setting. At the Treaty of Versailles, members of the victorious powers 'tried and sentenced' Germany and her former Allies and we saw the outcome. Why can't we learn from History. Basic Administrative Law demands that they had a duty to recuse themselves from the exercise in favour of a neutral, apolitical or a party that has seasonal political preferences.
A good leader, goes one of the Golden Rules of Leadership, is that he must have been a good follower and not always throwing spanners in the current leadership's wheel of development so that it grinds to a virtual standstill . What lessons to draw from this tendency? An objective observer must be quick to give credit whenever someone has scored success. Even the Old Testament Prophets of Doom were not always critical (fault-finding) of the leadership but also gave divine assurances, praises whenever it was due and promised hope at the end of the tunnel (Amos 9:11-15)
On the other hand, however, there are other sectors of the society who condoned the closure. These include married women, like Sarudzai Mugumo, and other people who hold the issue of morality in high esteem and perceive Chigarapasi as a source of all sorts of immoral behaviour. Ever since the closure of the Beer-hall their husbands were for the first time coming home early, and with all their pays. To these women the nightmare is set to resume as soon as the facility reopens. How about the AIDS scourge and different criminals who seek refuge in this beer-hall and even badly socialize others? Surrounding shebeens and other similar facilities were beginning to benefit out of the misfortune of Chigarapasi. A blessing in disguise indeed! What next now?
Coming back to the issue of political mileage, the issue to consider is that most of the prostitutes rarely cast their votes in elections. Also, men in general , are never keen on elections and other similar gatherings. As such ,instead of marketing themselves ,the politicians were busy on a self de-campaigning exercise in the face of the anti-Chigarapasi people who do the voting ; just like the defaulting Councillors' conduct , they were also decampaigning their ZANU PF party in the light of elements of the opposition ,who constituted the largest percentage of the attendants in the public Chitsanga Hall. Yes transparency and accountability are virtues but both the timing of this exercise and its meeting- place were unfortunate. If ZANU PF loses this will also have negative implications on these aspiring candidates as well.
Sadly, CHIRRA did all the donkey-work regarding Council irregularities only to give all the credit to the M.P. Probably it is due to lack of political maturity, a high sense of generosity or both.
A curious coincidence is that CHIRRA always elicits questions from the same people at all its gatherings and this gives the impression that these meetings are stage-managed and people are coached on what to say.
The sitting M.P reminded the populace that these 'corrupt tendencies' have been taking root for some time ,yet he has been silent about it all along . And what has the police been doing all along ,since corruption is now Criminal in Zimbabwe ,with regards to the gathering of evidence and prosecution of involved parties. This silence on their part, on its own, is licensing the perpetrators to go ahead with acts of misconduct. It is also Criminal! It is a Crime by omission as there is a legal duty to perform or do something on their part. Having said that, the conclusion that could be drawn is: either these people (for checks and balances against the Councillors) are grossly incompetent and deserve to be sacked or are a part of the corrupt system!.This writer does not, however, imply that the Councillors are beyond reproach, if they surely have a case to answer. Neither is he portraying them as Archangels from whom opponents would want to take harps!
Before concluding, residents must be informed that they can invoke a legal remedy called a Mandamus, a remedy that is used to compel local Municipalities to perform their mandate of providing services such as jobs, accommodation, entertainment, water and other similar facilities to the people. And local Residents, it has become abundantly clear, are still so gullible that they can be continuously manipulated by the politicians. It is because of this docility, still ,that they do not exercise their right to check Council ' s expenditure by demanding access to these documents, demanding public statements regularly or engaging external auditors and accountants to help in this exercise , demanding to know the qualifications of council personnel(this writer suspects this gross incompetency of responsible people emanates from poor professional and academic credentials). In Civil Law literature we refer this phenomenon to as Contributory Negligence (failure to take reasonable steps to either prevent or minimize the extent of one`s damage or harm) on the part of the Residents. But it seems most council bars in the Country have closed down!
In conclusion, people are waiting for the reopening of the beer-garden with bated breaths and this is long overdue.
Nkulumani Mlambo (0772 118 533/0715 505353)