Austerity measures, cattle and ‘Mother Christmas’…laughing away the blues

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By Dr Tony Monda

I WAS dutifully gathering quotations for some rural cattle farmers who needed urgent veterinary supplies when I walked into a supermarket to pick up a few items for my austerity Christmas.

At the entrance of the said supermarket sat three scantily dressed green-eyed, blond ‘Mother’ Christmases who were enticing customers to have their photos taken with them.  

I politely declined, but an indigenous toddler was coerced by her mother to have her photograph taken on the knee of one of the platinum blonde ‘Mother Christmas’.  

One of the heavily made-up blondes, dressed in a white mini skirt, black fishnet stockings and kinky stiletto heels, took the child in her arms and made the false smile required of Mother Christmas.

All was well until the toddler looked into her face, perhaps seeing through the pasty smile; she screamed to high heaven, trembling in spasms of chocked tears.  

She was promptly handed back to the mother. 

The shock of it all was too much for the toddler to take and she screamed even louder!

Refusing its mother’s consoling offer of a Chelsea Bun or ‘maZeppie’ she continued screaming.  

What had the child of Nehanda seen that nothing could console her!   

The shock was too great!

The child’s shock was a mere precursor to what greeted me in the supermarket.  

I was dismayed by the high prices of standard preventative cattle dipping medicines and other supplements for cattle which, quite obviously, many rural herdsmen cannot afford.  

I involuntarily whistled in utter disbelief.  

The austerity quotation was as follows:

– Contratik Dip and Spray – 500mls cost $52

– Amitraz 12,5 percent cattle dip and spray – 2lt cost $156

– Dewormer – Albendazole suspension USP 10 percent W/V cost $47

– Cattle wound powder for eye infection (100ml) cost $23

– Cattle Oxytetracyclene for eye infections cost $18

– Buparvaquone injection to prevent Theileriosis cost $135

– Coopers Dip – 500g cost $38 (usually the cheapest and most affordable)

Having just come from the veterinary suppliers, I was greeted by lines of forlorn shoppers dejectedly pushing their trollies round and round the supermarket in utter disbelief at the cost of the goods.

Several shoppers, having entered the shop pushing trollies, soon forsook them for small baskets – even then, many left just the barest essentials tightly held in their hands.

While shopping, I realised that the new economic austerity measures required much tact and creativity to explain to a four-year-old that mum could not afford his favourite cream and jam doughnut, now priced at $1,20 or his favourite small measly pack of four biscuits cost $1,60 — more than a loaf of bread!

I overhead the mother imaginatively explaining: “Mwanangu, kuma grocer kwane humah ino hwanda muma biscuits (My dear, there is a monster hiding in the biscuit shelf).” The terrified child promptly replaced the pack and instantly withdrew his request.

In a feat of ingenuity, the woman had summed up the meaning of the monster called ‘austerity’ that has removed all the sweetness out of Christmas.  

Two portly men standing near the meat section in the supermarket discussed the price of livestock; they debated whether it would be better to buy their Christmas meat requirements from countryside abattoirs, where the prices were just as alarming — $600 for a cow, $24 – $25 for a chicken and $100 – $150 for a goat.

The most outspoken of the two reminded his friend that school fees were just around the corner and perhaps they should settle for ishwa and sadza instead. 

They both laughed away their austerity blues.

Among the shoppers who replaced their trollies of bounty for austerity baskets were residents returning from their overseas jaunts.  

In particular a 6-foot man, bedecked in cheap gold jewelry and dressed in red and black lycra, not unlike Captain Marvel or Superman in Zimbabwe’s hot summer, came masterly bounding in, both pushing and pulling two large trollies.

After standing for almost two-and-a-half hours in the queue, he whipped out his calculator on his flashy gold Samsung mobile phone. 

The math was untenable.

He was forced to abandon his shopping unpaid for. 

The four-figured total simply did not make sense.  

There was nothing to do, grumbled an elderly Caucasian man, but to get drunk and forget about Christmas; then he checked the price of liquor, (the cheapest brandy cost almost $20). 

The poor man scratched his head several times and gave up the thought of a Bacchanal Christmas.

The uncommonness of common things was equally alarming. Eggs, milk, cheese, butter and bread, once the cheapest items, have become uncommon luxuries beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans.  

The already clipped Bond coinage was devalued when converted to the digital transactions, as a result, customers are paying over 120 percent of the actual cost!

As fate would have it, I bumped into Dr Irene Mahamba, a colleague with whom I shared my story of the blonde Mother Christmases and the screaming child of Nehanda’s land, the costly cattle medicine and the ‘cloudy-eyed’ cattle that are crying this Christmas.

If we had not laughed, we would have cried.

Despite the sweet-piped Christmas jingles, with Mariah Carey singing ‘All I want for Christmas….’ and Johnny Mathis crooning ‘Jingle Bells’, I sadly thought that cattle knew nothing about Nostrum theories, economic principles or austerity measures.

The cattle simply cried before they died of what used to be preventable diseases in this Christmas season of austerity measures.

Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practicing artiste and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist Post-Colonial Scholar, Zimbabwean Socio-Economic analyst and researcher. E-mail: HYPERLINK “mailto:tonym.MONDA@gmail.com”tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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