By Farayi Mungoshi
IN Birmingham I got a job at a car and van rental company run by a certain fellow of Jamaican descent called Douglas.
We used to call him Doggie.
Doggie had a friend named Shuks, also from Jamaica, a chubby fellow, slowly going bald from the top of his head with dreadlocks hanging desperately from the sides.
He smoked a lot of grass and was always smiling.
Shuks did not work for Doggie, but was always at the workplace.
He changed cars each week.
Sometimes he would disappear for days, but then he would reappear with lots of money to share with Doggie.
“My brother from another mother,” he always said whenever he saw me.
He would go on to ask about Zimbabwe and as usual I would say it is fine.
“Oh, if Zimbabwe is all that good then why are you here?” he once asked.
I opened my mouth to reply, but before I could say anything, he had gone on to talk about the hordes of Zimbabweans fleeing the country to the UK.
“I don’t get it, it’s not like you all are being shipped here like they did to us, all packed up like sardines,” he said.
“You are actually volunteering yourselves into slavery.”
“How can this be slavery when I can finally buy my own car with just one month’s salary?” retorted Anesu, another Zimbabwean working together with us at the time.
Shuks smiled, I liked Shuks, he was a curious man.
He wanted to find out as much about Africa as he could, he’d read enough books about Africa and now he wanted first-hand information about the land he was from and we were right there to give it.
He was not like the others, this man loved Africa and wanted to know what was going on.
He went on to talk about some other guy he’d met in a bar.
“He is also from Zimbabwe,” he says.
“The man was busy boasting about how he’d talked his cousin-sister into duping the British Home Office into granting her asylum.”
“Tell us something we don’t know,” snapped Anesu again.
“It’s not just Zimbabweans playing the political victim card, why then are we always the ones to be talked about?
“Not everybody from Zimbabwe is claiming political asylum, we do have genuine people who are here going to university, working, and sending money back home to their families who are starving simply because of some sanctions that were imposed on us because we decided to take our land back.
“And I say loot all you can while you are here, I’m surprised why you are not into that credit card fraud or duping the banks like most of the Zimbabweans I know.
“I hear most have bought land back home and yet here you are broke.”
Shuks laughs and then gets back to his story, “But I am just curious.
“I love Africa, don’t get me wrong, but I need to understand.
“In this particular case, this man got his sister to claim that she was afraid to go back to Zimbabwe because the man she was married to had three other wives, and she was the fourth, and that her father married her off to the leader of their church when she was just 12.”
“Is it true? Are there people like that in your country?”
Shuks drags and puffs grass smoke into the air, his eyes piercing me.
“He said she was a Mupostry.”
“Mupostori,” Anesu corrected him.
“They are similar to the white garment churches from your native Jamaica,” Anesu went on.
I did not intervene because I did not know what a white garment church was but on the other hand I also had Mapostori relatives that did not believe in marrying off their underage daughters to a grey bearded old man close to dying even though some did not mind becoming second or third wives themselves.
“It is the will of God,” most would say.
Shuks shook his head and hurled some insults and I felt a lump rise in my throat, this man had no right to hurl insults at my fellow Zimbabwean brothers and I was going to show him just what it meant to be a Zimbabwean.
Shuks was a gifted speaker, so while I was still conjuring up enough anger he had switched to another story, and turned the tables round on me.
“Listen maybe I am just confused,” said Shuks.
“I don’t know maybe I am still trying to get my head round to understand how my own people could betray me, and sell me off to some whiteman.
“Your chiefs sold us out into slavery, a century later you follow us here.
“Do you think we have forgotten?”
I looked at Anesu and I thought to myself, “Here we go again, yet another black man angry at another black man.”