Thieves and corruption: Lessons from African heritage


By Dr Vimbai Gukwe Chivaura

The mouse and her children
AFRICAN people say: The mouse goes everywhere – into rich people’s houses and into poorest people’s houses, too.
In the old days, the mouse made stories from all that she saw.
Stories were her children.
Each story-child had its dress – white, blue, red, green and black.
They are stories about what people do even in secret, some in their homes, some at work in their offices, some in their cars and some at their farms or in churches and hotels far away from their wives or husbands.
There was nothing mouse didn’t know about what people were doing, from the chiefs at the top and their servants at the bottom to the priests at the top and their congregations at the bottom. But mouse kept her stories to herself locked in the house of her heart and her head.
She could not tell anyone.
No one would believe her.
They all trusted the people at the top would not do such things as mouse would tell them.
Mouse herself sometimes laughed and shook her head in disbelief at what the people they had put at the top were doing.
That is why she knew no one would believe her.
That is why she would not tell anyone.
But one day a sheep ran against the door of the house where she lived with her stories locked in her head.
The door broke and the stories came out and now run up and down all over Zimbabwe and no one dare stop them.
Listen to some of them.
The silly mice and the sly cat
Africans in Zimbabwe are saying: When he was a strong cat, he caught many mice.
The mice were afraid of him then.
But in time he grew old and could not catch mice any more.
One day he decided to play a trick on the mice.
He lay on his back and did not move.
A mouse saw him and thought he was dead.
She ran to her friends and said, “The cat is dead!
“Let us dance and play!”
And all the mice began to dance and play.
They were happy.
They danced and danced round the cat, but the cat did not move.
One of the mice jumped on the cat’s head saying, “Look!
“Come nearer all of you!
“The bad cat is dead!
“Let us dance on his head!”
The cat jumped up and caught the silly mouse.
The other mice ran away as quickly as they could.
Beware the cat!
Spider Thief and Rubber Man
Spider was very lazy.
Every morning he got up at 12, ate his breakfast and said to his wife, “I am going to our farm.” But he did not go to the farm.
He went to the forest and sat under a big tree all day.
His wife sometimes said to him: “Tell me when you want my help on the farm.”
Spider answered then: “Oh, there is plenty of time.
“Don’t worry.
“I shall tell you when I need you.”
The people often asked him: “When will you begin to work on your farm?”
Spider answered, “There is plenty of time yet.”
Then one day he said to his wife: “Tomorrow I want to plant some nuts on our farm.
“Go to the market and buy a bag of nuts.
“I must have them for tomorrow.”
His wife was happy to hear that and ran to the market to buy the nuts.
The next day Spider went with the nuts to the forest and ate as many as he wanted and had a good sleep under a big tree.
In the evening Spider came home and said to his wife:
“Oh, how tired and hungry I am!
“I was working on our farm all day.
“Is supper ready?
“Life is hard for us men.
“We work from morning till night.
“Women have only to cook dinners and suppers.”
Time passed and people began to bring home their nuts.
Spider brought nothing.
Then his wife asked: “When will you bring our nuts home?
“Shall I help you?”
Spider answered: “No, no, I don’t want your help.
“I shall bring the nuts home in a few days.”
But he had no nuts to bring home.
“Where can I get the nuts?” he asked himself.
“I shall steal some,” he thought.
At night he went out and came to the chief’s farm.
It was a big farm.
There were many nuts in the nut trees.
He filled his bag with nuts and hid it under a tree in the forest and went back home.
The next morning he said to his wife: “Today I shall bring the nuts from our farm.
“Please make a good supper!
“I shall be very hungry and tired.”
“Yes, my dear,” said his wife.
Spider went to the forest.
The bag with the nuts was there under the tree.
Spider ate some and had a good sleep.
In the evening he carried the bag home to his wife and she was so happy!
She opened the bag and ate some.
How good they were!
Spider again went to the chief’s farm and stole a bag of nuts and carried it home to his wife.
But one night, the chief’s servant saw that a thief was stealing the nuts.
“I must catch the thief,” said the servant,
“But how?”
An idea came to him.
He took a big pot and went to the forest to tap some sap from a rubber tree and made a Rubber Man out of the sticky sap and placed him near the nut trees.
“Now I shall know who the thief is,” he said to himself.
When night came, Spider went to the chief’s farm and saw a man there. “What do you want here?” he asked.
But there was no answer.
“Who are you and what are you doing here at night?”
Rubber Man did not speak.
Spider hit him on the head and said, “Answer me?”
Spider’s hand got stuck.
“Let me go!” he cried and hit Rubber Man with the other hand.
That hand also got stuck.
Then Spider understood.
It was Rubber Man, not a real man.
He tried to push him away with his foot and the foot got stuck.
Now Spider could not move anymore and said to himself, “How silly I am.
“People will come in the morning and everybody will know that I am a thief.”
Indeed, the chief’s servant came in the morning and tore Spider away from Rubber Man and brought him before the chief.
From that day, Spider hides in dark places with shame for being a thief.
His children’s children also hide in dark places because of the shame brought on them by their Ancestor!
Beware of Rubber Man!


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