Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Stop! Thief!

TOP del.icio.us

One of the best parts of my job is getting to read all sorts of different stories written by Zimbabweans. Fungai Machirori emailed Kubatana with her recent experience of buying a take-away, and in so doing, getting a bit more than she had bargained for . . .

I hate thieves. There’s nothing like working hard to get something that you really want, valuing it with the sweat that it’s worth, and then having someone come along with the audacity to snatch it away from you with their grimy hands. No doubt we’ve all had a share of this experience at some point in our lives: our money, our property, our livelihoods – all stolen from out of our unsuspecting grasp. Unfortunately, I too have a recent example of an act of robbery against me to tell.

Just this Saturday, I was a victim of a theft I believe was induced by the sorry desperate state of our nation and its people. After an excruciatingly long week of hard toil at work, I decided to treat myself by buying a six-piece box of fried chicken from a popular take-away chain that recently slashed its once over-inflated prices. “You’ve earned it,” I thought to myself, imagining how good the food would taste back home, once shared with family.

After the characteristically long wait in the take-away queue, I made my way through the Harare city streets, quite excited about my recent acquisition – it’s not everyday that people in Zimbabwe buy take-aways, you know! Wanting only to get home and feed my own hunger, I thought nothing of the voracious pairs of eyes I noticed lustfully undressing the maroon box in my hands. But, as I stood along a wide-tarred street, waiting for the traffic to thin out, my worst fear was realised. Noticing that my concentration was more on the road than anything else, a man in dirty clothes simply came up behind me, snatched my box of chicken, and then ran like his life depended on it.

Because it all happened so fast, I experienced a silent instant during which my brain failed to register the injustice that had just befallen me. But it was only an instant. For in the very next second, I was hot on my feet, pumping adrenaline in pursuit of my thief. “Hey, you!” I shouted as I sprinted like a trained Olympian. “Come back with my food!”

He probably hadn’t bargained for my energetic pursuit of him, figuring that a ‘girl’ wouldn’t even try. And he probably hadn’t bargained for the fact that I would shout an instruction to all passers-by ahead to grab hold of this thief who had just had stolen from me. And so less than a hundred metres into our encounter, he relented, falling onto the ground, handing me back my box.

My anger was evident, and I made it known to him by giving him a disapproving click of my tongue and telling him never to try to pull such a stunt over me again. “He’s just hungry,” reasoned two of the by-standers who had seen what had happened.

So did his hunger give him the right to steal from me? I didn’t give voice to this thought, but I took slight offence at the fact that I, as a victim, could somehow be painted as the bad person for having chased after what was rightfully mine.  Just because he might have perceived me as needing that box of food less than he did, didn’t give him the right to act on this assumption. Besides, I work hard and long to get money to fulfil my desires. My sweat, my money, my rewards.

I understand how Zimbabwe’s economic retrogression has forced many of its citizens to adopt activities they wouldn’t normally consider. To a certain extent, we have all become corrupt – some have left professional jobs to become illegal foreign and local currency dealers (whom most of us buy money from),others have crossed our porous borders into neighbouring countries, without legal documentation. And yes, some have resorted to theft as a means of survival.

So am I therefore a hypocrite if I condemn theft, but accept all other forms of maladies blighting our country? I don’t think so. Unlike the other examples of crime I have offered, theft is a self-seeking, no-cost, all-gain activity. Whereas the dealer on the street is hustling to try to make a living, the thief lets you do all the work for him or her, and then comes along to put their grubby fingers on your loot.

Some thieves justify their ‘profession’ by stating that they have been forced into this form of subsistence. With start-up capital (both mental and financial) lacking within their reserves, they simply resort to the simplest job on earth – stealing the benefits of another person’s toil.

“He should have asked for some of your food, instead,” observed a woman who’d watched the whole scene. That’s hardly likely to have worked, which is why I suppose my thief took the easier route. How many of us honestly stop to share our food with the hobos and street children? How many of us really make the suffering of anyone beyond our circle of friends and family ours?

Maybe that is why they steal from us. They’ve tried over and over again to beg for our scraps and left-overs. And still, we’d sooner overfeed ourselves than help any one of them out. Legendary Zimbabwean musician, Chiwoniso, highlights this societal contrast in her song ‘Iwai Nesu’ (God, be with us), when she sings:

Vamwe vaparara nenzara/ Some have died from hunger
Vamwe vachifa nekuguta/ (While) Some are dying from overeating

So, maybe theft is how they avenge our callousness; how they rebel against our moral unjustness.

But no matter what their reasons, I still hate thieves – the type that snatch, the ones who raid and pillage shops, homes and other private properties; even human bodies. And yes, I also hate political thieves – the type who snatch and rape democracy, who raid and pillage hopes and other private thoughts. Perhaps I shouldn’t direct all my anger towards the street robber who’s stealing to survive. Maybe I should rage at his mentors, instead – those seemingly ‘upright’ leaders wearing smart ties and suits bought with the blood and dejection of the robbed masses.

One comment to “Stop! Thief!”

  1. Comment by Kubatana.net speaks out from Zimbabwe » Blog Archive » Love in a time of cholera, corruption and other chaos:

    [...] Day is approaching and Fungai Machirori reminds us that although we’re living in a time of cholera, corruption and other forms of [...]