‘We’ll eat for you’

‘We’ll eat for you’

The old man sits on his chair by the gate every Sunday morning waiting for the taxi that will ferry him to church, or so I guess. I pass him on my way to work, for the state of affairs in the pocket of the citizen in this country is that one will have to miss church sometimes, to ensure that there is food on the table, that there is money to pay the rent; it is the constant that comes with living in the concrete jungle: you cannot stop for a moment, you have to keep on moving, otherwise you and the family shall perish.
The old man has the benefit of old age, and from the finely cut suits he dons every Sunday, it is safe to assume that he worked hard in the days of his youth and saved enough to see him comfortably through the twilight years of his life.

It is a benefit many of us in this generation shall never get to have, for permanent employment is an elusive affair, meaning that one is often forced to live hand to mouth and cannot save enough for the pensioner days. The days pass and the scenes change, but there is one constant sight one comes across on these trips: abject poverty that forces people to gather as ants in churches for some moment of respite before they face the long week.

There are three or four churches that hold their services in the classrooms of the school right next door to where I am engaged in the maintenance of the house, and they keep me company with their choruses of ‘Amen’ and ‘Hallelujah’ that punctuate the end of every voice that is pastoring them in their services. I go on following the paintbrush and focus on ensuring that every coat is smooth, that there are no dribbles or smudges on the wall where the roller has passed in my pursuit of smoothness.
The four pastors preach on, and the congregants’ amen and hallelujah rises to fever pitch and I smile, true what that Greek or Roman philosopher once said: religion is indeed the opiate of the masses.

For what would we be without the preachers and the mullahs of the word? The likelihood is that many of us would be languishing in bars, quaffing pints and quarts to chase the blues away as the figures do in a Marechera or Mwangi piece.
There is some kind of axis the human soul has to hinge on, of the kind that keeps the soul calm enough to see the individual sane through the day. Without some sense of belonging, the human mind soon drifts off to nonsense and the owner thereof engages in activities of an unsavoury kind. Let the preacher preach on as the roller dips into the tray and whitewashes the walls of the room I am working in.

I have always gone out to pursue perfection, and I was fortunate enough to make the decision to be the best there can be in whatever pursuit I choose to follow, whether it be gardening, or painting, or writing; the pursuit is for excellence that is constant, that is, there is no job that ranks below another in the little world that one has so far made in the years after graduation.
There were no jobs back then (post-graduation), there are no jobs still, and the wise go out to their menial ‘piece jobs’ to please the client and to ensure that they get called back for other jobs that come after the one they are doing at the moment.

The secret to success in the piece job business is to build a loyal client base, that is, people that are so impressed with the work that you do that they will call you for other jobs in the future.
It takes a lot of sacrifice to build a client base, from compromising on the charge for the job based on the circumstances of the client, to accepting ridiculously low prices for one’s work to build reputation or to impress a hard client (and there are many of those in this here country).

The biggest secret however is to focus on one’s level of prestige and to maintain it. Every job is important and should be approached as such, treating certain jobs as low class surely erodes one’s reputation because it then opens the door to criticism (and there are more critics than there are flies).
Thinking that Mr So is better than Mrs Si based on their job or income leads to one underperforming when it comes to doing jobs for either of the clients and believe me, they will pass information about the shoddy job on to other potential clients, which leads to the depletion of the client base, and this in turn adversely affects the flow of income. There is just no better or best, there is only meticulous and shoddy in the handyman line of business.

The successful handyman is he or she that respects their craft first and honours the clients at all times. People are not there as your private ATM’s that will drag you out of poverty to the heights where the Motsepes are; treat everyone with an equal sense of respect even if you know who they are because when it comes to money, there is no one that ranks higher than another.
Set out to be fair in your prices, that is, the value should match the effort put in the execution of the task and not the pocket of the client, which is an error many of the newbies commit in their quest to buy a new Honda Fit just six months after setting out with their trowels and spirit levels. The basic understanding should be that the only get rich quick scheme available to us mere mortals is the lotto, and working with the people is not one of the ways one can follow if they want to be millionaires in two seconds.

Coming to this issue of working with the people, there is a group that takes the oath to further the interests of the people and to answer their needs that seems to forget the promises as soon as they ascend the seats of power and to enter the houses of parliament on the continent of Africa.
The political class on this continent are a section of society that at most seems impious when it comes to honouring the words of their lobbying speeches.
It is as if the speeches made at the rallies are only made for the sake of getting one into parliament and nothing more. It has become a constant that the people will address their needs and only to have them remain unanswered until some donor nation comes with some aid to answer those needs. Upon entering any house or workspace, one as a craftsman first assesses the scene and establishes the amount of work to be done, this helps one to make a proper quotation, that is, to note the gross cost of the repair or maintenance work to be done.

Far often, the payment to the labourer or artisan is not part of this stage of the process, for the work to be done is actually more important than the reward at this point.
The politician knows even before he or she enters parliament what the needs of the masses are, how they forget them as soon as they enter parliament is a mystery, for then the feeding troughs in the form of the fiscus become overcrowded.

A playwright I know penned a play on the state of African politics more than ten years ago, the piece was aptly named Table Manners in allusion to the state of affairs on the African political landscape.
Borrowing from the usual practice that one should be silent at the dinner table, this writer saw African politics as one affair where the masses are told to shut up as the lords get down to the business of emptying state coffers at the expense of the welfare of the masses.

No one is supposed to speak a word in opposition, lest they be silenced in various unsavoury ways. And so the political lords eat whilst the masses suffer in silence and the poverty of a continent reputed to be rich in terms of natural resources plunges deeper into the depths of regression.
It is a wonder why one should be silent when one sees the different faces of poverty on a daily basis, when the children go to bed hungry and the man or woman that promised to pull them out of their demise sits down to sumptuous meals at dinner tables. This means that the lure is not to help the people, the cause is not to plead the case of the masses or to see the position in parliament as a calling or duty.

Rather the position of minister or Member of Parliament is seen as an invitation to the dinner table, and the steak on the plate is the fiscus that is supposed to address the varying needs of the masses.
I would not be where I am at this moment in time had I seen my clients as bags of money to fill my bank account, they would all be gone and with time, I would have been pushing the brown envelope as the fresh graduates do.
The belief is that the system of governance currently in operation shall last forever, but recent evidence shows that people are getting fed up with it (if the voter turnout statistics during the polls are to be relied upon).

The basic truth of history is that no empire lasts forever, and it would be delusional of anyone to think that political governance of the sort we are currently using shall last forever. Like others that came before it, it shall go away, and Karl Marx’s Utopia shall come.
The nobles of ancient Rome thought their sophisticated empire would last forever, it went down with time and the feasts were forgotten as the people came to their senses and sought the type of system of rule that served the needs of the plebeian masses of the land.

How the similarities between the Rome of old and the present time cannot be seen escapes one’s common sense and understanding. The ruling classes lived high up there on the house on top of the hill and the masses lived in hovels in ghettoes. Taxed, deprived of the sole means of livelihood, constantly harassed and forced into silence, the masses got tired and revolted.
It has happened in various regimes on the African continent, from Mobutu to Mubarak, and with each passing day, one sees the signs of its advent in this kingdom as the gap between the rich and the poor widens, and the hopelessness takes precedence.
It does not take much to realise that we have a political class that is at best aloof, more inclined to serve the polarised views of the ruling parties’ followers than to address the needs of the citizens of the state in entirety.

The proposed reforms may never take off largely due to the high levels of vindictiveness and apparent lack in forgiveness amongst the leading parties in the negotiations. There is absolutely no sense of reconciliation or forgiveness amongst the parties involved, only constant accusation on wrongs the reforms process is supposed solve.
The question is: how then are we supposed to reach a point of consensus that will see the state weaned from its sad political past if the question is not reform but prosecution? One cannot reform if one is not willing to compromise, for the truth of the matter is that both sides have wronged each other in differing ways.
If one side chooses to see itself as the righteous side and the other as the wrongdoers, then there is no way a point of truce shall be reached, and the state needs such a point more than political opinion that changes with each passing regime.

There have far been too many instances where this country got close to getting a new lease on life only to have it overturned by political opinion.
This country was born out of reconciliation, in fact, the original ruler of Lesotho, Morena Moshoeshoe I, is the quintessential icon of true reconciliation and forgiveness and a true patron of peace: why are we then not following his sacred example instead of following overzealous political opinion that changes as fast as floor-crossing in parliament?

The truth is that political governance has in fact done more harm than good in this country. Political reform should be the actual focal point of the reforms, the others are just mere scapegoats: political thought is the actual culprit that is preventing the state from reaching a point where progress becomes a constant all can follow.
In a kingdom, the serf that ascends a seat of power is prone to err, not out of poor judgement, but mainly because such power is a powerful drug that misleads people into being what they are not, for power corrupts, so Bishop Tutu once said.

By: Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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