I was pondering the uproar regarding comments alleged to have been made by Job Wiwa Sikhala on his facebook profile. He had written or in facebook terms his mind was thinking about some rumour he received from unnamed sources in Singapore, the post or what was on his mind appear obscure but many took it he thought Robert Mugabe was dead. How people arrived at such a conclusion baffles my mind. Nevertheless can anybody be prosecuted on account of “what’s on your mind?” Do we have the “thought police” as envisaged in George Orwell’s 1984? Haply if so then we can expect Mr. Job Sikhala to be charged with “thought crime”, we are living in interesting times indeed.
However the whole scenario reminded me of the ghetto where Job grew up and most likely still reside. His way of speech might display immaturity but such is life in the ghetto, salacious chatter is a norm. Who does not remember his/her mother standing in her yard speaking to a neighbour with the fence in between as the stupefied judge? Or if time and chance allow, a gathering of many housewives in the street whose quorum was only broken when the fathers started to trickle from work holding a Herald newspaper. Such is life in the ghetto; the ghetto laws transcend the laws of the land and mostly seem to be in direct conflict with each other. Growing up in the ghetto of Chitungwiza, affectionately known as Chi-town, it was customary to see the law being made a mockery of, a desire to come against the system was an in-born trait, who does not remember the municipal police chasing public drinkers down a street with bystanders cheering on Olympic style, the half-drunk fellows always ended being caught and hauled by their belts to the municipal van. Perhaps it was the reluctance to let go of that Lion Lager that disturbed their dash for freedom, with one hand trying not to spill the holy waters as they were called, it was always a losing battle one which played out repeatedly as if the offenders had exhausted their mental strength to recall.
It always seemed the law was against the people, against the ghetto spirit. It (the law) had to be defied with all might, in some cases the people would feel enough was as good as a fist, men & women would form a human wall to defend the street vendors. The green grocers always bore the brunt of the authorities, watching our compatriots’ mangoes, veggies, tomatoes being ferried by the police was always painful. It defied logic how people trying to eke out a living could be treated as criminals. Everyone always had it rough one way or the other in the ghetto.
The ghetto was a harsh environment; happiness and sorrow were so intertwined an outsider observer would hardly comprehend the juxtaposed anomaly. But we were fine that way; our struggle defined our vision and stubbornness to reach our goal to be free. Freedom to drink as we liked on the bottle store without police interfering, freedom for the ganja smokers to indulge the golden leaf as if they were in downtown Kingtson Jamaica, freedom to gather as we liked, anywhere we liked with no one having to eavesdrop what is going on. But times changed, bottled emotions soon gave way to collective outburst of anger, the ghetto people said enough of the harassment, retribution came in the form of food riots in 1998, we posted minor victories until the full might of the state was unleashed, suddenly the ghetto was not the same, soldiers, police filled the streets. It was decided from then onwards that the ghetto people had to be kept in check, a short leash was enacted. Since then the ghetto has known no freedom.
The municipal police withdrew only giving way to a more brutal force, an animal called POSA (Public Order Security Act) came into being, it had no respect for the ghetto kind of life and for the gossiping mothers, AIPPA (Access to Information & Protection of Privacy Act) was promulgated, one would think it protected their gossip but was an instrument to intrude into it. I recall days we had bashments (a house party usually organized and patronized by the youth), from nowhere you would find a Santana parked outside the party venue, disembarking would be police armed to the teeth. People would scurry in all directions, some scaling the durawall or fence to escape the pain of a police mboma (Baton). I remember the mavericks who tried jumping over the razor wire, it was a blood on the dance floor kind of thing. Soon our steps wandered elsewhere, one by one we formed lines out of the ghetto, some to United Kingdom, others to South Africa and others just to anywhere except the ghetto. But still the ghetto remains a part of us, we still believe in freedom for the ghetto, respect for the ghetto, love for the ghetto.
So when I reflect on the issue surrounding Job Sikhala and what he is alleged to have “thought” on his facebook page, I feel an aura that the ghetto is alive & invincible. The ghetto might not appeal to everyone or conform to the dictates the law, but we owe the struggle to the ghetto. In the words of George Orwell, "Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.", I envisage the ghetto being conscious at all times, born conscious, living consciously. Waiting for that opportunity to express itself, but the ghetto is under the check of the rogue animals POSA and AIPPA. Still the ghetto spirit will not wane as shown by Dread Gwisai and many others who gathered in the spirit of the ghetto, as they say, they can take us out of the ghetto but the ghetto will not be taken out of us. The ghetto lives to fight another battle, another struggle till the ghetto spirit has overcome. Still then the ghetto will remain the face of the struggle eternally.
With love and respect to the “Ghetto Kind of Life”.