Columnists

Finding strength and solace in a tree

Torn Apart: BOYD PHIRI
SINDINE chimwala awe olo chimutengo cha ku Kabwe.” This would fit well as the new addition to the lyrics in General Ozzy’s chimutengo chamango song given the attention the mukuyu tree of Kabwe has received since K370,000 was injected into its rehabilitation, resuscitation, upgrade, facelift… ooh, I can’t find better words to explain the project.
I am not the one contracted to upgrade, oh sorry, to…what’s the word again? But whatever the mukuyu tree in Kabwe asked for, the money must be more than enough to make the fig tree at freedom square look 10 years younger.
Who doesn’t want to look younger? Besides, there is no plastic surgery hospital in Kabwe to improve the quality of lives of people, let alone that of the mukuyu trees.
This is not to say that the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) and the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC), who partnered to rehabilitate the tree, are overestimating its importance.
Though the mukuyu tree has no connection with the legendary family tree, it has seen it all, which is why it is one of the national monuments in Kabwe.
Many years ago, all told, the tree was an assembly area for donkeys and caravans enroute to the north and north-east when Kabwe was called Broken Hill.
But today, it is an assembly area for traders dealing in secondhand clothes, kapenta, of course not donkeys.
If you did not know, the fig tree in Kabwe is older than the much-sought-after mukula tree or the other tree some herbalists are using to extract a sex booster called seven hours.
But don’t ask me about the medicinal value of the mukuyu tree, otherwise some herbalists would descend on the tree at Freedom Square in Kabwe to derail its rehabilitation programme.
If you ask me, the rehabilitation of the mukuyu tree is a sign that Kabwe is no longer a ghost town, especially that the skull of Broken Hill Man has not yet been repatriated to Zambia from Britain, although there is a monument at Kabwe Civic Centre commemorating the discovery of the fosil during mining operations in 1921.
Forget about the money involved in rehabilitating the tree, if the mukula tree can attract millions of dollars, what more the mukuyu tree, which has stood the test of time?
There is no doubt that the Kabwe fig tree has suffered many years of neglect, although its image is on a K50 bank note.
Anyone who has ever peed against a tree knows that urine can scorch the trunk of an old mukuyu tree and make it peel off. Perhaps this is the other reason why BoZ and NHCC decided to rehabilitate the Kabwe tree.
Ironically, even some residents who like urinating on trees could not speak for the ageing mukuyu tree until the two organisations thought of stepping forward.
I mean, it’s only fair that the BoZ and NHCC decided to give back to the mukuyu tree for its patriotism.
How many trees have rendered their services to the community long enough to deserve this kind of appreciation?
Well, I know you would argue that mtototo, kathakanzuna, nvungula and other such trees providing aphrodisiacs in the hood have served the community for many years, but the truth is, the mukuyu tree has never been accused of being the cause of increased rape cases.
If anything, those trees which are used by herbalists for approdisiac have never been on a K50 note, not even on a counterfeit K50 one.
Nevertheless, if Kabwe’s mukuyu tree could talk, it would tell us that many people proposed love under its canopy, that life was especially hard when Kabwe was declared a ghost town.
But it would also tell us how resilient Kabwe residents are, how its fellow national heritage, the Broken Hill Man, was stolen from Zambia.
Of course, Kabwe is not the obvious place to expect many tourist attractions, but I guess the mukuyu tree will forever be there to woo tourists, especially that the K370,000 funding will help it buy new roots, oh sorry, give it a new look.
This is why it would be delightful to hear another version of General Ozzy’s chimutengo chamango song with an addition saying “Sindine chimwala awe olo chimutengo cha ku Kabwe.”
bjboydphiri@yahoo.com


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