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Who has stolen my vegetables?

Life: What a journey CHARLES CHISALA
IT WAS my hard-earned day off and I was really looking forward to a whole day of rest. I had to do a few things at the office before I could retire home and relax for the rest of the day.
My plan was to have a hair-cut, a sumptuous lunch and then lie in bed until ZNBC TV evening news time to compensate for the back-breaking work I had been doing for a fortnight in my constant quest to preserve my God-given honour of being the family’s bread winner.
Unfortunately, that was not to be.
The matron of my household had already planned for me how I would spend this eagerly awaited day, without my consent.
We have diversified our small-scale family business into commodity trading, and the information from the peasant farmers who supply us with maize and soya beans was that the harvest is ready for collection.
Instead of allowing me to chill at home in peace the domineering matron dragged me to Shoprite on Cairo road, then to Soweto Market to buy empty grain bags for dispatch to Mumbwa.
The person who was to collect the sacks and deliver them to the farmers was already on the way to Lusaka.
A few days earlier, we had conducted a survey around Lusaka after which we decided that Soweto Market was the cheapest source of empty grain bags.
So we headed straight to a particular store. As expected the owner gave us a princely welcome, even offering us seats, inspired by the quantity we wanted.
The matron watched closely as the man and his helper counted the empty bags to ensure they did not play any monkey tricks on us.
The monotonous counting began getting on my nerves, so I decided to take a stroll towards the perishables and dry foods section where I usually park our vehicle while in the market.
After parking the Honda SUV with the help of hawkers who also double as car guards, I stood near some women and youths who had displayed their merchandise on the concrete.
They were engaged in a lively discussion of which political party had the most witty and popular slogan for this year’s campaigns.
A few metres away a female marketeer and a young man in his early 20s were arguing.
The youth was saying there was a magazine for paramilitary police in Kafue Gorge, near the main entrance.
But the woman was disagreeing with him, saying there were no paramilitary police in Kafue Gorge but soldiers from the Zambia Army.
“Paramilitary police are found in Sondela and not Kafue Gorge, the magazine you are talking about is for soldiers,” she was correcting the young man.
But the youth insisted that the magazine was for bapara para.
I had deliberately refrained from intervening because I was enjoying the argument, until the woman sought my support.
“Aini bandume are there any paramilitary police in Kafue Gorge? Are they not found in Sondela?” she asked.
Did I have a choice?
“Yes, you are actually right, madam. Paramilitary police are found in Sondela,” I explained.
“You see, you see, I was telling you!” she chirped, celebrating her victory.
The youth conceded defeat with unexpected magnanimity.
“Zoona mwaciba right ba sister, I was actually wrong,” he said in a subdued voice. “The problem I have is that when my mother was pleading with me to go to school many years ago I used to refuse. Now I can’t even tell the difference between paramilitary and soldiers.”
The women laughed, one of them patting him on the back as a reward for his honesty.
Then something happened.
A slim, tall woman in her mid-30s with a baby strapped to her back was selling vegetables on our right. She had displayed a few bundles of rape on the concrete while the rest of the vegetables were in a 25 kilogramme sack beside her. It was still full.
After serving a customer she left the place and headed to the grains section. We were not paying any particular attention then.
She walked only three stands away and had a short chat with the other women there before returning to her stand.
The woman was away for less than two minutes, but when she returned to her stand she had a shock of her life.
The few bundles of rape and the entire sack of vegetables had disappeared.
There was nothing. Only the bare concrete was staring at her. She looked confused. Silently, she launched a search for the vegetables, which proved futile.
Finally, she broke the silence and asked the other women if they had seen anyone take her vegetables, but they said they hadn’t.
“They have stolen my vegetables, they have stolen my vegetables. They are wicked,” she complained, on the verge of crying.
She was one of those peasant farmers from peri-urban and rural areas and the stolen bag of vegetables seemed to constitute that day’s capital.
“Where will I get transport money now?” she moaned as she paced to and from in a confused state.
Unfortunately, the whole tragedy tuned tribal.
“Why didn’t she ask us or those next to her to look after the vegetables for her? She could not talk to us or them just because of the language she heard us speaking,” one woman remarked, and the others agreed with her.
“She has only herself to blame. She must have known that this is Lusaka. These boys are bad news. By now they must have already sold the whole bag at K15 when it would have earned her between K70 and K80.”
I don’t know what followed next because I had to rejoin the matron whom I found guarding the bale of empty grain bags as if she was guarding a stack of Kwacha notes.
That is Soweto Market for you.