LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
LAST week I was doing some business in Lusakaâ€™s teeming City Market when I was attracted by some commotion in the overcrowded main way.
A boisterous knot of people had clustered around something I couldnâ€™t immediately make out.
Curiosity got the better of me as it would any journalist with a popular column to write for next Sunday.
As I elbowed, wiggled and head-butted my way through the never-ending sea of human bodies continuously moving in opposite directions, I heard some marketeers and hawkers cheering.
â€œMumenye! Mumenye! Lweni bangwele! (beat him, fight each other you cowards!)â€ a man was shouting excitedly.
I used my athletic, well-muscled body to shoulder-push two weaklings aside with much ease and managed to command a clear view of what was causing the hullabaloo.
Two men, whom I guessed to be in their mid or late 40s, were engaged in a bitter quarrel.
One of them was wearing a pin-striped deep gray suit, the cheap wash-and-wear type you find hanging along Lusakaâ€™s busy streets.
His opponent was clad in a pair of light blue trousers with a white shirt, on top of which was a floral sleeveless gray jersey.
He was also wearing an embroidered green cap on his head.
From the shouts of the spectators I was able to deduce that the man wearing the wash-and-wear suit was a pastor while the other with a cap on his scalp was a traditional doctor from the nearby Soweto market.
â€œPastor versus witchdoctor, pastor versus witchdoctor!â€ two youths were shouting.
â€œWhatâ€™s happening here,â€ I asked one of the youths, who ignored my question and continued egging the two men on.
However, a sympathetic young lady clutching a bunch of newly-bought second-hand clothes in the crook of her right elbow turned to me and politely offered the answer.
â€œBafunomenyana, sibanvera na manyazi shuwa bakulu bonse aba (they want to fight, they are not even ashamed of themselves despite their age)?â€ she said.
The cheering youth pointed at the suited man and shouted, â€œThis one is pastor,â€ and at the man wearing a cap, â€œthis one is a witchdoctor from Soweto market!â€
The â€˜witchdoctorâ€™ was advancing towards the taller but smaller pastor menacingly amid cheers from the spectators.
â€œKuti wantinya iwe? Teti untinye naka Bible kobe. You are just deceiving people that you are a preacher when you are just a starving imposter,â€ he said.
The pastor would not take the jab lying down. He stood on his two feet with the posture of a boxer in the ring.
â€œWho do you think you are, servant of the devil? When are you going to stop deceiving innocent children of God and swindling them out of their hard-earned money under the pretext that you can solve their problems?â€ he shot back.
The frail â€˜man of Godâ€™ tried to turn as if to walk away, but two strong youths grabbed him by his arms and roughly pushed him back.
â€œTapali ifyakuya apa. Poseni tumone uwamaka. Tulefwayokumona makofi apa, noti ukumfwa ama verse ya Bible (you canâ€™t go; just stand and fight, we want to see punched flying here and not Bible verses),â€ one of them rebuked him, and he complied. Did he have a choice?
A tall, dreadlocked roughneck with an unkempt beard violently shoved the short and stout traditional healer towards the pastor, forcing the would-be pugilists to stand less than 30 centimetres from each other with their chests almost touching.
â€œYou canâ€™t beat me. Had I not been a man of God I would have done something bad to you,â€ the pastor warned.
The traditional healer shook his head incredulously, then looked the pastor in the eyes and said while wagging a fore finger in his face, â€œAre you a pastor, you? I can beat you like a child if you donâ€™t know me.â€
The pastor was not to be cowed. He placed his right hand against the traditional healerâ€™s chest and pushed him back gently.
â€œBabwana imwe muli neciwa. Mulefwayo kwakufwila (are you possessed with the demon of death)?â€ he said, which annoyed the witchdoctor even more.
He grabbed the pastorâ€™s hand and flung it away from his chest.
Then he pushed the â€˜man of Godâ€™ back with so much force that he would have fallen on his back had he not landed in the waiting hands of two male youths standing behind him.
With one accord they roughly pushed him back towards the healer, who was grinning confidently with a clenched right fist raised in readiness for use.
There was a mixture of laughter and running commentaries from the delighted spectators.
â€œBa pastor nibambuli, baletine ngâ€™anga (the pastor is a coward; he is afraid of the traditional healer),â€ one youth shouted amid laughter.
Another youth chipped in, â€œAwe bonse nibambuli; tabalefwayo kulwa baleitina (both of them are cowards; they are afraid of fighting each other).â€
Then the healer abruptly turned and started walking away, but not without a parting shot.
â€œYou are just a ka fake pastor. Look at this (waving a wad of kwacha notes in different denominations). You canâ€™t match me,â€ he said as he disappeared into the disappointed crowd.
The confrontation was over, to the chagrin of the expectant spectators. The near punch-up was all about turf. What a fight it would have been!
LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA