Whether it was fate unfolding, or just sheer bad luck, it’s up to you to decide. So at the end of 2005, after the Binga bunga bunga, the Msambakaruma incidences and Magunje escapades, I was ready to call time to my days in the field. I was joining the Agricultural Education Department as a lecturer, excited to become a proper “Sir!” I had attended an interview at Gwebi College and had been informed that I had not only got the job, but I had been posted to the only College that I had chosen: Mazowe Vet College.
But before I left the field, that December I went home for Christmas. Well, I remember that I bought a really big, nay, humongous ram from old Mr. Makanyaire, veteran colleague from the office. The big parcel was bundled up and placed in the boot of the bus, and luckily my brother met me at Mbare Musika bus terminus. Together, we hustled and negotiated our way into a homeward bound bus, having endured envious stares from fellow travellers.
Well, suffice to say that we had one hell of a Christmas. It was such a spectacular event that years later, when people talked about Christmas my seven-year old niece always associated the festives with a fat ram! Only later was he to realise that that was a special Christmas, as we jived along to R & K hit “Christmas Paruzevha”.
Well, early January 2006 saw me with my bags at Ngungunyana Building, home to the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters. I was finalising my lateral transfer from Vet Field to Agric Education, going to my beloved Mazowe. Or so I thought.
There was a hitch. Suddenly my well-laid plans were about to unravel in spectacular fashion. Apparently there had been a mistake, there was in fact no vacancy at Mazowe so I could not go there. For a moment I froze, panicked, and my heart beating fast. For a moment there I saw myself cap in hand, knocking back on all those offices that I had brashily bid farewell. Fortunately, I was told that since I had passed the interviews, I could still choose other stations where there were vacancies.
Ah, well that was a relief. Maybe a brief background will be in order here. The Department of Agricultural Education was expanding its operations, because it needed to train about 10 000 certificate in agriculture students for field-level jobs in agricultural extension and other support services, all in aid of the land reform process. So they had augumented their seven established colleges by partnering with the Ministry of Youth to use Youths Vocational Training Centres to train agricultural students. All good, but not so fast…
I had a number of choices. There were vacancies in Mushagashe in Masvingo, Chaminuka in Mt Darwin, Magamba in Mutare and others at Kaguvi and other centres. I knew nothing about all these centres, so I guess what swayed me was familiarity. Chaminuka was in Mashonaland Central; I had trained at a college in that province and I had once been in Mt Darwin. And the clincher was that a colleague who had been with me at college had got a job at Chaminuka before me, so that finally did it for me. So Chaminuka it was!
Well, what can I say? That the bus broke down at the steep Shashi Pass from Bindura to Mt Darwin? That we had to get off and walk up the hill while the bus slowly made its way up, only for us to get back on and arrive safely at the Chaminuka turn off bus stop? It really left me with an uneasy sense of foreboding.
Chaminuka Training Centre is located about 2 km from the main Bindura-Mt Darwin road, 15 km from Mt Darwin Centre. It started life as a demobilisation centre housing ex-combatants coming from the war; then it become a youth training centre; then a vocational training centre; and now it was going to become a vocational and agricultural training centre. Well, it wasn’t exactly a sprawling centre. If anything, one of the acute problems that I encountered was lack of accommodation. The centre was built on a 1000 ha farm, but the buildings and general infrastructure were basic, prefab and generally on the modest side. How that place was going to be a bustling centre for the next 4 or so years is part of the story of my life…
The first dinner, we all ate in the college kitchen. We were 12 or so people, those of us who had newly-arrived, and the other general staff ranged along a wide table. The meal was white cabbage, with a hint of cooking oil but without tomatoes and brownish-cream coloured sadza with lumps the size of tennis balls. I could not pretend to enjoy that, so I turned to the guy on my left and mumbled: “Hey,man, this is a funeral..” That was slang for “It’s a tough situation”. He stared right back at me, unsmiling, and icily rejoined: “Whose funeral is it? Who has died?”
I looked into the coldest pair of eyes I have ever met. And went very quiet.
Welcome to Chaminuka.
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