Winning beer drinking competitions and Zimbabwean politics

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l knew VaMazibisa from my early childhood. Being my father’s young brother, he was after all my dear uncle, my dear uncle who loved his liquor.

Of course, VaMazibisa was not his real name; it was his nickname which he acquired from his generosity in doling out liquor.

Mazibisa is a Shona word which, in the context of his nickname, means; “The One Who ls All Understanding”.

ln the later years of VaMazibisa’s life, liquor had become a precious commodity, owing to the general rise in the cost of living. lt could only be enjoyed by those who could afford it. A trend thus developed; you only shared your beer with those who also shared theirs with you. This meant that no one donated beer to those who were broke.

But not with VaMazibisa, “The One Who Was All Understanding”. Even when he was not the one who had purchased the liquor, he handed out calabashes to all and sundry, regardless of whether they were the poor of the poorest, who would never reciprocate the gesture.

And so the name VaMazibisa became synonymous with his generosity.

He consumed large quantities of liquor himself and at a competitive level too.

There was a shopping centre called Ventura’s just outside Torwood Township in Kwekwe. Ventura’s ran beer drinking competitions during weekends. At the material time, VaMazibisa was employed at the great iron works of Zisco steel in Torwood, which has now been reduced to arubble of ruins and rust, owing to mismanagement and political interference and malfeasance.

VaMazibisa was a frequent patron at Ventura’s which was just nearby.

l wasn’t surprised when VaMazibisa stepped up onto the podium to take part in a beer drinking contest on that Saturday afternoon.

All the other contestants except VaMazibisa were mean, thirsty and greedy looking scoundrels. Their unkempt apparel reminded me of dangerous pirates on board a treasure hunting ship. ln total contrast to his competitors, VaMazibisa was smiling impishly at the audience gathered to witness the contest.

He reminded me of a catholic priest who was about to deliver a sermon to a heathen congregation.

l laughed uncontrollably as l took in the scene, and completely ruled out VaMazibisa. He stood no chance against those rogues. This was a beer drinking competition, not a beauty contest.

lt was like sending a saint to contest a Zimbabwean political election.

The man in charge of the contest was soon announcing the rules of the competition. Each contestant would be given two litres of opaque beer. The contestant who finished his two liters of opaque beer first would be declared winner. The winner would walk away with a dozen packs of Chibuku Beer popularly known as Shake-Shake.

The other contestants would get nothing, except the two litres of opaque beer they received at the beginning of the competition.

l breathed a sigh of relief. At least VaMazibisa was not going to walk away empty handed. Bottom line, he would get two litres of opaque beer for free, l predicted with secret glee and consolation.

VaMazibisa handled his two litres of opaque beer casually in one hand with practiced ease, unfazed by the imminent contest. His competitors looked more purposeful, as they gripped their mugs of Chibuku beer with both hands, waiting for the signal to start gulping with tense expectation.

The signal came.

His competitors were off to a galloping start, pumping their Adam’s apples up and down with vigorous zeal.

Meanwhile, VaMazibisa gazed calmly into the frothing mug of Chibuku beer and breathed heavily several times. He calmly lifted the mug to his lips like one performing an ordinary daily ritual, and started draining its contents.

Halfway through, he removed his lips from the mug and took another deep breath. The mug returned to his lips with the deliberate, calculated co-ordination of a robot, and the lips started sucking the contents of the mug, just like a bee draining nectar from a flower.

Before his competitors knew it, VaMazibisa’s mug was empty, and he turned it upside down with a flourish.

There was a thunderous applause. VaMazibisa received his prize with quiet dignity as we whistled and shouted hoarse in unrestrained jubilation.

The other mean contestants sulked and sneaked away.

I was happy, not only because l was guaranteed to partake in the proceeds of VaMazibisa’s victory, but also because a good man who deserved to win had won.

I was therefore hurt when VaMazibisa passed away a few months ago. He represented a certain selflessness l hold so dear.

But today, a few months after VaMazibisa’s demise, l am no longer hurting.

An inner voice tells me that the conduct of “The One Who ls All Understanding” in the incident herein described, mirrors what will soon happen in the Zimbabwean political landscape which is pitting one against the other; “the good, the bad and the ugly.” –