“STIMELA” ARTHUR GIFRE

“STIMELA” ARTHUR GIFRE

I am seating at the corner table of this popular cafeteria in town; well known to the have and not the have nots. I look out of the big tinted window, stare at the weather, it is partly sunny and I know that it is going to be good day. 

I flash forward into the future as I see a school bus pull up along the street and two children embark it and smile that this decade, this millennium is going to be a success. I do not get mistaken for misinterpreting the future with Futurism as expressed by Tommaso Marinetti in 1919 as a revolutionary cultural movement which would serve as a catalyst to patriotism and courage.

I take a sip from my coffee cup, then suddenly I remember about “Stimela” as I see the bus leave the bus stop. A grief of sorrow strikes as I remember the hard years passed. The litres of sweat poured, the sleepless nights spent and the days I went stomach empty. 

To come to my realisation, I see a housefly floating in my coffee something quite formidable to this cafeteria.
It desperately struggles to fly out, but its wings are all wetted by the drink. It goes round and round but in vain it has no other option but to take the drink. I take a tea spoon and get it out of its trouble onto the saucer and slowly it crawls away unthankfully. At least, I spared its life hence to see another day of its long seven days lifespan yet it is a vector.

“Stimela”, we sang in our many passed years at the gold mine. Looking for the precious stone which we never saw its final form nor touched it, we only saw it on paper. For us it was only muddy water and tonnes of rubble in deep, long shafted mines that would cave in unprecedented. They came with the agenda to civilise but theirs was to oppress and kill the mocking bird. They built us isolation camps for us to live in. They secluded and alienated us from our families just to get the precious stone. They really broke their promise of bring in developmental sanity but instead growing the plant of insanity, which we are now reaping its fruits.

Every idle second and I would hear the sound of the train, “Stimela”. Its big steam engine rumbling as it came to a screeching halt at the base camp. Its horn would deafen our ears, its bright torch would blind our eyes. “Stimela” is back! With a batch of one thousand men who had been forcefully conscripted into the workforce as goldminers. They had been promised well paid blue collar jobs that would help them feed their families, but that was not the case.

One by one, in a row they would alight the boogies, in a straight que barely knowing they had just gotten into concentration camps. Their land had been confiscated hence this business was a near-genocidal campaign designed to kill as many youthful men as possible. Guards stand armed to the tooth and if you try to leave the que a gunshot is fired into your cranium. 

The officials would hand you a pair of working boots, towel, bowl and overall. The buckets and blankets were to be shared. Then that will be the start of your triumph and tribulations.
Mining for sixteen hours a day with only one bowl of meal and almost no pay. Are these people really animals or beasts of burden?
We got separated from our families but what pains is that we never knew if we would ever see them again. Two things would have happened, either unplanned demise or eviction into another state for hard underpaid labour. But for us, we did not find that rescuer like the housefly did, we had to wait for the colonial uprising which we never got on a silver platter.

At the mines, there was no adequate medical attention, food nor sanitary facilities, bugs and mosquitos in abundance: they really flourished in their thousand. The miners died every week in their tens thus they had to bring in “Stimela” back to do the job. It was better being a held a prisoner of war by Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts those days than a goldminer. 

The good thing is that we were not used as domestic cavy for chemical warfare experimentation because we were seen as an inferior race hence the Jews were best suited for the job. We thank God for now we are at least a free country with no much of foreign interference. 

My cup of coffee is now half empty or half full, I don’t know which one to use but the situation can help me. I look at the entrance of the cafeteria, a tall gigantic man, black as coal, with a huge pot belly, in his mid-seventies walks in accompanied by his two well-built men in black and dark glasses. He does not need much of a description because everyone knows him. “Arthur Gifre”, he takes a seat and the waitress rushes to his service, after all he is one of their esteemed customers. One of his men in black stands besides him and the other goes to the cafeteria entrance to take guard. Coffee is served to him but the man beside him has to taste it first.

“Arthur Gifre” is a so called self-made millionaire who owns inherited goldmines come veteran politician. He even had published his book of success explaining how he rose to his status thinking that we are all going to pocket that. His father was vastly known to be a colonial collaborator chief turned freedom fighter. He sold out his people in exchange for iron sheets and the education in which his son owns currently from the prestigious Cambridge University.

Many perished under his fathers’ command and that is how “Arthur Gifre” grew his belly and we ended up at the gold mine. He buried his father in a golden casket. The same gold we toiled to get from ground, was taken back to the ground and that is why he is surrounded by his false form of security yet I’m alone.

 When he was in Cambridge, I was at the gold mine, yet we are dining in the same restaurant.
He claims to be from a prominent patriotic and freedom fighter family hence everyone tend to believe so, including those under his command and allies. I see his biography professionally published in the mass media of how he will lead the country to prosperity by use of highly visible public projects. 

His foremost priority was subjugation of minds through the use of propaganda by lavishing his cultic personality centred on his figure. He tries to copy Mussolini Fascist regime and his party so that he can keep power in his own hands and prevent the emergence of any rival.
He says that his father was an African socialist who championed for human rights and labour rights. His father did that in a self-tailored egocentric manner. They built a statue of him in his home town, claiming that he is the warrior of independence. They even named hospitals, roads and learning institutions after his father so that he can be idolised and worshipped. But for we who know him and his son quite well, he will always be a traitor of less worth and wits.

“Arthur Gifre” appears on the media and local dairies as this saviour that is going to take people to this land of fortunes; milk and honey. We who knows him well, he is just a struggling populist claiming sycophancy. His followers see him as a Messiah of the second wake, is he really one or just a sycophant of himself? I do not know. He is now campaigning for the top seat in the country. He has a very big multi-million campaign team which is moving round and round beating drums to the tune of his manifesto. He has amassed a huge number of the less fortunate and the have nots in the society which his father disregarded. He proclaims to them that it is also their time to have the piece of the cake and have it too.

Is he ever going to make it to the top seat in the country in his life? Maybe his grandchildren will fulfill that promise of the coming “Messiah” or maybe he is unwillingly preparing the way, as a John the Baptist. He hurriedly takes his cup of coffee and leaves the cafeteria. All through he was on phone maybe organising the next political rally or shipment of fresh stock from his allied Arab countries. He did not seem to take any recognition of the smooth sounding coffee lounge jazz in the background.

My cup of coffee is now empty. The waiter comes to me and hands over the bill politely. I come back from my dream world and get into my pocket and take out my wallet. I get a one ten dollar bill note and place it on the tray only to see another familiar portrait printed on the front side of the note. That is when I noticed if I had one without it, it would have been rendered useless buy the first sight as just a piece of rectangular paper. Nobody would have regarded it as a form of legal tender. That proved to me that we have not gained any independence as such and we are still under modern era colonisation where we are socially stratified as the have and have nots. And “Stimela” is still with us silently and unknowingly.

Socialism will never be our case neither will Capitalism. Africa has turned out to be dog society where to survive you need to be wolf. Is Africa a race or a humankind? Twenty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines which were preached beyond the Kilimanjaro by descendants who were illiterate Africans when Rome had Caesar, Virgil and Augustus.

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