Musings of a vegetable vendor

It’s 4 am

I wake up-it is early morning

I splash my face with cold water

I grab my tswanda (basket) on one hand

My little purse with the few dollars on the other hand

I rush out onto the street


“Town here mother?(Are you going to town?)”

“City patown? (Going to town?)”

“Town via Mbare?”

The hwindi (tout) shouts

Ehe mukwasha (yes my son)

I respond

I rush into the commuter omnibus


It’s now 4:30 am

At Mbare musika (market) I get off the combi

I rush to the varimi (farmers’) market

At least there I will get the tomatoes at a lower price

Iiii anhasi akanaka ende akachipa

“Today’s are lovely and cheap”

I say to my friend Amai Rwizi

I buy my goods

Parting with all the money I have

Except for my 5 Rand coin to take me to my market


It’s now 5 am

“Ndidengedzewo tswanda yangu shamwari”

“Help me carry my basket my friend”

I say to Amai Rwizi

I carry my heavy load, back to the combis

I decide today I shall go and sell my stuff in town

I need more money and selling in my neighbourhood will not work


“City patown-city patown” again the touts shout

I manage to get into the combi

The tout helps me get my basket inside (bless his soul)

The prissy miss sitting next to me pushes away from me

“Muchenjere kundisvibidza netswanda yenyu ineguruva”

“Be careful not to make me dirty with your dusty basket”, she says

I ignore her and face straight ahead

If only she knew that if I had had the chance to get an education

I would not be a vendor

I was a bright student

But poverty made me what I am


“Bhadharayi vabereki (pay up please)” the touts shouts

I hand him my 5 Rand coin

“Koyetswanda? ( How about payment for the basket)”

“Munhu here nhai mwanangu? (It’s not a person my son, how can it pay?),” I ask

“Manje kana musina yebhazi motosiya madomasi e5 Rand”

“(If you do not have the money you have to leave 5 Rand’s worth of tomatoes),” he says

I take 4 big tomatoes and give them to him (oh what a thief)

18 passengers in the combi

No one rises to my defence

No one protects me from this thief

Not one!


It’s now 5:30 am

I arrive in town

The sun is just beginning to filter through the clouds

So warming, cutting out the chilling cold

I lay out my tomatoes on my small makeshift stall

I sit in the sun, eagerly awaiting my first customer

(c) Rumbidzai Dube
She lays out her vegetables and eagerly awaits the first customer...

A few minutes later a woman comes to me

“Mangwanani amai (Good morning mother)”

She says to me, her broad smile brightening up my day

“Ndaona madomasi enyu akanaka saka ndipei e$2”

“(I saw that you have quality tomatoes so give me tomatoes worth $20)”

I am overjoyed-that is almost half the box I ordered

All bought by one customer


Little do I know my joy is about to come to an end

Mapurisa ekanzuru! Mapurisa ekanzuru! Mhanyai madzimai mhanyai!

(City Council officers! City Council officers! Run, women run!)

I am slow to gather my goods, slow to run away



They take all my tomatoes


They tell me I have to pay a fine of $50 for illegal trade

I tell them I only have $20

They take it

They take it all

All of it-except for 5 Rand for me to go back home


I go home- dejected, depressed, dead broke.

How shall I pay school fees?

What shall I feed my children?

Where shall I get the rent?

Who can I tell?

Who shall help me?


It is 1 May today

They say it is workers’ day

They say workers have rights

Where are my rights? What are my rights?

Who shall protect me?

When shall this end?


4 thoughts on “Musings of a vegetable vendor

  1. chi’handinei nazvo’ or indeference or apathy is getting too ingrained in our people chiefly because they cannot understand how it came to be that the MDCs (all of them) somehow managed to stop the winds of change. the international community too has got its heads spinning. saka vanhu ngavabhadhare FOR THEIR BURDENS even on combis and busses. we deserve the socio political environment we create for ourselves. how long ago for example did we give up on asking kids to give up their seats to adults on public transport. ndoo nyaya yacho. Tsvangirai wakabhaiza. nyika yanga iri pakatipe’kubvunura’ (kuguura) like a snake slips out of its old skin; but unfortunately not anymore. not for another generation yet.
    A moral citizenry only serves a moral government.

  2. Reading this hurts. Because it is stated in such plain language… and the plainness of it only serves to heighten our perception of the injustice of it all. It hurts to read this because the truth hurts.

    1. I did not know how else I could help them as an interest group but to paint their story the way I see it. When you use public transport you see these things happening. Last Friday I had a row with some hwindi(tout) who wanted this woman to pay for tswanda (basket) full of vegetables. He was saying, if you don’t want her to pay then pay for her. I told him I wasn’t going to let him rob me or rob this poor woman. In the end she did not pay but I wondered how many others would end up forking out the much needed 5rand coin. It hurts, it is real but it has to change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s