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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Mysterious fires, are the gods smoking something?

By Farai Gwenhure

I am usually indifferent when it comes to Zimbabwean pseudo celebrities and socialites. I find it difficult to define their status as role models or as good ambassadors of Zimbabwean brands.

Despite their acerbic fights on social media including Facebook, petrifying delight in scandals as well their façade of living large, there is no doubt that they provide colour in Zimbabwean society.

The bling, the top dog contests, the pub debates, the saloon conversations and the fashion trends. In times when Zimbabweans are subjected to unpalatable socio-economic suffering, the entertainment provides outlets to decompress.  

One interesting socialite cum business man is Tinashe Mutarisi, the Nash brands frontman. A jolly fella, borderline clownish but inspirational for his rags to riches story.

Allegations aside, he has provided big platforms for young people especially from the Southside to show case their talents and earn a living.

He strikes a humble soul, bar his expensive fleet collection of cars including a Ford Mustang. Despite the toxicity, the vociferous cyber anger and the acerbic fights in socialite circles, Mutarisi has stayed away from clashes. Generally likable one would say. 

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Of relevance to this article is however not his over coffee dispute resolution disposition or his relationships with Mai TT or the infamous Levels of Chillspot but the fire which gutted the NASH empire headquarters recently.

A tip of an iceberg when it comes to fire mystery in the motherland, it is like the gods are smoking something and starting fires from the cigarette trashing in unwise places.

The fire is a sad reminder that such fires have lived with us, unresolved and ignored for reasons unknown to many if not mind boggling. Growing up we used to know investigating as a doing word, now I am confused about it.  

In chronicling I decided to ignore the rest of the fires except for those that have remained unexplained.

Hard on the heels of the NASH fire, was a fire which took the like of Doug Munatsi, an iconic investment banker and shrewd business man,who was at the time of his sad passing was tasked with leading the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency.

Killed in what we were told to be a result of toxic gas inhalation following yet another unexplained fire ruthlessly destroyed his upmarket apartment in central Harare.

The whole investigation was reduced to a bone throwing exercise in which theories swung from a mysterious woman visiting him to some other incoherent forktales not worthy repeating for serious readers.

The fire carried with it, a father, a national asset, a friend of many and a banking and finance genius if the Obituary penned by Gono is to go by. Some may argue that in his resting place, he sleeps next to a significant part of the Zimbabwean dream or at the very least an important block to the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” poem.     

Fellow countrymen have asked many unanswered questions concerning the cause of that and many others.

If it were left to my friends in political science, they would be propounding theories and finding impericals to justify the same. At least they would do something.

As a lay citizen I am interested in the answers but have been left to refer to the damage caused at many places as just but acts of mystery.

Arson was alleged when a decorated liberation fighter and kingmaker Rex Nhongo died.

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One such incident is one which shocked the whole country and even beyond ,the case which took the life of General Solomon Mujuru.

Arguably the most decorated soldier of all time the born frees are told his guerrilla name was Rex Nhongo. The most peddled theory was that the war hero was killed by a fire started by a candle light, this theory however could not stick.

The family was not satisfied as well not surprisingly they have publicly said they have hired private investigators.

Most Zimbabweans based on the fact that Rex had been at the centre of the military strategy which only ended after the Lancaster negotiations believed that he could not be killed by a natural farm fire.

Quite understandably with the level of his training a combination of instinct, skill and the senses would have been enough for him to find his way out of the inferno which gazed his Beatrice farm house.

Mujuru was said to lead a strong faction in ZANUPF in which had rival groupings petrified.

So powerful was the late General such that arson cannot be ruled out especially when even the inquest of his death was sandwiched in mystery.

Mysterious farm fires continued to follow his family way after his death. In one instance the nation was told that a relative who stayed at the Ruwa farm house tried to kill a viper therefore igniting a fire.

Whispers were however heard in the corridors to the effect that the snake theory was a public relations statement.

Another bizarre fire engulfed the Beatrice Farm way after the General had passed on ,this time around 32 000 chicks were lost. An electrical fault has been said to be the source of fire.  

No one can doubt that the idea of electrical faults can result in a fire however Zimbabweans continue to speak in kombis about the coincidence of fires following one family magnified by a suspected operative captured on the farm yard on the day of the fire.

Blessing Miles Tendi, a fine Oxford based Zimbabwean academic, in his book however traces the fires that attempted on the last general ever since he was ten years old. Unlike the ones responsible for investigating today’s fires Tendi reveals in greater detail the causes of each and every fire. Including a kitchen fire lighting up a makeshift blanket and a recklessly disposed cigarette residue.

In conspiracies, sabotage has been alleged by some in respect of mysterious fires, such as the one which attacked offices of Mashonaland Tobacco Company a few years back. A fire which grazed the building for more than 48 hours.

Passers-by marvelled, the fire brigade tried in vain and the esteemed buyers of the golden leaf watched helplessly as their toil went down in the fires of the forges.

As has become the truism “in line with the constitutional court ruling of July 17 2015” hundreds of employees had lost their jobs at the firm, pointing fingers at the poor employees became the easiest thing to do. Faint whispers of two people captured by CCTV were also heard, as expected they died down swiftly.

Another incident of suspected labour-capital war lighting an inferno was mooted at former RBZ Chief Dr Gideon Gono’s house. 

The former RBZ governor’s house in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale was devoured in yet another mysterious fire a couple of years back.

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The fact that the house was not Gono’s official residence at the time ostensibly ruled out the idea of a politically motivated arson.    

The ex-central bank chief then had a company struggling to pay employees, once a giant chicken producer, Luna Chickens just like many corporations ended up closing shop. It was therefore tempting to point fingers at the disgruntled workers. The point remains the cause of the fire was never established nor communicated to reassure the citizen that the bottom of disturbances can be established with a view to design preventive measures.

Several other high ranking politicians also had house fires, talk of Patrick Chinamasa’s residency ,the wise man from the East facing early political sunset while blessed with a strange English accent .

Or Dr Olivia Muchena whose fall from Grace close to the misfortune of losing a house to a mysterious fire breeds conspiracy.

A failure to investigate and communicate leaves the public speculating a case of a casualty in the fight between the Weevils vs Gamatox (The Old ZANU-PF factions named after pests and pesticides, it defeated the whole concept of life).

Here is a person who had fallen from the highest rung of political epitome to be somewhere close to an ordinary person with a shredded political image. All of a sudden her house mysteriously burns to the ground.

She was part of the group which is strangely accused of wanting to assassinate the late president (treason).One can be forgiven for propounding a political theory and link it to the former Minister Dr Olivia Muchena’s misfortune.

Despite mysterious unresolved fires being many, fires worth mentioning before penning off are the cyclical ones at the home industry in Glenview area 8.A stone throw away from revellers’ favourite grooving place called Mashwede.

Fires recurrently devour the compound late at night, the fire brigade at one point only focused on stopping the fire from spreading to the residential areas.

Wares worth thousands of dollars were lost in the fire, lives were at risk and a nearby service station could probably cause a catastrophe.

Theories fly in different directions in respect of each episode, thieves who had stolen were trying to cover up their tracks, some say. The guards were around a fire protecting themselves from the winter cold others would say. Probably it was a cigarette which ignited the fire another theory was also suggested.

Then came the most hilarious theory, some people claiming that there were goblins involved in the tough competition for clients, these goblins had boxes of match boxes one would assume.

The fact of the matter is that apart from veld fires Zimbabweans have lost a fortune in mysterious fires and a majority of these have not been resolved and provided with a scientific satisfactory explanation. Lives, vision and homes have been buried in flames.

It is not enough to attend to a fire for purposes of extinguishing the flames yet ignore the responsibility to investigate. Such dereliction places everyone in danger.

Questions will continue to fly, from goblins to arson but the safest explanation as for now is to say maybe the gods are smoking something.

Gwenhure Farai loves his country. He writes in his personal capacity.

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