Although Jangwa was a prosperous black commercial farmer, he had a notorious reputation as a miser. He kept most of the profits from the sale of the tobacco that he grew on his farm and paid his farm workers a pittance. Many a time, Jangwa did not pay his farm workers at the end of the month. He even withdrew the Christmas presents that the farm workers had been accustomed to receiving from the previous farm owner.
Jangwa had acquired the 30,000 hectare Chitomborwizi commercial farm by forcibly evicting a white commercial farmer at the height of the violent and chaotic land redistribution program. Despite his notoriety, Jangwa was never short of cheap farm laborers queuing to find work on his farm.
Something attracted the farm laborers to Jangwa’s farm, despite the neighboring farms paying better wages.
Jangwa and his farm foreman, Mujubeki, were sitting in garden chairs on the veranda of the farmhouse. The two thirsty men were seeping cold water and peering at the orange sun disappearing on the bed of the horizon. The air was dense and dry.
“The golden leaf has earned me a fortune on the auction floors this season,” said Jangwa to his foreman. Jangwa’s smile revealed his glistening, pearly white teeth. Balls of sweat had formed on his forehead.
“That is pleasing news,” replied Mujubeki shrewdly. He took a sip of water.
“I am more successful than the previous white commercial farmer,” boasted Jangwa.
Mujubeki nodded his head before fixing his big, searching eyes on Jangwa.
“Does this mean the farm laborers will finally get a pay raise? It has been five years since the last raise.’
Jangwa frowned and cleared his throat. “I am afraid there won’t be any money left for a pay raise after I have paid off all the expenses on seeds, pesticides, water, electricity, transport and the Agribank loan.”
“But you just said that you had a profitable tobacco farming season,” Mujubeki reminded Jangwa. “Besides, we deserve some recognition for toiling hard in the fields. Without us, the farming season would not have been as successful as it was.”
Jangwa shook his head. “I am not prepared to offer a pay raise at this juncture. Maybe next season, if there is another bumper harvest.”
“The farm workers do not have the patience to wait till next season.”
“Are you planning on ganging up with the farm workers to riot on my farm?” hissed Jangwa raising his voice.
“No, Baas,” pleaded Mujubeki. “I am only stating the obvious. Give us a fair wage for losing our skins in the sweltering heat of the fields.”
Jangwa stood up and fixed his big eye balls on Mujubeki. “Go and tell the farm laborers that they either put up with the current wage or pack their bags and leave my farm.”
Disappointed, Mujubeki rose up from his garden chair and walked away without muttering a word.
Jangwa remained glued to his chair as he watched Mujubeki disappearing into the darkening day. He seethed with anger.
Early the following morning, Jangwa visited the tobacco fields. It was a chilly morning. As he approached the tobacco fields on his bicycle, Jangwa sounded the bicycle bell to announce his arrival. The farm laborers dispersed from their gathering and quickly scrambled back to harvesting the tobacco leaves.
Jangwa dismounted from his bicycle and looked around suspiciously at the workers without a word. He walked over to Mujubeki, the foreman.
“Tell the workers that I am extending the working day, by an extra hour, with effect from today,” he said to the foreman. “I have to sell the remaining tobacco in the fields before the tobacco auction floors close.”
“But we still have not resolved our pay dispute,” Mujubeki protested.
“I will offer a bonus for your hard work, but not a pay raise, OK?”
Mujubeki quietly went back to work.
Jangwa jumped back on his bicycle and rode off.
The farm laborers gathered around Mujubeki.
“Since Jangwa is unwilling to give us a pay raise, we should make him pay for his stubbornness,” Mujubeki addressed the workers. “Continue working in the fields as if nothing has happened, but no one should ever tell Jangwa what we have just discovered while working in the tobacco fields.”
Meanwhile, Jangwa was content with the subservience of the farm labourers. All appeared normal. The labourers seemingly went about their jobs. After the
At the end of the tobacco auction season, the workers demanded their bonuses. At first, Jangwa tried to renege on his promise, but then out of guilt, he instead offered the farm labourers five pounds of maize each.
Despite their frustrations, the workers returned to the fields and continued to work like nothing had transpired. But they were no longer as productive and committed as before. Whenever Jangwa visited the fields, the farm workers whistled aloud to each other and quickly scrambled back to work. Growing increasingly angry, Jangwa put Mujubeki to task, asking him to explain why the daily tobacco harvest targets were not being met.
Jangwa suspected that something was going on. Despite the poor wages that he paid, the farm workers still managed to send their children to school. On Sunday, the day off, the farm workers dressed smartly in expensive clothes and drank beer heavily, without a care in the world.
So Jangwa began his investigation. He inspected the tobacco fields one Sunday afternoon when the workers were away, and did not find anything suspicious except that the top soil in the tobacco fields had been dug and then covered back. “Probably the hungry farm laborers were digging for mice,” thought Jangwa.
The next Sunday afternoon, Jangwa decided to spy on the farm laborers at their residential compound. When he got closer to the compound, he crawled down and hid behind a bush, observing the workers’ activity from a distance.
After a while, an expensive, sleek Mercedes Benz pulled up into the workers compound. The driver remained in his car. Jangwa had never seen the Mercedes Benz before.
Mujubeki, the foreman, walked up to the Mercedes Benz holding something wrapped in aluminium foil. He leaned his head through the open window and handed the wrapped parcel to the driver of the car.
The driver handed Mujubeki a bulging khaki envelope and quickly drove off.
Then the farm laborers surrounded Mujubeki.
Mujubeki began to hand out what from afar looked like dollar bills.
The farm workers began to ululate, jive to the loud music of Macheso, and drink beer.
Jangwa realized that there was something suspicious going on in the workers’ compound. He stealthily crawled away from the bush and returned to the farmhouse. He waited for the cover of darkness.
That night, Jangwa put on a torn black overalls, black gumboots, thick lensed glasses and a black sun-hat to cover his face. He disguised himself to look like one of the farm labourers. Then he staggered towards the farm laborers’ compound like a drunk returning from a beer drinking party.
Meanwhile inside the farm laborers’ residential compound, the men and women were now reeling around in drunken jubilation and stupor, laughing and jiving to the blurring music of Macheso on the radiogram. No one noticed disguised Jangwa entering the compound.
Jangwa’s heart was pumping fast as he staggered to a darkened spot on the edge of a hut.
Mujubeki was bum-jiving to the music.
VaGaramukanwa, an old, farm worker, barely noticed Jangwa sit down on a stool, close to him. The old man was tipsy and watched the jiving. Momentarily, the old man bobbed his head up and down, in and out of consciousness.
Silence pervaded the place when the music stopped playing.
Jangwa patted VaGaramukanwa on the shoulder and speaking in a drunk and disguised tone remarked, ‘Great party. What is the cause of celebration?’
“This is our farewell party. We are celebrating our final week working as slaves on this wretched farm,” muttered VaGaramukanwa.
“So where are you going then?”asked Jangwa nonchalantly.
“We have bought ourselves a farm in the district,” continued the old man, wiping his frothy mouth with a handkerchief.” We will be moving there at the end of this week.”
Jangwa almost lost his temper momentarily but he kept his composure to maintain his cover. “So where did you get the money to buy a farm?” he quizzed.
“When, by chance, we discovered gold deposits on the top soil of the tobacco fields, we decided not to tell Jangwa,” VaGaramukanwa revealed. “We have been extracting the gold deposits from the tobacco fields and covering the top soil. Jangwa thinks we are harvesting his golden leaf. We have been selling the gold deposits to a buyer who drives a Mercedes Benz. Now that we have extracted all the gold deposits, we are leaving Jangwa, the miser and his golden leaf.”
Jangwa was dumbfounded. He staggered to the edge of the hut, leaned on the wall, gasping for air. A massive heart attack struck him and he fell head long, convulsing on the ground.
Suddenly Thomas Mapfumo’s song, Ndavakuenda Ini, began to blare on the radio gram and all the farm workers stood up to dance. The farm workers were too drunk to notice Jangwa’s cold and lifeless body lying on the darker edge of the hut. The wild party continued well into the night.