Detective work

19 02 2007

I am sitting in the Mbare market, well maybe not THE market (apparently this one is called The Rocks for the large boulders in the centre). It is a dusty, dirty place. There are blocks of flats around the small market area, where the windows are missing they have been boarded up. we are waiting for a suspect that we picked up earlier; he has gone off to find the person whom he has indicated is selling stolen irrigation sprinklers that might have been stolen from my work premises. He is apparently related to this person. I am not at all sure why he will decide to shop his relative, but you never know. In the meantime I watch life go by in this area of Harare that I have never before seen.

There is a 7 tonne truck with a partly pulled back canopy some 20m away. People wander up to it and seem to buy and sell things, sugar and the like. It is well known that in Mbare anything can be bought at a price no matter how short it may be elsewhere. I have already been offered fertilizer which is short and I have seen at least one bag of it go by. A group of immaculately dressed school girls go by, white socks, shining shoes, blue skirts, white shirts and a blue striped tie. Not everyone is this smart and there are the usual squabbles of small boys, pinching, punching and kicking as small boys do everywhere.

I expected to see signs of deprivation and hunger but they are not obvious even if they are around. There is a large lady off to my left (I am sitting in a pickup, the detectives are doing a bad job of trying to look inconspicuous – suits and ties and smoking behind the pickup) selling a pitiful pile of some sort of small seed in a small conical dump on an upturned tin. There are tins of all descriptions everywhere. I cannot see any plastic containers but tins there are a plenty. Engine oil cans are the most popular, upturned as impromptu tables. Cooking oil cans are there too but I don’t see any plastic, maybe they are in use as household containers for the ever absent water. A large boulder off to my right has “Chemical Corner” painted on it. I don’t really want to know what sort of chemicals are sold there! Very little is happening, this is obviously not market hour.

Nobody is taking a blind bit of notice of me, I don’t seem to exist. I was quite surprised by this earlier when we called in at a house in another run down area of Mbare. A few people stared but no-one called out to the marungu (white man) in the pick up truck with the handcuffed suspects in the back. Like most whites in Zimbabwe, I am irrelevant.

A recently painted, shocking lime green Peugeot sedan goes past. There is a matching shocking green soft toy on the back shelf. I glance down at a dective’s diary on the seat beside me. It is a 2001 diary. I check the days and dates, they are the same as this year.

The suspect wanders back. Apparently his relative is not answering his cell phone. Right. We move onto another suburb and amazingly actually retrieve a length of flex for a submersible pump though it may not be ours. It’s really difficult policing without a vehicle, the detective says with a sigh as we drive into the police station. No kidding. So it falls to the victims of theft to carry the police around on a wild goose chase that took most of the day. I don’t think the “suspects” in handcuffs really minded. I guess it is not often that they get to ride around Harare in the relative comfort of a private pickup truck!



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