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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Memories of Shurugwi mining compounds

By Kelvin Kasiwulaya

Pulling the heavy wagons of a meager mining salary, listening to the unquantifiable decibels of explosive blasts and the wailing train, feeling the humid heat of asbestos roofing sheets during the night, chanting the glorious songs of the Gule Wankulu dance, congregating to bath and use the six-chambered toilet, this is a summation of life in Shurugwi’s mining compounds.

The genesis of mining compounds in Shurugwi (Formerly Selukwe) was necessitated by the young men who migrated in search of employment from Mangochi, Ntcheu and Nkhata bay in Malawi and those from Dodoma, Mbeya and Arusha Tanzania not forgetting those who walked from Zambia.

Creating a home away from home for the migrant miners in the late 1960s and early 70s, Union Carbide built mining compounds from Selukwe Peak, through the mid village of Ironsides up to the mountainous Magomero area of Railway Block.

Although the colonial master tried to divide the compound folk based on cultural beliefs and religion as evidenced by the Yao section of Ironsides which was only meant for the Muslim community, followed by the Likoma who had their own Amfumu (Chief) in the Terylene area of Railwaybock and the Shangaan people who lived the poor 110 volts powered single quarters of Sumeter (Kumudhadha), however, the African folk remained united in their struggle for a better life.

At one time, no one in the mining compounds of Shurugwi owned a television set, it was within the decorum of the Ministry of Information in conjunction with Union Carbide that workers would watch projected movies from rotational bases on a white-washed cement wall (biskop).

Some of the movies projected include Tiki Goes to town, Cheruva, Dracula, Enter the Dragon featuring Bruce Lee, and Any Gun Can play whose main actor was Buddy Spencer among other thrilling cinematographic content.

The mining compounds also have their social heroes, the likes of Che Mkwinda popularly known as Mudhara Baison, the late Che Scotch Hamadu, the Cyclist, the living legend of smart dressing and etiquette Mr Gedeon Gidza Marava not forgetting Kenya Zambia the Gule waMkulu prodigy.

Delving into the dances of the compound folk, Chihodha, Ben Arinoti, Chimutari, Muganda, Gule Wamkulu, Nyau and the Gomani dance of Malawi were the repository of cultural value and identity for the migrant compound folk

Mystery also shrouds the pages of compound history, through the vicissitudes of time this scribe ponders gingerly about Peku the Sena magician from Mozambique who used to cut out his tongue and place it on a plate wiggling for all compound folk to see.

Now in this epoch, compound life has changed with Zimsaco workers having been retrenched in 2014, the once unified tribes of the mining compound are now scattered all over like sheep without a shepherd, and the cultural dances have dissipated into the gloomy shadow of the changing times.

The once lively compounds have become a pale shadow of themselves, no more Gule Wamkulu, ama 2000 can no longer hear the wailing song of the Zimasco train wobbling its green wagons towards the Selukwe Peak mine Stadium for the Chamber of Mines athletics competition.

Public toilets, railway tracks, mine schools, and empty community halls are only what is left of the once ballooning compounds of Shurugwi.

Now everyone minds their business, the Likoma and Gomani relationship of love and compassion has been swept under the carpet only to be seen at funerals.

What a pity. All have vanished into the dust of the capitalistic tendency of each man for himself, God for us all, life in the compounds of Shurugwi has changed. Indeed, changed forever.. #The Sun

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