Bulawayo, my home city, is well known for its wide roads that allowed ox-span wagons to turn with ease. It is also known for other things starting with a “B”.
Beef - the best used to come from ranches across our province; Bravery—of its people, it is not called the City of Kings and Queens for nothing, and Beauty—our women are to die for, from my drop dead gorgeous wife to our natural treasures such as the Matopos Hills and Victoria Falls. The fourth B is for Business: Bulawayo was once called the Manchester of Zimbabwe. Then I thought Barack Obama in Bulawayo - the combination of the ‘Bs’ sounded right and he could be Bulawayo’s dnext claim to fame. Barack could pass as a Bulawayan, he is brave, and I could say he has beauty, but let’s stick to charm.
“If this Barack can do something about water, food and investment in Bulawayo, we can vote for him.” So said one market trader, clearly not sure whether this Barack lived inside our borders. I didn’t find any Obama T-shirts on the market stalls, but I did see three emblazoned with the name of Osama Bin Laden.
Obama is not as famous here as the soon to be former President George Bush, but he is known by those who follow the US elections via satellite or email and can afford a newspaper. Barack big in Bulawayo is as long a shot headline as the one announcing the Zimbabwe dollar gaining on the Euro. A city councillor told me, “I know about Obama but he cannot influence change in Zimbabwe and in Bulawayo in particular, because he has his own people to take care of before us.”
Still, during a recent visit to Kenya, I sensed that an Obama win is expected to be Kenya’s highway to Washington via the town of Kisumu, the ancestral home of Obama’s father.
I even had a quick search in our birth register for children named Obama or Barack. Nothing close, even though Africans have a knack for colourful names. Try Ntombizikababa, (the father’s girls) Zwelibanzi (wide country) Flavour, Shame, Prosper, etc.
The situation is this. In Bulawayo - water, food, jobs and a return to the glorious days of the city’s industrialization are the key priorities. Much as the economy and jobs are central to Obama’s campaign, among the thousands of workers here who walk to work to save money for a day’s meal, he is neither liked nor disliked. Obama is number 1 000-and-something on the citizens of Bulawayo’s priority list right now.
Busani Bafana is a freelance journalist and writer