Extreme Desperation (ED) : desperate habits and the new vocabulary of desperation


By Luke Tamborinyoka


Spawned by a coup in November 2017, the Emmerson Mnangagwa dispensation has left its own murderous footprints on the sands of history. State sanctioned murders, repression, gross human rights violations and unmitigated corruption have been the hallmark of this regime that yet again pilfered its way into office in July 2018. By dint of a sheer incompetence that has massively expanded the informality of an already highly informal sector—in the process dimming the future prospects of a doomed young generation—the Mnangagwa regime has equally spawned new habits and a new lingo, nay a new vocabulary that is testament to the fact that as a nation, we have now hit the flotsam at rock-bottom.

This week’s instalment seeks to showcase the lingo and language perspective of our crisis by giving a glimpse of the new and strange vocabulary that has now been added to the country ‘s dictionary in today’s colloquial enterprise. Most of the words are used mostly by the young generation and they depict the desperation and parlous life of ordinary Zimbabweans. Indeed, the new lingo is the window to our tenuous national moment of penury and deprivation. In this respect, even Dambudzo, the Shona word for that which causes pain and suffering becomes more than just the name of Zimbabwe’s illegitimate President. Dambudzo becomes a befitting leadership backdrop to our collective trying moment. Dambudzo becomes the graphic thematic soundtrack to the wide array of the new vocabulary in these desperate times.

Dambudzo is the Shona word for that which causes suffering and given our moment, it becomes an apt name. Dambudzo the person and dambudzo the dispensation.

The massive unemployment that now stands in excess of 90 percent and the highly in formalised economy have not only bred untold suffering and a desperate generation but has equally spawned a new vocabulary that only a competently incompetent regime could muster. Indeed, this week we take a peek at the new words and the new habits that are synonymous with our times, the new lingo that has been engendered by our current extreme desperation (ED).

1 . Hustling (kungwavhangwavha)

Hustling generally refers to the dictum of Anything goes for a living . In this our highly informal economy, citizens have resorted to desperate measures to eke out a living. As a word and as a vocation, hustling was rarely used in Zimbabwe’s colloquial discourse but under Mnangagwa, the word has become a label of pride. Hustling has almost become a tag of honour and it makes one smile for them to be labelled “the ultimate hustler.” Hustler refers to one who has sufficiently mustered the art of survival in this kiya kiya economy, itself yet another word that was added to the county’s milieu of expressions under deposed President Robert Mugabe. But as I said last week, Emmerson Mnangagwa is a Robert Mugabe on steroids. While kiya kiya under Mugabe referred to the rudimentary bustling that ordinary Zimbabweans resorted to for a living, our Emmerson has expanded the informal sector into a vast labyrinth of murky deals and kiya kiya as a reference to informal activities has proved to be grossly inadequate to describe the enterprises that ordinary Zimbabweans now do for a living. Mnangagwa has introduced a new variant of kiya kiya which Zimbabweans now refer to as kungwavha ngwavha . This has become the ultimate form of hustling under the Mnangagwa regime. Some Zimbabweans have cheekily defined kungwavha as a literal reference to a toxic mixture of thievery (humbavha) and astuteness (kungwara) . Shona speakers have even invented a mathematical formula for the word viz kungwara (astuteness) + humbavha(thievery) = kungwavha (hustling).

Hustling or kungwavha ngwavha has thus been added to the new vocabulary in the country. Whereas in the old days one would proudly proclaim they were teachers, nurses, doctors or engineers upon being asked their profession, some now proudly refer to themselves simply as hustlers.

Hustling or kungwavha ngwavha _has become the term and label of choice under the current Dispensation. Only last week, when I asked my aunt where her son was and what he was now doing for a living, she smiled at me and responded to my question with an air of pride: ” Mzukuru wako ari kuBudiriro uko kwaari kungwavhangwavha ” (Your nephew is in Budiriro where he is hustling for a living).

I simply nodded and smiled back. She knew I had heard and sufficiently understood her. That’s how the new vocabulary of desperation engendered by this incompetent regime has etched its place in everyday national discourse.

Welcome to Zimbabwe’s new Dispensation!

2 . Bond , RTGS and Svikiro

The new Dispensation has hit the depths of incompetence and we now refer to our currency in very strange terms. The advent of the bond note has meant that bond no longer means “tie”. Bond has assumed a new meaning and the word now refers to our worthless currency whose value is only assumed.

Students of commerce will tell you that Real Time Gross Transfer (RTGS) is a form of payment for goods and services and that it can never be a currency. Yet in this our beloved nation, RTGS is a form of currency!

With the advent of a new 50 bond note denomination last week, which note bears the picture of iconic spirit medium Nehanda Nyakasikana, yet another name has now been given to refer to that specific denomination. A spirit medium is called a svikiro in Shona and the new 50 bond note is now commonly referred to as a svikiro. Two 50-bond notes are now referred to as 2 masvikiro.

And one certainly does not need a spirit medium to tell them that that 200 bond is now referred to as 4 masvikiro .

Welcome to Zimbabwe’s new dispensation and its attendant new lingo!

3 . Kambwa , Mutoriro

Under Mnangagwa, there has been a revolution in the drinking and illicit liquor industry. As the economy bites and as ordinary Zimbabweans struggle to afford conventional beer, cheaper but repugnant alternatives have sprung up and one such “beer” or illicit substance is called Kambwa (puppy).

I used to drink but some nine or so years ago I kicked the habit. I am now a Christian and have since lost track of developments and the goings-on in the beer and alcohol industry. I don’t quite know how this type of alcohol acquired its name but I am told kambwa or kutu refers to a very strong alcoholic substance taken undiluted and it takes only minutes to knock out even the most determined imbiber . The Shona ideophone for taking a single gulp is kutu One theory goes that since the illicit substance is often taken in a single gulp (kutu) and since kutu also refers to a puppy, the illicit beer is now called kambwa or kutu in jest. I am told kambwa will get one utterly sloshed. An addiction to this highly illicit substance could probably lead one to living a wretched dog’s life!

In my drinking days, one would patronise a bar and it would take the whole day for them to get utterly drunk. I am told the new variants on the market, especially kambwa, can get one drunk in five minutes or less. It is no longer surprising, so I am told, for children going to school in the morning to find their fathers sloshed on their way to their learning institutions, despite the same fathers having left home only twenty or so minutes earlier to procure their illicit doses at the various non-conventional outlets that sell these dangerous drugs and substances. Not so long ago, there was only _kachasu_as the known illicit brew but it appears more illicit drugs and substances have crowded the market.

It is only in the old days that power bulbs and “globes” were for lighting in the home. The youths of today use the same bulbs to extract and to concoct a dangerous drug called mutoriro from the powder contained therein. Mutoriro is new lingo that refers to the illicit substance made from bulb residue. That bulbs could be a source of alcohol speaks Zimbabwe’s tenuous political and economic moment as well as the desperation of today’s young people. Our youths have become a doomed generation and anyone you meet with a bagful of bulbs could be on an equally doomed mission to harm themselves under the false presumption that they are “lighting up” their brain using these dangerous substances. Surely, since when did a bulb become a form of alcohol?

Welcome to Zimbabwe’s new dispensation!

I am told even diapers or pampers, particularly used ones, have become a source of alcohol or yet another illicit drug. They reportedly soak the diapers, used or unused, rinse them and then take the slimy water that drips out, which water they then use to make the beer or the substance, whatever nomenclature they prefer to use. Thanks to the desperation spawned by this purported new dispensation, the nearest shop that sells baby apparel has in fact become a bar of sorts. Shops that sell baby wear, particularly diapers, have inadvertently become “bars” or alcohol outlets of a special nature. A man with a bagful of diapers is not necessarily a responsible father going home to celebrate a new bouncing baby boy. He may actually be a drunkard carrying home his unique “crate” of “alcohol “!

Welcome to Zimbabwe’s new dispensation, its new drinking choices and habits that it has occasioned in the country.

Under the current lockdown restrictions, it is ironic that this regime may presume itself to have ordered the closure of bars and beer outlets while baby wear shops and electrical hardware shops remain open. Bars are no longer conventional and since light bulbs, diapers and baby pampers have become the special outlets for today’s alcohol , it means alcohol outlets have assumed a new but interesting dimension.

The only jobs created by Mnangagwa were for his Karanga tribesmen and tribeswomen as well as his fronts in corruption games such as Kuda Tagwireyi. Meanwhile, millions of the jobless youths of this country who are desperate for jobs spend endless idle hours on the culverts partaking to mutoriro and coining a litany of new vocabulary.

The new lingo now in currency include flex which means OK, uri_ shiri / uri hwai_ (you are a bird/sheep) which means you are a dimwit and huya kucoffin(come to the coffin) which means come to my inbox. Zvakadhakwa means things are not OK. When you hear this idle generation, most of who have taken to these illicit and dangerous substances shouting aya masports asiri eazy (these are difficult sports), all they are trying to say is that this is an onerous task or a vexing enterprise.

Welcome to the new Dispensation, its unconventional bars, its unique habits and the freshly-minted lingo by the multitudes that constitute our idle and jobless generation.

4 . Stability and budget surplus

Amid this monumental crisis, the Mnangagwa regime, through Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, has claimed the country’s economy is stable and that the country has had a budget surplus. Never mind that civil servants are grossly underpaid, the health sector has been in the intensive care unit for the past four years and that the Chiredzi Residents Trust has had to mobilise residents to raise funds to repair a police vehicle, the regime continues to claim a budget surplus and that the economy is on the mend.

Surplus, growth and stability must certainly have a different meaning to this inept lot in government. Its their own unique vocabulary for a completely different situation on the ground. A country with an external debt that has ballooned to US$16 billon and whose hospitals have no bandages and painkillers is telling us it has had a budget surplus? Unless surplus has assumed a new meaning. Otherwise this has become a Dispensation of perfidy and nude lies. If chronic liars were to be conferred with a Knighthood, Mnangagwa and Mthuli Ncube would have acquired the grand title of “Sir Plus” due to their surplus lies that have set quite a global lying record!

Bravo to the regime for giving a new meaning to these English words. Welcome to our new Dispensation.

5 Prophet

The word prophet now means something completely different and remotely connected to the Christian religious faith. Prophecy has become an informal and sector of kungwavhangwavha. The title Prophet now refers not to seers but to a new breed of besuited, rich and clean-shaven conmen who wear designer labels and whose main line of economic enterprise is swindling the dumb and the innocent. Regime apologists and regime ambassadors and frontmen such as Passion Java and Uebert Angels are part of this gothic lot of gospelpreneurs who purport to be fronting God when they are simply conmen and crooks. Under Mnangagwa, the word prophet has become nothing more than a political survivalist vocation that uses a holy name. Most of these so-called prophets have conveniently sought cover in the kleptpcratic regime that is equally replete with thieves, conmen and conwomen.

6 . Bravo Rtd Gen Chiwenga

Chiwenga has certainry brought a new ranguage and new Engrish pronunciations, indeed a new rexicon and new diction.

  1. Kuda Tagwireyi and Douglas* *Mwonzora *_Mwonzora* as practices and cultures

Kuda Tagwireyi, the corruption frontman and human embodiment of State capture in Zimbabwe has long ceased to be just a name. Tagwireyi is no longer a human label or a simple name but a practice and a culture. A despicable vocation of avarice and unmitigated corruption. Kuda Tagwireyi has morphed from being a name to a rendition of sleaze and reckless profiteering.

Equally, Mwonzora is no longer a name but has become a label that defines a treacherous culture and aptitude. Usandi Mwonzora means don’t sell me out while ndamwonzorewa means someone has just been sold me out. Mwonzora has joined the treacherous lot that stretches from Judas Iscariot to the infamous liberation war sellout Morrison Nyathi, from Abel Tendekai Muzorewa to Douglas Togsrasei Mwonzora himself. He has taken the Democratic struggle backwards by dint of his buyable and purchasable political soul. Mwonzora has become the acme of treachery and surrogate politics and that is why he is now being derisively referred to as Mwonzorewa, a treacherous bigamy that fuses the names of two renowned sellouts.

8 . The scarf as a symbol

Under Mnangagwa, the scarf is no longer an apparel for warmth but a goblin of sorts. Under this Dispensation, the scarf has assumed a new meaning and a new denotation. The scarf under Mnangagwa now means something witchly as it has assumed a dangling permanence around the neck of the Dear Leader, even in the searing and scorching October sun!


Indeed, Mnangagwa’s Dispensation has spawned new habits, a new diction and a new vocabulary while some words and terms have been deliberately twisted to denote fictitious positive developments, thanks to the regime’s incompetence. As the world grapples with a global pandemic that has assumed many variants, our cursed country is equally saddled with a new variant of terms peculiar only to Zimbabwe. For example, kupedza masports(finishing the sports) means accomplishing a task or a mission, especially under very difficult circumstances.

For this week, I am done. I have accomplished my weekly vocation.

Ndapedza masports!

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa . He is a multiple award-winning journalist and an ardent political scientist . You can interact with him on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo .


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