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Baba George, he was our Muzungu


Sharuko On Saturday |  1 year ago | local


Last Saturday, at the age of 77, Baba George died due to Covid-19 complications and for us, the people of Chakari, a big part of us appeared to die with him. After all, he was one of us, the one who shattered the barriers at a time when racial divisions were quite pronounced.

HE was white, we were black, he was quite rich by our community standards, and we were very poor, he had an assortment of vehicles — cars and trucks — and we had virtually nothing.

His flagship investment in Chakari was Rufaro Supermarket, fittingly built on the edges of the river, from where our mining town derived its identity.


There was also a touch of symbolism to this supermarket, because it marked the point which divided the area, where our packed black neighbourhoods ended, and where the leafy, and spacious, white suburbs, started.

Across the road from this supermarket, one could see the beautiful green grass of the fairway of the ninth hole, of our town’s picturesque golf course, as if to provide a reminder, you were now entering a different area of considerable luxury.

The exclusive part of our town, where the houses were beautiful, the gardens were huge, the swimming pools were big, while for us, on the occasions we needed a plunge into the water, we had to go to a secluded part of the Chakari River.

We called it Kwakachure.


It was here, where the majority of our community’s black kids, learnt how to swim.

And, from that initial plunge, a beautiful romance, which was at times as mysterious as it was hilarious, given we even felt we had a proper beach, on the river’s shores, was born.

Of course, now and again, we lost friends, who drowned at Kwakachure but, somehow, it never drove us away from our watery paradise.

Call it youthful exuberance, teenage arrogance, reckless indulgence, whatever, it was here l came closest to death, when l was swept away by a tide only to be rescued from drowning by a brave man, Juliana Banda.

The pool master was a fellow called Steven Carlos Ngozo, who is now a master of the pool table, a specialist of the eight-ball game.

From our pool, we could see the security fence, which divided our poor black neighbourhoods, and the beautiful suburbs, where the whites lived, a reminder of our differences in class.


In time, as education started equipping us with the means to look at life differently, we began asking ourselves some tough questions.

Why was it that our packed black settlement, had been set up, in an area where the smoke, from the mine, would always blow towards us?

Why were we so poor, and those in the suburbs were very rich, why were the white kids not students at our school, why were all the golfers at our country club, white, and all the caddies, black?

Somehow, amid our confusion, lost in the storm of all these questions, as boys growing up in the hood, what was very clear was that there was a white man, who was different.

The one who made us feel very comfortable, in his presence, the one who spoke our local languages, the one who always smiled at us, the one we really felt, also liked us, the way we liked him.

The one who gave his big supermarket a name, Rufaro, which we felt demonstrated his commitment, to our community, to try and brighten our mood, by lessening the daily challenges, which came with growing up at a mining town.

A tough place, where you never knew your old man would come back home, from his daily excursions underground, in an endless search for the golden riches, which lie within its blessed belly.

His name was Peter Haritatos, a businessman who was the son of a Greek immigrant and, he was always one of us, he was our Muzungu, our colleague.


He ran a flexible scheme for our families, where we could get goods on credit, and pay at the end of the month, when our fathers got paid.

At virtually every funeral, he would send his people with donations, from his shops, including mealie meal, bread, milk and meat, to lessen the burden of the bereaved.

All his shops, four of them, would close, during the time when our community would be burying one of its leaders, as a sign of respect, for the occasion.

With time, his son, George, was born.

And, with that, his identity changed forever, we called him Baba George, and everyone called him Baba George.

His daughter, Sofia, followed later before the family were blessed, with another child, Vengalis, who is the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister.


Last Saturday, at the age of 77, Baba George died, due to Covid-19 complications.

For us, the people of Chakari, this white man who could, at times, send his vans to distribute bread for free, in our community, a big part of us, appeared to die with him.

GEORGE, THE ONLY WHITE FOOTBALLER, WHO CAME TO PLAY WITH US

His son George was, at some stage, a budding footballer, who believed he could become our first-choice goalkeeper, at our hometown club, Falcon Gold, also known as “Come And Die.’’

His commitment was unquestionable, he even appeared to train harder than everyone, the one who would arrive at the training ground first, and was always the last to leave.

He could possibly have become our regular first-choice goalkeeper, because there was nothing wrong with his skills set.


But, he kept running into the stumbling block, in the name of a giant ‘keeper, as good as any, who has played this game.

His name was Chakumanda, which translated means the ‘Beast from the Graves’, an imposing figure whose excellent reflexes kept making a mockery of his giant frame, an ice-cool final gate ‘keeper, whose legacy will always live, within our community.

But, even though he never got his breakthrough, George charmed us all, for being the only white footballer, who dared to come and play with us, for our team, and our community.

He probably borrowed this from his father, that there was no difference between them, and us, even though they were white, and we were black, they were wealthy, and we were poor.

Somehow, as if by some stroke of cruel irony, Baba George, an anti-racism champion, not through what he said but what he did, had to die during the weekend when, football would once again, have to confront the ghost of racism.

It exploded, in the aftermath, of the Euro 2020 final, at Wembley, after hosts England’s collective dreams of winning their first major tournament, in 56 years, collapsed under the weight of pressure, and a trio of missed penalties.

For some strange reason, the fall guys had to be the three black players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who missed their spot kicks, in succession, as Italy won the tournament.

But, while racism, in any form, should be dismissed, with the contempt it deserves, we would be lying to our conscience, if we said we didn’t see this coming.

If these shameless racists have routinely targeted black footballers, playing for just three points in a league game, what then did we expect, when the trio’s failure, in a Euro final, extended more than half-a-century of hurt?

The inevitability of the abuse was as certain, as the sterility of the minds of these mobs, and the insanity of the poisoned world, in which they live.

They only accept these boys, when the sun is shining and, at any sign of a rain cloud, they retreat into their shell of toxicity, and brutality.

To them, guys like Rashford, Saka and Sancho are mere servants, serving their interests, riding on their benevolence.

When Wilfried Zaha refused to take a knee, because, for him, it represents a token symbol, a tale told by an i***t, full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing, we condemn him as a reactionary.

And, when he said he will now play for Côte d’Ivore, because he can’t understand why he can’t break into the Three Lions, we mock him as a coward, who chose not to fight for his place.

We forget the burden of pain, which he carries, trying to juggle with assumptions, including that the colour of his skin, might have been a factor, in destroying his England dreams.

We don’t feel his emotional pain, because we have transformed ourselves into these soulless robots, who are quick to accuse, prosecute and convict these boys, without really appreciating the challenges they face.

THE MADNESS OF LOGA’s APPOINTMENT, HIRING A COMEDIAN

But, for me, there is a touch of hypocrisy, in us spending days criticising racism, in English football, while ignoring the challenges we face, in our national game.

This madness where someone like Zdravko Logarusic is smuggled into the technical team of our Warriors, as the head coach, merely on the basis of the colour of his skin.

Take away the mere fact that he is from Europe, which to some people appears to represent greatness, then you can’t find any reason, whatsoever, to justify his recruitment, to take charge of our Warriors.

Take away the colour of his skin, which to some people appears to represent genius, then you can’t find any reason, whatsoever, to justify the crazy decision to bring him here, as the head coach of our national team.

Take away the mere fact that he happens to come from a country which, at the last World Cup, lost in the final to France, then you can’t find any reason, whatsoever, to justify this suicidal decision, for him to lead the Warriors.

Somehow, we chose to invest in a rookie coach, when it comes to international football, who will make his debut appearance, at the AFCON finals, in January next year.

Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat will be making their third straight appearance, at the Nations Cup finals, which means that, together, they have almost 1 000 minutes of action, under their belt, at the showcase.

Now, how do we expect them to be improved by a coach, without even a minute of football, at such a showcase, under his belt, someone who will be cutting his milk teeth, at such a tournament?

The big question is, if Loga was a black African coach, with a record of having coached clubs in Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana, where most of his adventures ended prematurely, would our football leaders have gambled on him?

If he was a black African coach, whose only claim to fame is taking Sudan to third place, at the CHAN finals, would our football leaders have brought him here, as someone, with the capacity, to improve the Warriors?

If Loga was a black African coach, would this second-rate tournament called CHAN, which has even been won by Libya, of all teams, despite all the anarchy which has happened in that country, after the Arab Spring, have been used to justify an investment in him?

A tournament, where Ian Gorowa took his Warriors to fourth place, in 2014, but soon lost his job because there was agreement that success at CHAN, doesn’t give us a true reflection of a coach’s pedigree.

If we really wanted someone, who had done really well at CHAN, why didn’t we hire Congolese coach, Florent Ibenge, who won this tournament with the DRC, just five years ago?

Of course, we wouldn’t have done that, even though Ibenge also has the added advantage of having done well with the DRC at AFCON, where he took them into fourth place, at the 2015 AFCON finals.

Why?

Simply because he is a black African coach and, among those who make decisions, in our football, the colour of his skin appears allergic to success.

To them, the colour of Ibenge’s skin, is synonymous with failure, and in their world, he can’t be the one they will trust, with adding value to the Warriors, and converting their potential, into success.

The same Ibenge, who has now been appointed coach of Moroccan side, RS Berkane, in what represents another milestone, for black African coaches.

In an era where black African coaches, like Pitso Mosimane, are challenging stereotypes, and taking charge of Africa’s biggest, and most successful, football club, we find ourselves still trapped in this nonsense that, a white coach, is better than our guys.

Somehow, we feel the four points, in two 2021 AFCON qualifiers, representing an impressive pass rate of 66.66 percent, which Joey Antipas got, are not as important, as the four points, which Loga won, in four games, even though this represents a 33.33 percent failure rate.

Today, they tell us we should celebrate that Loga helped us qualify for the AFCON finals, something that Sunday Chidzambwa did, not once, but twice, without being paid his dues, in this national service.

Something which Callisto Pasuwa managed, easily, despite being a rookie, at international football level.

And, something which Charles Mhlauri managed, easily, in a group that featured Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Gabon and Rwanda.

But, this fascination with coaches, simply because they are white, didn’t start with those who are leading ZIFA today.

It’s something which has been going on, and on, for decades, which saw us end up being coached by some of the worst coaches in the history of this game.

Rudi Gutendorf was old, he could barely even speak, when he arrived here and, predictably, he was a failure.

Ian Porterfield, Valinhos, you name them, came and went, with nothing to show, for their stay here.

As a kid, growing up in Chakari, a white man helped shape my belief that people should not be judged, by the colour of their skin, but the value of what they bring to the table.

Today, that white man, Baba George, will be laid to rest at Warren Hills.

If this good man had, for instance, been tasked with leading our football, I can guarantee you that all this nonsense, where the colour of the skin appears to be a determining factor, even in the hiring of the Warriors coach, would not have been tolerated.

For him, it wasn’t about colour but pedigree and, after all, his long-serving manager, was a black man, Dominic Chilampuma.

Today, both Mudhara Dominic and Baba George, reside somewhere among the angels.

To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.