By Tsitsi Bhobo

One day I was on my way to the shopping center called Machipisa, and that’s when I saw that *Pardon, a talkative young man in our neighborhood, was sitting on the corner of a certain grey building with his friends.

He was scratching his feet and throwing his sandals around as if they were objects that bored him. But he wasn’t bored.

When I got closer to them so that I could greet Pardon specifically, that’s when I saw Pardon with a used electricity bulb and I asked him, ”what do you want to do with this broken bulb ?”

Without any shame, he shifted his shoulder upwards and replied: ”wait and see want I want to do with it ”.

I was stunned. In a country with 12-hour electricity blackouts each day, a bulb is certainly a useless object during day time. But not to Pardon.

Pardon, shook his waist, closed his eyes as if in a trance, and removed the top of the bulb. He then took the mutoriro, an illegal opaque beer-like drink that a drug ravaging youth in Highfield Township.

Pardon poured mutoriro inside this bulb and the bulb turned dense milky. The bulb was not in round shape but it was long and curved at the bottom unlike other electricity bulbs coming from China and flooding this country. So, after putting the drug inside, he lit up a matchstick and then heated the bottom of the bulb as if he was a chemist defending his Ph.D. thesis.

When heated the drug inside started to smoky, and then that’s when Pardon and his friends started sniffing the smoke, deliriously happy from what looked like a painful thrill.

I proceeded with my journey disturbed by this avaricious piece of illicit chemistry, but on my way back I checked Pardon and friends where I had left them sitting. They were gone – and I wanted to know more about what I had seen earlier. What surprised me when I reached home is that I saw Pardon sitting at the corner of the house stuck, with no movement, but his eyes were open like a fish caught in a beachside flood. Pardon is dead! My instincts had gotten the better of me.

I shouted, ”Pardon what’s going on with you I greet you but you didn’t answer you are looking at me?”

I got no reply from him – and I checked his pulse under his neck. His face was pale, his eyelids cold and his mouth was motionless as a few flies gathered on it. I was convinced that we had lost Pardon for good and how awful of him to die in front of my eyes. He flickered his lips slowly to life and uttered some expletives and went back to sleep.

That’s when I  realized for the first time, the devastating effects of mutoriro, the drug of choice among hopeless and unemployed youths in Highfields Township today. My mind flashed back to months before that day. I would come from work and see him mocking his parents, shouting at them threatening to kill them as if he was speaking like a man coming out of a mental breakdown. I  had never understood his wayward behavior.

After this drama he didn’t sleep, he spend the whole night walking around the yard talking to himself like he is mentally disturbed.

I was hurt because growing up I knew that Pardon was an intelligent child with good behavior. Before he started using drugs he passed his high school pre-university exams with thrilling results and elders in Highfield Township were chattering among themselves that Pardon was destined for either dental school or engineering. But everything turned upside down, even his health is not good, his parents are now stressed because of him, and his mother is now getting treatment for high blood pressure and it’s so sad. Pardon is now a thief because he can not go to work because of his condition and drugs, so he is now stealing people’s belongings, if you left your clothes outside at the washing line and there is no one at home you will find nothing, all the clothes were taken by Pardon and his friends so that they have money to buy drugs.

Mutoriro, very accessible and used openly is a most dangerous drug, and it is the temptation of idle youth in Highfield Zimbabwe where rehabilitation facilities are non-existent.

“You get for 5 to 6 hours with mutoriro,” Pardon finally told me of his stunt a week later. “Mutoriro is the magical small white stone similar to a stone of salt”.

13 February, 2023