By Nollen

The rains hadn’t come in a year and Bukuru Village was on the verge of not only thirst for humans, but wiling livestock.

The inhabitants of the village were not known to be lazy especially Gwande the donkey. This was a village of strong-willed inhabitants, only that the utter lack of rains had sullied their mood and disrupted community happiness.

Gwande took it upon himself to formulate a decision to save the situation. Everyone was to unite in a week-long community effort to dig up the sand and find the nearest drinking water buried at around 20 to 60 meters in Odzi River.

“Yaa majestic we will do it,” Fara the hen volunteered first.

And you Bhizi?” Gwande the donkey asked Daaz.
“Sure, why not! Digging? Of course, I am ready,” Daaz the goat agreed.
“Richa – and you are cool man?” Gwande the donkey asked Richa the ponytailed sheep.
“I’m on board,” bleated Rich the sheep. “And water, we will dig.”

At last, the die cast on Tsuro the rabbit who was pretending to be dosing as the weighty matter of digging a community water hole gathered pace. “Of course, you’re not asleep,” Gwande the donkey tickled Tsuro the rabbit.
“Sort of,” replied Tsuro.
“Are you joining the community effort?” Gwande asked.
Tsuro twisted his neck, touched his fury back, greased his elbows and frowned. “I am sick beyond care – digging a well will, well, finish me.”
“You don’t look ill to us!” Daaz the goat jumped into the chat.
“Of course, I’m dead ill – and no hand of mine will dig a community water well!” groaned Tsuro.
“So, you’re not part of us?” asked Gwande the donkey.
“Go ahead guys – I am out,” Tsuro the rabbit sighed and tumbled into a fake sleep.

On the first day, a Monday, the task of digging Odzi River bank to reach groundwater and construct a community water well was arduous. Gwande the donkey was sweating and directing the job with a shovel swinging sand over his back. Daaz could not hold down his tea, each time rushing back to the river bank to plant down a pick into the widening hole. Rich ,the sheep was methodical, using a spade to plaster the edges of the widening sinkhole. Except Tsuro the rabbit who strolled towards the worksite, tumbled to sleep for 5 minutes before waking up. “Since the Bible’s Tower of Babel fable, I have never seen hopeless chaps like you,” he said mocking them. “Who really told you that groundwater stays at 60 meters below the surface. Stop the silly effort guys!”

“You know nothing about the dignity of labor. Shut up!” Gwande the donkey rebuked Tsuro. “You’re not helping us?”
“My stance is clear,” said Tsuro.
“Well, you are not drinking a drop from the well,” thundered Daaz.
Tsuro waved his arm up in air and clapped back his cheeks with pride. “This brown rabbit doesn’t muddy water,” he said laughing croakily.
“No water for Tsuro the lazy rabbit – it’s a community decree,” Gwande the donkey shouted to which everyone nodded and carried on with the digging. Tsuro flapped his tail and kicked a mould of dust into the well and mocked – “Wake me up when your mud is drinkable.” He then hopped out into the bush leaving others to do the painful manual work of digging a water well.

Two months on went on and the drought situation became desperate. Gwande the donkey would arrive at the well daily sobbing over the carcasses of young donkeys that lined the footpaths of the village. Daaz the goat would not be consoled as well. Four calves of his aunt’s had not made it to Mutirikwi, the nearest dam which had almost dried up. The calves fell by the bushes located just 34 yards from the dried-up dam’s estuary and their carcasses were gobbled up by cubs of Gondo the vulture. Nevertheless, the frenetic effort to dig a 60 metre well and replenish the village’s thirst thrived on in desperation and hope. The diggers were at 50 metres and the first muddy shoots of water were located. ‘Hooray!’ shouted Daaz as it dawned on them that water could be located quickly without need to dig much deeper. The community’s joy grew as it was reasoned thirst could be kept at bay. Only Tsuro the rabbity kept up his mockery declaring the water would remain muddy and he would not touch such filth.

“You bragging won’t deter us,” Gwande the donkey told him as the first sprouts of clean groundwater was reached. Water had been found and a great feast was declared in the community on the rule that Tsuro the rabbit and other lazy renegades would never be allowed to even take a sip of water no matter how punishing the drought got.

So, to ensure security of the water well against poachers – it was agreed community member would take turns to guard the freshly dug water well at night. Daaz went first on a Friday night – positioning himself in water with a sharpened knife in case an intruder wanted to steal the water.
It was at dawn that Tsuro the rabbit realized the drought had worsened and without asking for forgiveness and access to the community well, his household could perish along with their pride. He sneaked to the water holed and submerged himself to get a drink. Daaz pounced on his leg at dawn and asked, “Who is this water thief?”
“It’s not a thief,” Tsuro the rabbit whispered in darkness.
“So, who is the dawn water poacher?”
“Listen – it’s a tree root you’re holding – let it go,” Tsuro lied.
Blinkered by stupidity, Daaz let go Tsuro’s leg thinking it was a tree root submerging itself into the water fountain. Tsuro was loosened, filled his stomach, and bolted home at daybreak.

The community water well thrived for the first week until it became clear that the fresh water was being mysteriously drained every dawn and shortages hit the community. No one knew Tsuro the lazy rabbit was in the habit of sneaking in to steal the fresh volumes of water overnight.
Gwande the donkey, as a leader, took the mission upon himself. “I will catch the intruder,” he said as he volunteered to sleep in the water well overnight. He sharpened his okapi knife and waited all night.
Tsuro the lazy rabbit, wearing a heavy fury court sneaked in at dawn and began to help himself with the water until Gwande locked Tsuro’s leg in a grip. “Let go off me!” Tsuro the rabbit shouted. “Listen it’s a tree root you are holding. Loosen your hands and catch a real water thief’s leg.”

“I’m okay with holding a tree root, all night into sunrise,” Gwande the donkey shrugged as he moved to grab and hold both of Tsuro’s legs. “In fact I like to hold onto two tree roots.”

3 July, 2023