A one-horse town

29-01-2012

It would not be wrong to call Kiwangala a one-horse town, except that the place can't boast so much as a donkey, never mind a horse. This village of a few thousand population sits on a crossroads between two dirt tracks.

Small shops, none bigger than a garden shed line the main street. A continual throng of people, motorbikes and bicycles thread around each other along the dust that is the road. There is no pavement other than the worn rut where pedestrians can find some space away from the passing motorbikes.

The shops are set back from the road by perhaps twenty metres allowing each trader to expand in front of his premises. Half-complete metal doors and window frames lie beside piles of wood taken from the local forests for cooking fires. In season, the various crops are laid out out the ground in vast carpets. At the moment, many of the food shops have circles of ground nuts or maize drying in the sun.

All the bicycles are of the same vintage -1950's - and all are black. Many are ridden by small boys who aren't yet big enough to reach the pedals from the saddle. They look as if they have stolen their grandfather's machine for a joy ride. Some don't even have saddles.

Kiwangala sits in prime growing land. Around the village on all sides are plantations of banana and matoke palms interspersed with maize, coffee, and on the ground, beans. For the first time the other day we saw passion fruit growing like vines along wires strung between poles.

There is no obvious reason for Kiwangla to exist, apart from as a market for the local produce. There are no employers and the closed-down post office with the defunct savings cooperative nearby suggest that the place has seen better days.

Still, the locals know how to enjoy themselves. Last week-end they erected a tent at the end of the high street kitted out with an amplifier and sound system that would have done justice to T in the Park. The music and dancing started at seven in the evening and ran continuously until dawn. Everybody within a two mile radius got to hear it.