By Cris Chinaka
Zimbabweans are using mobile phones to spice up their lives with a bit
of humor and take their minds off the daily grind of life in the
shattered economy, scrounging for scant food and fuel.
Behind the veil of a state dominated media, packed with official lines
on the problems facing the southern African country which leave no
room for lighthearted tales, Zimbabwe's urban population is resorting
to the Internet and short message services via mobile phones to spread
At least once a day, a mobile phone user is likely to receive a
humorous SMS, ranging from a dirty joke to a tickle over the lives of
One joke which has circulated at fuel queues among motorists
struggling with shortages and buying the scarce commodity at
exorbitant black market rates is an invitation to make haste to a fuel
garage which supposedly has copious amounts of the commodity.
"Do you need petrol or diesel? No queue and take some containers if
you wish. COST is pump price," the message begins, leaving the
desperate motorist almost stunned with relief. But of course there is
a catch, as the SMS continues: "RUSH now and see a guy called Al Sayid
at Number 13 Shaduuf Road, Tripoli, Libya."
Libya had been Zimbabwe's largest fuel supplier before it cut off the
deal three years ago after Mugabe's government failed to pay its
And then there is the greeting message designed to poke fun at the
harried motorist with an empty fuel tank: "Greetings from the proud
owner of 50 litres of fuel."
A large chunk of the jokes are brimming with sexual innuendo.
In one such tale, a shopper walks out of a leading Harare supermarket
and stuffs his hand down the front of his pants, prompting the female
security guard at the exit to ask what he has slipped into his
Irritated, the man shoots back, "Are you trying to tell me this shop
now sells penises?"
Zimbabwe's political leaders are frequently the butt of some of the
jokes, but people rarely spread these outside their trusted circle of
friends and family for fear of landing in jail for breaching tough
Mugabe, 81, and in power since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain
in 1980, approved the punitive legislation three years ago in the face
of serious political challenges and an economic crisis many blame on
Scores of people have been hauled before the courts on charges of
contravening the laws, which include a ban on political rallies
without police permission and insulting or undermining the authority
of the president, an offence punishable by a fine or a jail term of up
to a year.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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