For the past few years, the HGC has enlisted the services of private individuals to step in where the City has been woefully inadequate at maintaining our public spaces.
The two individuals I am referring to are Wilson “Millions” and his protégé Gershom Dube.
If you’ve ever met Wilson, you’ll know how impossible it is to forget him. His caring face, infectious belly laugh and gentle stature belie a keen intellect and sharp wit, which he is always keen to share. I’ve spent many a car trip discussing the political fates of the despotic Zimbabwean Government. Legend has it that an HGC resident pays Wilson for his conversational company, eschewing traditional garden services for a cup of tea and tete-à-tete.
And where Wilson is the sagely product of experience, his protégé Gershom is all the fire and intensity of youth. It is a beneficial pairing. Wilson favours the greats who, for good reason, have stood the test of time. His preference in music is Phil Collins and Soul Brothers. Gershom’s taste in music is rather more modern, favouring Maskandi and House. Gershom’s enthusiasm for action movies and Arnold Schwarzenegger is tempered by Wilson’s fondness for Eddie Murphey’s rather allegorical “Coming to America”.
There are, of course, shared tastes. The ubiquitous love of football for example, though the similarity ends with their rivalrous affiliations for Liverpool and Barcelona.
Both were born and raised in Zimbabwe and both are from large families. Both like to be up around 5:00am and both are very eager to disclose that their favourite foods are custard buns and Lunch Bar chocolates.
I headed into deeper waters recently, asking the gents who their respective heroes were. Gershom dispensed with his usual energetic answers, paused, and then with a sombre reverence replied: “My father.” He didn’t elaborate. His brevity seemed to only add to the gravitas that his father must have been. Come Wilson’s turn to answer, his humility rose to the surface as it always does. With seriousness and sincerity, he met my eyes and said “My heroes are all the people who have given me a job. They are the reason that I survived.” I can’t imagine how dire things have become in Zimbabwe but his answer suggested that my ignorance on the subject was far larger than I realise.
I circled back to the HGC, and asked for suggestions on how the residents could assist them in going about their daily duties. Only too pleased to have the work at all, both were hesitant to make any requests. Haltingly, they asked that dog owners clean up after their dogs, as the collision of brush cutter twine and dog-do makes for an unpleasant outcome.
Wilson is a giver by nature, often appearing on my doorstep with gifts when he gets wind of a South African Public Holiday. He confided in me his anguish over Valentine’s Day, not wanting to appear rude in being empty-handed, but not wanting to offend my husband either. So generous is Wilson that this year, he stopped by one afternoon to share his birthday cake with me. I asked Wilson once more, what the residents could do for him. He took a deep breath and replied: “People cross the road when they see us. And I understand. They just want to be safe. It would be nice to share our picture with the residents so they know not to be afraid. Maybe they can come and say hello.”
And I urge you to do so. A word with Wilson is often the best part of my day.
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