By Trevor Makonyonga
It only costs US$0.50 to get busy for hours in Zimbabwe in an environment where most people in the productive age group are jobless. One only requires 50 cents to get something to do and if they are really good, the 50 cents can last them up to four hours busy on a table. Such is the tale of the strong hurricane of pool tables that has swept the nation.
In almost every urban neighbourhood, the tale of sticks and balls is told with a strange wave of passion. The sprouting of pool tables has meant that a lot of people have something to do with their redundant lives. The game has suddenly become popular that Zimbabwe could safely have a strong personnel to challenge for the Pool World Cup. The question on many people’s mouths is how this “business” took over the nation.
Flame News took a survey in different parts of the country to see how consistent the positioning of the tables are structured and if the rules are the same.
In Harare CBD, there is a shed on the corner of Nelson Mandela and Mbuya Nehanda which has attracted the attention of touts. They only need to part with a harmless 50 cents or 5 Rand for a token. What is striking on this shed is that there are people who place bets on players. The bets range from US$1-US$3. Some overzealous gamblers can place a bet as big as US$10. Like many tables around the country, this place is busy.
The other place Flame News visited is the popular Manjiva in Kuwadzana Extension. There are two sheds with two pool tables at this place. One table is for “amateurs” and the other is for “professionals.” At Manjiva’s place people bet and some play for fun. What is striking about this place is that there are some people who do not play the game but just come to drink and enjoy the game. There are actual spectators like in other sports. The place is very peaceful.
In Norton, there are many sheds that were visited but the one worth mentioning is the one located at a place known as Money Changers. Flame News gathered that the shed was placed at a former dumpsite. This shed attracts black market dealers. It is a basic assumption that the people who dominate the shed always have a lot to spare. Players place bets of up to US$10 and onlookers do the same. At the Katanga shed, people who work around the area mostly go there and some are attracted by the money. Tokens cost 50 cents regardless of the mega bucks spun a there.
One lousy table that was visited is one in a park next to Engen Service Station in Kwekwe. The atmosphere there is boring and it mostly harbours school students who skip classes. Tokens cost the standard 50 cents but there is little to no activity at this place. A sizeable number of people often occupy the spot.
At the above pool spots, the rules of the game are the same. All spots subscribe to two types of set of rules which are coded as “new rules” and “old rules.” Before play commences, players have to agree on what set of rules they will use. Disagreements at times arise but always they are squashed as third parties from onlookers always save the day.
The tables have become an important part of the lives of many. It has become a business opportunity for some and a way to kill time for some. Pool tables like the vendors in Harare CBD cannot be ignored anymore.