FOR a long time, many people have been buying secondhand clothes from salaula or ‘kombokombo’ (makeshift) markets because the clothes are cheap and durable.
While it is true that the majority of people who buy secondhand clothes could be said to be those without much money, some of them are well-to-do and they choose to go for second hand clothes because the clothes there are not only cheap but also of good quality and fashionable.
Most of the secondhand clothes are similar, and many will agree that those who buy such clothes would not walk a distance without meeting someone wearing the same attire.
It is therefore disheartening to find some people quarreling or fighting once they see someone wearing the kind of clothes they have and accusing whoever is wearing them of having stolen from them.
Recently, I was in Ndola’s Pamodzi Township where I had accompanied a friend to his uncle’s house.
It was a Saturday and the time was around 14.00 hours when we reached the house of my friend’s uncle.
We found the man busy clearing overgrown grass within the house’s surroundings.
It was while my friend was talking to his uncle when we heard a woman’s voice from the next door house. The woman appeared to be yelling that she knew who had stolen her blouse from the washing line.
But she went on to say she had not bothered to talk about it, and was now furious because the one who had stolen the blouse was now wearing it openly for her to see.
As the woman shouted, there were three young women at the next door house and they did not seem affected by the yelling. Seemingly, they did not know what the woman was yelling about.
Finding that there was no one paying attention to her, the woman got into the house and a moment later, a girl from the house came out and called one of the girls at the neighbouring house.
She told her that her mother wanted to see her.
Looking polite and innocent, the young woman who had been summoned went to the woman’s house and when she got where the woman was standing, the woman, without beating about the bush, accused her of being the one she was referring to when she said she knew who had stolen her blouse from the line.
“It is you I am talking about. You are not even ashamed to wear the blouse you stole from the neighborhood. This is my blouse you are wearing,” said the woman while pocking finger’s in her neighbour’s chest.
Looking astonished, the young woman politely protested that she did not steal the blouse.
She told the woman that she bought the blouse from salaula market some time back.
Being eavesdropper, this was interesting to me. The young woman accused of stealing the blouse from a neighbor’s washing line!
The young woman was smartly dressed in a tight pair of jeans and a black and white stripped blouse which she was accused of having stolen from the line.
Apart from being smartly dressed, the young woman was good looking and she did not seem the kind of a woman who could steal, especially clothes from a neighbour’s line.
In disbelief, the young woman looked at the blouse she was wearing and then looked at the woman. Then the woman called two girls from the house.
When the girls came out, the woman asked them whether they recognised the blouse the young woman was wearing and they nodded in agreement, indicating that the blouse was indeed the woman’s.
The young woman who was now looking perplexed shook her heard.
“No bana Grace! This is not your blouse. I bought it at salaula and I can even show you where I bought it from. You may also have bought your blouse from salaula. They are plenty there. These things are similar,” protested the young woman.
But the woman insisted that the blouse was hers. She even threatened to take the young woman to the police station.
As the argument between the two women persisted, the older woman’s husband came out from the house to try and cool down the situation.
The man pleaded with his wife to take it easy and patiently search for her blouse in the wardrobe. But the man’s plea fell on deaf ears.
Seeing that the situation was getting out of hand and many people had gathered to see what was happening, the man managed to persuade his wife to cool down and asked her and the young woman to get into the house to resolve their difference amicably.
Although they were now in the house, those of us who were outside could still hear the noise and accusations coming from the house.
“You are a thief! You have disappointed me! Such a beautiful young woman like you stealing from the neighbor’s line? You are shameless,” yelled the older woman.
“It is you who is not ashamed. You think I can steal a cheap salaula blouse from you? I can strip it and leave it here and buy another one,” the young woman retorted.
“There are many people who have this type of blouse because they are plenty at salaula markets.
How can you make an issue out of a cheap blouse like this?” asked the young woman.
Suddenly, the noise ended and those of us who were listening from outside thought the man had again managed to cool the situation.
Then we heard the booming voice of the man.
“I told you to be patient. What is this? Is this not the blouse you are accusing this young woman of having stolen?” he asked.
About five minutes later, the young woman walked out from the house wiping tears from her eyes.
“This woman is bad. Supposing her husband didn’t find the blouse, she would have been very sure that I had stolen it from her. She has really tarnished my name to the neighbours,” lamented the young woman.
Then the woman came out from the house looking ashamed and begged the young woman to forgive her.
As an eavesdropper, I wondered what had happened all of a sudden and I wanted to know.
It was then that the young woman started explaining what had happened while they were in the house.
According to the young woman, while the woman was shouting and accusing her of having stolen the blouse, her husband had gone to the bedroom and ransacked the washing baskets which were laden with laundry.
“While she continued accusing me of having stolen her cheap salaula blouse, her husband went to the bedroom to search for it. He found it stuck with other dirty laundry. It seems she does not even wash her laundry which she piles in the washing baskets,” said the young woman as her accuser remained speechless.
“Her husband is a good man. Had it not been for him, we would have believed the young woman had stolen the blouse,” one woman from a group of on-lookers said.
Somebody else said:”The woman has just embarrassed herself. It pays to be patient. These salaula clothes are similar.”
The young woman left and walked to her home.
Shortly, the woman who was accusing her of being a thief sent her daughter to call the mother to the young woman.
She called her to apologise to her daughter about what had happened.
After listening to her story, the mother of the young woman blamed the older woman of being too quick to announce that her daughter had stolen the blouse.
She said it was quite embarrassing because the young woman had just come from Lusaka to visit.
“That young woman is married and if your husband had not seen your blouse, I am sure you would have reported the matter to police as you threatened. And if my daughter was arrested for having stolen your blouse, how was her husband going to feel if he came to hear of this?
“You just have to apologise to the young woman and not through me,” said the mother of the young woman as she walked away.
Then the woman’s husband started shouting at his wife, accusing her of having a bad attitude.
“See now what an embarrassing situation you have put yourself in to the neighbors. I have always told you to be patient,” he said.
He told his wife that the young woman had pleaded with her that she did not steal her blouse. But his wife could not hear from the young woman’s tone that she was telling the truth.
“This is shameful,” he said as he walked away.
Indeed, patience pays, I thought.
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