Playground bullies

Every school playground has a bully. We all remember one from childhood. Uncle Thabani reminisces on the bullies of his school days in Kwekwe.

children playing Image source: Sedat Suna/AFP
children playing
Image source: Sedat Suna/AFP

The two most violent people I have ever seen were eight years old when I met them; Adolph and Garikai. Thankfully, the Lord has been kind enough not to allow our paths to cross again.

The year was 1978, the place Ruvimbo Primary School, in Kwekwe. Even though many moons have passed since then, I have not forgotten the unadulterated violence that I saw the two boys inflict upon their fellow pupils.

Terrible trio


Initially, the two were part of a trio of terrors that wreaked havoc amongst pupils and teachers alike. The third member was a light skinned boy called Obert, who wore a deceptive and perpetual smile on his face which remained even as he was engaged in the most horrific acts of violence. He was not smiling though when his two cohorts turned on him and gave him the most savage beating that I ever witnessed on a school playground, or anywhere else for that matter. Adolph and Garikai emerged from that particular fracas as the undisputed kings of the playground with the humiliated Obert being relegated to victimhood status like the rest of us.

In the firing line

My own physical encounter with the two young thugs came out of an incident that would have ordinarily not amounted to much had it not involved Garikai. Mrs Maminimini, our teacher, wrote the phrase ‘a nurse’ on the board and asked Garikai to read it. Not being the brightest light bulb on the ceiling, Garikai struggled. After what seemed like a mini eternity, Garikai blurted out something that sounded like ‘eneresi.’ I then committed two serious offenses in Adolph and Garikai’s books. First, I laughed at Garikai’s efforts. Then I raised my hand and read out the two words correctly.

It did not take me long to discover the seriousness of my misconduct. As soon as the bell rang, the two young thugs rushed to me and frog marched me out of the classroom. They took me out of the school premises and led me to a spot a short distance from the school gate. Then the interrogation began. They wanted to know just who I thought I was and why I had humiliated them. (Apparently an offense against one was also an offense against the other.) As the interrogation went on, a small crowd began to gather. I tried everything to avoid the inevitable beating. First I cried, and when that didn’t work I apologized profusely. That didn’t work either, so I sort of alluded to the fact that my father was a cop. That seemed to infuriate them further. I then realized that nothing was going to save me from a thorough beating from the two. I racked my brain in search of a way out of my predicament.

A way out

Adolph unwittingly presented it to me on a silver platter. He poked me with a finger on the bridge of my nose and, immediately, I collapsed. I shut my eyes and pretended to have fainted. The two did not know what to do. They yelled, telling me to get up. I remained ‘unconscious.’ I then heard them address the onlookers who had come to see a beating, threatening anyone who dared embarrass them with a similar fate. My eyes remained firmly shut. From the conversations that took place, I gathered that Adolph and Garikai fled the scene. But still I kept my eyes closed. Someone suggested that some cold water be thrown on me to revive me. This was done and I was duly ‘revived.’ I was escorted home by sympathizers who were totally unaware of the ruse in which they were participating. I was immensely proud of my improvisation that had saved me from a sure beating. But Adolph and Garikai could not save themselves from the trouble they had coming. Following a report to the headmaster, the next day, they received a severe hiding. They never bothered me again.

Reign of terror ends

Fight, fight, fight
Fight, fight, fight

Adolph and Garikai’s reign of terror ended abruptly one afternoon in February of 1979. Having run out of opponents, the two turned against each other. An argument over three round black sweets – inappropriately known back then as ‘nigger balls’– resulted in a vicious fight. The two hoodlums pummelled each other until they were both were a bloody mess – literally. Adolph sustained a deep gash above the right eye and Garikai bled profusely from the nose and mouth. In an act of such bravery as I have never been able since, I stepped in between the two and sopped the fight. They both cooperated and I became an instant hero. In the aftermath of their bloody duel, the two were changed children. They ceased being bullies and led quiet lives at school. It would appear that they had pulverised each other into decency.


Adolph and Garikai’s story taught me a valuable lesson. Given time and space, thugs eventually turn on each other. It is inevitable.


Uncle Thabani is a lawyer and a former prosecutor. His best moments are with his family, a good book and an Arsenal game.



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