It is humbling at times to stop and consider the average Zimbabwean man, woman or child living in Zimbabwe now. I don’t mean the person who lives above the poverty line, nor do I refer to the person with a “normal” way of life, even though I don’t think in type of life style in Zimbabwe could be called normal for anyone. No, those with jobs, transport and secure homes are not the people that I consider as I write this blog. When I speak of the average Zimbabwean, I am talking about the bulk of the population. The men, woman and children that struggle to survive. The ones that manage to do so despite all the odds.
I’ve spoken before about the miracle of Zimbabwe in my blogs. I’ve talked about the fact that despite the fact that Zimbabwe in all reality should be dead and buried it is still a thriving country with millions of people buying and selling and trying to survive. Yes a vast proportion of the population live in severe circumstances, but it is the fact that in such a dire situation that people can manage to smile that makes me feel very very humble indeed. I live in relative security with the knowledge that I can earn a sustainable salary if I apply myself. There are ways and means of living a fairly comfortable lifestyle in Europe, far from the hassles and difficulties of life at home. Every Zimbabwean that lives abroad can attest to this fact. We escaped the harsh reality of living without in Zimbabwe and we got away when we could and while we could.
Some of us escaped into a world even more violent and scary than the one we had come from. South Africa for many Zimbabweans has turned into an even bigger nightmare than the one they escaped from, but even though many have been to hells gates and back while fleeing Zimbabwe they do with happiness and a smile on their face. I remember being moved while listening to an interview with Matt Damon some time ago. Matt had been filming in South Africa, and had visited a refugee centre in Masina. He described a discussion he had had with one Zimbabwean woman who while escaping Zimbabwe had been caught by a gang of men just over the border and had been subjected to a harrowing ordeal of forced sexual pleasures for the South African men. Anyone living in normal circumstances would have been mentally affected for life by such an ordeal, yet Matt described the joy and happiness that this woman had displayed at the fact that she had just been granted her refugee papers, and she explained to Matt that the ordeal had been worth it to mean she was now free to work and eat freely. This is the power of the Zimbabwean people. The power to forgive and forget and move on with a smile on their face.
I remember talking with a refugee seeker here in the UK. For reasons of protection of her identity I will call her Phillipa. I met Phillipa hard at work over a stove, cooking sadza and preparing food for the people in her house. Happy to be helping people who are working to fix Zimbabwe, she welcomed people openly, and provided for them as best she could. In talking with her I was amazed to discover that she had left Zimbabwe with her husband who had left her for a younger woman the moment they arrived in the UK. Since that time she’d struggled to get her papers in the UK, and did everything she possibly could to support her son whom she’d left in Zimbabwe. She’d pretty much lost everything she’d ever known, her marriage, her home, her son and her freedom to work and do as she pleased, yet she still welcomed people openly and freely and gave unselfishly to help where she could. I could think of a million reasons to be totally the opposite, but this is not the spirit of the Zimbabwean people. Phillipa is a perfect example of the ability that Zimbabweans have to find comfort in the smallest things in life, and living in hope of a better tomorrow is often all they need to survive and live another day.
A man I have come to regard with respect in Zimbabwe is also a great and firm activist in trying to get people to acknowledge that they are Zimbabwean first and anything else after. Fungai Chiposi is an inspiration when I look at his situation. I am the type of person who if I don’t have my internet connection, I experience loss of connection rage and get withdrawal symptoms. No internet means a sulky Rob. Yet Fungai is often caught without connection living in Harare Zimbabwe. His work as a leader of Proudly Zimbabwean Foundation is very often frustrated by the difficulty of communication with the groups he works with around the world. Yet whenever I speak to him or follow his treads on Facebook, he is always cheerful and happy. Just the other night I got intensely irritated by the fact Facebook wasn’t working too well. Yet I am lucky to enjoy a broadband connection and almost 99% connectivity. Zimbabweans as a people have learnt to be grateful for what they have and enjoy it more than we certainly do. I should be the first to stand up and say there are things I could learn from the average Zimbabwean man that would be well suited to my life. Learning to be contented with what I have and accepting that life does not always give you what you want would certainly be worthy of adopting.
A while ago I wrote a blog that probably upset a few people along the way, by asking some difficult and pertinent questions. Yet through the process of talking with people after writing the blog I managed to learn a lot, and in speaking to one individual I managed to meet a remarkable man. Lameck Mahachi at first challenged me on the content of my blog and then took the time to explain a good many things about why perhaps things would appear to be so from and outsiders point of view. It was interesting to learn that even under heavy segregation that the Zimbabwean people lived during the years of colonisation that they were humble and respectful right up to the end. Even in war it was a small minority of people that went to war on behalf of the masses, as it has never really been a Shona trait to be a warring nation. I was stimulated talking to Lameck and greatly appreciated his time and effort to impart his experiences to me, and was struck yet again how even though there is bitterness in some ranks, on the whole if you speak to the average Zimbabwean, even those who suffered at the hands of the political regime of the time, they bear no harm, malice, resentment or grudge. They are now free and happy to be able to make choices, even if the powers that rule don’t listen to their choice. The average Zimbabwean man has moved on from the hatred and bitterness that goes with racial tension and is willing to live, work and survive side by side with anyone, as long as they are treated fairly, with the respect another human being deserves and be given a chance to survive.
Edmund Kudzayi recently posted an interesting article on Facebook which kind of proves the point. In closing his rather controversial “Please Mr White man Come Colonise us again!” post Edmund puts it into clear English that he doesn’t really care who or what colour the president of Zimbabwe is. All he wants is the right to live, work and survive in a level of comfort without having to worry about where his next meal is coming from or who is going to barge in the door demanding votes next. I was surprised to see that someone was so willing to put himself in the firing line from the Nationalists among us, but surprisingly it seems that the more controversial arguments were among white people commenting on his post, and many of the African people commenting were supporting Edmund’s thought process. Now let’s be honest, Edmund I’m not really sure that you want a plonker like Gordon Brown running your country, he can’t even get running the UK right, so please ask the Aussies or Kiwi’s or someone else. LOL. But all jokes aside it shows the way that most Zimbabweans can put the past aside and see through the realities and accept that maybe they do need help to get it right. There would be some who’d be like no way would I ever work with a white man again, it’s just never going to happen, but the average Zimbabwean person doesn’t care. Colour means nothing and they just want a chance to survive. That is the power of the Zimbabwean people.
There is a lot of power in forgiveness. There is a great reward in forgetting the past. There is so much to be said for a people who can smile under such difficult circumstances. There is much that can be learnt from a people who are cheerful despite living on the very edge. Yes Zimbabweans are very passionate people. They don’t like being accused of things they are not necessarily at fault for, but then let’s be honest who does. They are quick to defend themselves, and get passionate about doing it, but that is something to admire and respect I think. People who stand up for themselves and are passionate about their roots and heritage are people who have a rich quality of cultural endowment. Zimbabweans are on the whole a great class of people. There are the ones who stick out from the crowd, and sometimes give the whole society a bad name, but we need to learn to look beyond those examples because no matter what your stand is in life you know that Zimbabweans are good people, make great friends, have a welcome unlike any other, and deserve a chance and even more than that deserve our respect. Maybe if we learnt to treat each other the way we want to be treated, then we’ll all learn to get along a little better and make our world a very different place.