Border jumpers – but not forever

BY A CORRESPONDENT DURBAN - Timothy Rukombo's cheerful round face and warm smile belie the often overwhelming difficulties he's faced during the past three years as a Zimbabwean refugee in South Africa. Three years ago, in November 2002, Timothy crossed the border into South Africa, hoping to find a

good job and build a new life for himself and his family. “It was very hard for us in Zimbabwe as there were shortages of everything,” he said. “I was campaigning for the MDC and people were being arrested, kidnapped or tortured – it was even dangerous to walk in the streets wearing an MDC T-shirt.” Despite his optimism, Timothy soon found that life across the Limpopo was not easy for refugees. “It is difficult to find employment and, if you are a Zimbabwean, you are only paid small amounts of money,” he said. “The way the South African police arrest Zimbabwean people is wrong. You are often forced to hand over a R20 bribe to avoid deportation, even if you have a valid asylum seekers’ permit,” he added. Inspired by popular Zimbabwean singers like Oliver Mutukudzi and Simon Chimbetu, as well as home-grown group Pengaudzeke, Timothy decided that, since the MDC was not allowed to campaign on radio and television, he would produce songs which would get the message across. With the help of musician friends and chorus singers, Timothy cut a CD at a shopping centre. Called “Border” Jumper Introduction, it features songs like “Hatidi Hondo” (We Don’t Need War) and “Varovereyi” (Clap Your Hands). The CD is dedicated to Morgan Tsvangirai, Learnmore Jongwe, Gibson Sibanda and Welshman Ncube. Timothy is currently trying to get a producer and backer so that he can cut a professional CD and contribute to change in Zimbabwe through his music. He dreams of travelling to the United States and London, where he hopes to meet fellow countryman and highly respected cricketer turned singer, Henry Olonga. Timothy is angry that so many African leaders forget the poor when they come to power. “Zanu (PF) has forgotten how they survived in the war, they did not fight alone. Everyone cooked and helped and contributed to change,” he said. Instead of feeding the people, Timothy is appalled that the government has wasted money on expensive equipment to jam SW Radio Africa’s broadcasts into Zimbabwe and arms from China. In his view, however, Zanu (PF) is not going anywhere. “The day will come when they will regret their actions and be made to step down. Everything that flies will have to land.” Timothy urges Zimbabweans to work extra hard for change. “We must unite our efforts around the world in order to succeed,” he concludes.

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