A visit home to Harare

I disembarked from an SAA flight and made my way along a rather hot skywalk to Harare’s beautiful terminal.

Potholes in Harare
Potholes in Harare

Officials battled to cope with passengers from three incoming international flights, all full. Air Zimbabwe was grounded. Not good! I was bemused by the fact that the majority of passengers were White. The lady at Customs interrogated me shortly and politely; and wished me a pleasant stay.

The drive into Harare was bittersweet. It was good to be home again. Familiar sights tugged at the heart. This was countermanded by the generally run-down look of things; litter everywhere, the road surfaces ruptured and potholed, like the fractured bleeding heart of my nation.

I remained buoyant and happy to be home – despite the telephone poles leaning over, grubby buildings, street lights not working, unmarked road surfaces and robots that made negotiating intersections something of a lottery.

The radio cooed praise and salutation of our President and “Commander in Chief”. Zanu (PF) and its ministers were referred to almost exclusively and portrayed as loving, sensitive, progressive and people-centred … leading a proud progressive nation, holding its own as “the breadbasket of Africa”.

In wonderful diction and tone, radio presenters made the case for the dominant faction of government in utterly convincing mode. Not once did I hear the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, mentioned, only that the “opposition parties” were being obstructive and in terror of being defeated at long overdue elections, “the Government of National Unity having run its course”.

The print media banners told quite a different story. One banner shouted that some Zanu (PF) big shot was in serious trouble for having referred to our President as "old".

Shops were full

There were no shortages. Shops were full of South African goods. It was fun to receive "small change" in the form of sweets or one of a range of novelty items. It was ironic that we were using the currency of a country most roundly condemned by our loquacious “pan Africanists”, Jonathan Moyo et al. I saw cars with names I had not seen in South Africa. But the best cars seemed to be driven by Chinese. Perhaps it was just an illusion.

It was good to be home. I was happy until 2:23 am – when I awoke in a fugue of deep sadness. It was a sadness that blanketed all my sensibilities. My heart melted in deep sorrow about all of it; Ian Smith; Rhodesia; the bush war; all the lives lost; so many lives lost. I felt sad and bad about Robert Gabriel Mugabe; Josiah Tongogara; Joel Kufandada, Edson Zvobgo, so many others; Gukurahundi; Operation Murambatsvina; Morgan Tsvangirai’s swollen face; my people burned alive and thrown off trains in South Africa.

How was my son doing in Brazil? How was my daughter doing in Canada? How was the rest of my family doing in the UK and Australia? What did Thabo Mbeki mean in his glorified speech “I am an Africa” when so many Zimbabweans were now flung so far and wide, denied their birthright; scrounging for acceptance and fighting to maintain a sense of self dignity?

Thousands of children were being born abroad, denied their birthright. They would grow up and want to know who they were, where they came from and why … why … why?

I tried to work out what had triggered this attack of extreme sadness. Perhaps it was having learnt for the first time how members of my own community had also had their farms grabbed. The international media has always only referred to “White farm invasions”. My people are simply an inconvenient truth that needed no acknowledgment. It was said that Patrick Williams, a wonderful gentle spirited man had died of heartbreak, after being forcibly removed from the family farm that he had bought and heroically struggled all his life to develop.

It was no consolation to know that Solomon Mujuru, and a Zanu (PF) chief, had been reputedly murdered on a farm cruelly seized from a White couple who had also spent a lifetime turning bush into a proud oasis.

Saga of survival

I remembered what I had been told by everyone about a period now being referred to by all as “those crazy times”, when Zimbabwe immortalized itself in history with its trillion dollar bank notes.

In an incredible saga of human survival people had been brought together across the social, racial, ethnic spectrum and survived the un-survivable by helping each other in countless ways. Ordinary human beings had made their lives extraordinary right in the lair of the beast.

My heart was comforted as I considered this remarkable community. The blighting suffering that had been inflicted on them brought out extraordinary love for each other. Their spirits had been tested in the extreme, often diabolically. But it remained unbowed, true and as strong as ever. The love for each other, spawned by terrible suffering, has given life to another most precious commodity.

My heart sings a quiet song of pride, for my country and its people. We have the precious commodity of Hope!

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