Until We Go Home

Until we go home, hearts are tender with longing,
There is a difference between living and truly belonging.

Until we go home, passion cowers away, shy.
Memories locked up in a treasury since our tearful goodbye.
Until we return, we envision the warmth of the savannah,
Sun touching our skin in the most unsubtle manner.
Brushed as if with a broom, dry, golden grass,
Swept across the land, almighty and vast.
A lion’s reverberant roar and a fish-eagle’s cry,
The rumbling of the ground and the piercing of the sky.
The thunder of an elephant, a swift flutter of wings.
We are enveloped in a hymn that only Africa sings.

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Until we return, we hold onto our home,
The place that we long for when we feel most alone.
Sun streaked verandah, brick walls and green lawn,
Jacarandas, tall Acacias, dappled light folded then re-born.
Dogs panting, dusty roads, pastures sprawled across the hills.
Feet thumping, heart racing, minutes enclosed in nature’s thrills.
Undying sunsets blazing pink in the dusk,
Lungs brimming with evening air, the light scent of musk.

Until we go home, we only long for old nights.
Wood burning, flames growing, beneath glowing moonlight.
The smell of rich meat as smoke tumbles towards stars
Entangled in deep laughter and fables of the past.
Until we go home we dress dull and smart,
Try to forget the rich colours; moving pieces of art.
Bright auburn cotton, deep prints of dark green,
Vivid amber headwear, swirls of red in-between.
Spiralled pigments come alive, gushing as if out a firth
As we dance, barefoot, across rigid brown earth.

Until we go home we sit in a large lecture hall,
We listen to the words that our parents have paid for.
We day-dream of home, but tremble with unknowing,
What is a degree when there’s no-one worth showing?
The pining to return is a hollow, achy thought.
Opportunities lie dormant and wages are tort.
Corruption breaks hope that is scattered and sparse.
We must seek a new home that will never really be ours.

Until we go home, we embrace another day.
We smile, we nod, we work hard for small pay.
Until we go home we wrap notes in brown card,
Post it home to our children with a prayer to dear God
That they can still attend school and wear socks on their feet,
That although they face hunger, there’s still something to eat.
Until we go home, we are left unknowing and unsure
Whether our sons will grow strong, our daughters be cared for.

All our fond memories twisted and undone,
We are tearful at the reality of what such beauty can become.
We see the poverty of our nation, the hunger, distress
And a whisper in our heart asks how we got to this mess.
Until we go home, we look for some sort of hope

Until we found it in a flag and in a pastor as he spoke

And for the first time in our lives we feel courage to speak
Because we see how corruption has enslaved us, made us shaky and weak.
And as police lift their batons, and the old man turns away
Something ignites in our hearts, yes, we have something to say.
One man cries out, “We are enough of all this”
And 14 million voices echo the same words as his.

And until we go home, we sing the anthem from afar,
And we fight alongside a nation that is ours.
We stand small in a crowd but now know we’re not alone,
And in our hearts there’s new hope that one day we’ll really go home.

 

You, Me, The Farm

 


2002

I slide my back down an old Msasa tree, coarse tanned bark against soft worn cotton; sinking until I rest with my legs bent in front of me. Silt sand slithers like honey between my toes, warm still from the noon heat. Behind me the pecan nut orchid stands sentry – it’s trees a contingent of still figures dressed in a leafy grandiosity of emerald; a patchwork of soldiers sown like stitches along sloping fields. As the glowing sun sheds its final spectrums of light nimble beams tiptoe through the grass, their silent footprints igniting droplets of water that are splayed out across the freshly irrigated pastures. The evening breeze twists its warm hands past barbed wire fences and across hectare after hectare of land, brushing through fields and alerting indolent brown eyes. Bloated after a day of leisurely indulgence, cattle suddenly become vigilant in the fading radiance of the day. Awakened calves gambol unsteadily on feeble legs moving daringly through the grass, growing in confidence before snapping into a state of elation and becoming oblivious to the rest of the world, aware of nothing other than the uninterrupted motion of their feet drumming the ground and lifting up again- lighter than air. They dance a dance that is unreservedly enveloped in the entirety of childish immortality and in this moment I find myself caught up in their elation, the simplicity of happiness, the knowledge that right here, right now, everything is as it should be and my world is suspended in perfect equilibrium.  The mumbling of a distant tractor and the chatter of Guinea fowls, sharp and distinct, are seized by the wind and threaded through the pecan nut orchid, the pastures, the tops of the Msasas; gyrating, fading and swelling in waves of authentic harmony. Soon the marabou stalks join in ceremoniously, lifting their hefty wings and taking awkwardly to the sky, majestic despite their unusual bulk. Like a flock of old men magnificent in their gawkiness, my eyes follow the handsome array of clumsiness shuffling across the sky, smaller and smaller and smaller… and I look away as the brilliance of the setting sun becomes too much for my inadequate eyes to handle.

Along the circumference of the pastures, between the verdant fields, past the closing farm stores and around the sturdily built brick offices surges a nutty-coloured road; a big conduit of dust, alive beneath the sinking ball of auburn. Fresh marks of tractors and trucks are embedded in the road, overlapping snake-like trajectories streaked across the plush russet surface; evidence of a long days work.

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There is something inexplicable about being comfortable in the company of just your surroundings. A moment of intense and profound respect for nature that you are never taught, nor told about; stimulated by nothing other than a personal encounter of God-given awe. An overwhelming immersion of gratitude. And as I sit there beneath that Msasa tree, comfortable in my own company, my soul is on fire with a fearful respect for nature. . . every fragment of my surroundings suddenly ablaze with indescribable beauty.

I strain my eyes to the horizon and watch dust suspended in the sky like spray off a wave, hovering particles poised in the air, balancing on the sound of the ebullient hum of nesting doves and rustling grass, their waltz illuminated by the soft glow of dappled light cast out by the waning sun. I am transfixed by pirouetting tiers; shimmering, unstable, stirring. Drawn into a world of minuscule specs and mighty serenity; I am left with a full soul and a blissful, blissful vacuum of thought.

I hear the sound of rich laughter; figures of resilient men appear down the road, drawn as if by a magnet back home where rich odours of stew and relish escape large, heavy pots that simmer on outdoor flames. A man rides ahead on his bicycle, emerald overalls folded and tied loosely around his waist. The sound of whirring wheels as he cycles past is almost tangible, and lifting my hand to greet him, I am repaid with a white beaming smile on a friendly brown face. Others break off where small footpaths act as hidden tributaries, they lead to an oasis of small houses with clay walls and thatched roofs, patiently awaiting the their Baba’s return. Some men stay back, submerged in conversation. Their voices grow more audible as playful debates heighten, the authoritative pulsate of their national language, Shona, sounding like a throbbing drum between spouts of deep laughter.

Standing and dusting off my shorts, I begin to saunter home along the road that I know will only see rest once the buttery moon has displaced the buttery sun. I pass the workshops and catch a glimpse of uniformed trucks being put to bed just before the security guard slides the high metal gate closed; A brash resounding knock followed by sharp quietness. I close my eyes as I stroll further, soaking up the faint aroma of the gum trees that line the left side of the road like spindly towers ahead of me. Above the blanket of tranquility, laughter and playful shouts are audible. Children’s small bodies cast long shadows across the ground, a crowd is gathered at the a makeshift soccer pitch. Some youngsters are still clothed in their red and khaki uniforms while women stand blathering nearby, wrapped in Jade with Cobalt blue embroidery, wispy cotton with tones of yellow and sapphire, and one exotic auburn dress that mirrors the ginger tinge of the African soil. As I pass a group on their way to join the gathering, we all beam and lift our hands in the uniform greeting:

Three fingers raised.

I smile at the mutual understanding.

‘You, me and the farm’.

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2016

 

I look to the spot where the majestic Msasa code-poet-barbed-wire-ipad-wallpaperonce stood. This time there is nothing to rest my back against; instead, I sit beside a splintered stump and stretch my legs across the cracked ground. The surface is parched and as hard as granite beneath my feet, destitute without it’s old protector. The final rays of the rubicund sun spill across the land like thin blood. The fields once succulent are a dull brown shade, barely distinguishable amid the wild Zimbabwean grasslands. The only indication of the once thriving agriculture is owed to the disheveled remainder of a barbed wire fence, the firm contours now distorted in a drooping imitation of an abandoned clothesline. The pivot that used to boastfully bring fields to life stands a redundant monster, powerless and rusting in a meadow of weeds and sharp dry sward.

Where vehicles pressed tire tracks like fingerprints, all identity has been lost. Handed to the palms of time, who has fervently laced its hands across the land and left it disheveled and impoverished. Where edges of the road were sharp and defined, grass has asserted it’s spindly irksome power, and declared its pathetic rule. The quiet that surrounds me is disturbing; the drone of a generator draining the last of the water in a far away dam is all that remains perceptible. Laughter has evaporated, dried up with the rest of the land. Lost when jobs were lost. One or two cattle tread soullessly across the parched land, hip bones prominent beneath their stretched skin. Even the birds are discreet; mourning the ceremonious sunset that they know has been forgotten.

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The old workshop lies abandoned and pitiful; a half-open metal gate with peeling black paint stands uncaring, exposing its insides to the callous world. I see neglected fragments of vehicles disseminated haphazardly across the ground. Their shapes transform into harsh silhouettes before my eyes as the sun begins to vanish. The smell of neglected machinery seeps punitively through my nose and settles on my tongue like a dirty ten-cent coin. Cold, bitter, metallic.

I look back at the burning sphere in the sky suppressing itself into the depths of the Earth as if trying to escape. Staring across the neglected land I recall the deep sensation of fulfilment that once enveloped my heart and now it aggressively changes it’s grip, no longer an embrace of bliss, rather a new uncontrolled strength pressing down with an unresolvable, nauseating sadness. One lone shiny Mercedes speeds past, flicking stones in its path, leaving fumes of dust in its wake. Then it is gone. I take one last look around at the flat landscape; it’s rude exposure; an ugly, dull vacuum that used to be filled with vivid shapes and colours.

Because there is no one around to recognise my greeting, I lift my face to the sun, the only entity that is unchanged.

And I hold up three fingers.

We Belong

If you are in the beautiful French-feeling town of Franschhoek, outside Cape Town, you may find yourself on Huguenot Street at a welcoming, authentic restaurant, Col’cacchio, after being drawn in by the divine smoky aroma of baking pizza’s and steaming pasta sauces. Amongst the array of white umbrella’s and wooden chairs, it is possible that you will be confidently received by an earnest smile and a convivial sense of humour– courtesy of Mr. Lubis Gondo who has been working in Franschhoek for the past six years.

Is a national identity something physical?

Is it the earth beneath one’s feet?

The colours and shapes on a flag?

Maybe it is none of these things, perhaps it is something immaterial; that flame embedded in our soul, a spark that is always present occasionally exploding into a blazing flame before it simmers down again into a rumbling volcanic quarry of secreted passion. A 2002 survey by the Southern African Migration Project showed that almost 25% of adult Zimbabweans’ parents or grandparents had worked in South Africa at some point in their lives.
I believe that this fire is present in all Zimbabweans; it inhabits the hearts of people living in Zimbabwe and just as strongly it inhabits the hearts of those who have migrated across oceans and will never return.

Born in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, and schooled at Mzarabani in the small town of Centenary, Mr. Lubis Gondo left behind his childhood home in Zimbabwe in order to find work that would be sufficient to support his wife and only child, Takudzwa. Once a sales representative for Colcom Foods, Lubis Gondo witnessed the Zimbabwean economy fall away around him and found himself faced with the problem of maintaining secure, unwavering support for his

family. Like many Zimbabweans, he discovered “home” could no longer deliver this stability. In an act of bravery, a world of comfort was left behind and replaced by a domain of frightening opportunity and hollowness where family and tradition were no longer present.

Living in this new land, there are comforts of home that Lubis has recognised can simply never be replicated;

“I miss sadza and vegetables. Chibuku and the lovely sungura music. And obviously the mutondo and mupfuti trees”

Lubis only goes home once every year. It must be an overwhelming feeling returning physically to a place where your thoughts have been residing without you for so much of the year. He says, “We always pray when I get back home, then meet together as a family and party”. Family are like a glistening water well that strength and compassion are unfailingly drawn from, with long periods of time away from home it is easy for hope to run thin and courage to turn dry.

When I asked Lubis whether he considers Zimbabwe ‘home’ despite living in South Africa, he responded, “Home will remain home”. Although he values his job working as a waiter at Col’cacchio, Lubis makes it clear that he would go back to Zimbabwe at any time if he could be assured that there was a decent job for him.

image2When I asked Lubis what distinguishes Zimbabweans from South African’s his words touched my heart and made me made me muse over what it means to be an outsider. “There is no difference at all [between us]. But as Zimbabweans, we are conscious we don’t belong here. That makes us extra hard working.”

A few weeks after meeting Lubis Gondo, I rushed down to our closest food store to pick up a few things. As I slid a basketful of groceries across the counter at the Vredehoek Kwikspar, I was greeted by a gleaming smile, the genuine kind of smile- a beam that stems from the most sincere depths of the soul. The distinct accent that clouded the voice that addressed me immediately struck my ears with warm familiarity. I smiled back and confidently asked “Unobva Kupi?”

“Ya, Zimbabwe” she chuckled.

And that’s how I met Margaret Chinguwa.

Thirty years old and married with two daughters, Margaret’s life has unfolded in a way that is far from anything she expected. She lives with her husband and three-year-old daughter, Bailey. Her oldest daughter stays in Zimbabwe because the government schooling is more affordable and though she attended school in Cape Town for a while, it was extremely difficult for her to blend in.

Margaret has found her feet in Cape Town; she has a stable job at the Spar and works with colleagues whom she describes as “amazing”. Despite this, her family has had to deal with a new culture and a new country. Getting to where she is today has not arisen without tribulation.

Margaret and her husband dream of returning home one day and opening a restaurant.

Like Lubis Gondo, and so many others, Zimbabwe is the place where their hearts lie.

Kariba Sunset

Kariba brilliance.
Kariba brilliance.

I stand on a floating body of man-made edifice; it is out of place in this part of the world where nature takes unparalleled command. Or perhaps everything man-made is out of place in this world and it is only that it is more noticeable here where the square-shaped metal boat is the only blemish in a perfect spherical effervesces of simmering warmth and timeless, shapeless water. My hands clasp a thin metal railing, salty palms on sturdy iron. Sweaty fingers tarnished with the smell of cork fishing rods. Etched beneath my short fingernails are rough contours of thick, dark mud.

Deeper than we know, holding more than we would like to know.
Deeper than we know, holding more than we would like to know.

Knotted hair and grimy skin I stand breathing in the purest form of African air. And yes, as I take in my illusory surroundings, my soul is the cleanest it has ever felt. In life, we search for happiness that is bracing and wholesome. But what if we knew that there was a feeling that had the capability to surpass the inescapable, elastically bound realms of happiness?

There is. There is a greater feeling to discover. It is not the same as

Darkening pastels
Darkening pastels

happiness because it is short lived and will never hold the same reliability. This feeling is almost the opposite. It is unstable, fevering, burning with a radioactive dynamism. It is rarely experienced and if you have sensed it, you will remember the time and the place with an ideological brilliance that you will never really be able to express.

It is the glorious realization that we are nothing and the frightening understanding that God is something. It is seeing a big picture, and then understanding that the big picture is the tiniest morsel of a pixel in a much, much greater picture.

You never find it when you are looking for it. It is neither noisy nor brash. It approaches with the shyness of an untamed creature creeping tentatively out of hiding only in that moment where silence coexists with stillness.

This is serenity.
This is serenity.

I was still. The dam was still. Still enough to believe a transparent layer of glass had been set over the entirety of it’s enormous surface. So motionless that it looked as if a single touch with a small toe would send ripples for kilometers across the lustrous surface. Enormous. Not as enormous as the sea, but still too immense for the depth of our pathetically wretched mortal brains to grasp. Water limbs distending out in every bearing, desperately grasping at the hazy walls of the horizon only to find there is nothing to touch. Liquid snatches at deceitful white walls of nothing but more moisture for as far as the eye can see. Deep. Far deeper than its glassy surface lets anybody believe. It hides swirling, snatching lives of the present and asylums metallic sounding secrets of the past. These clandestine lives swarm beneath the polished pavements of Kariba’s mellifluous surface, while history rests concealed in a muddy casket beneath a weedy grave.

And as one moment passed in an unspeakable habit of change, the blue reflection of the sky on crystal water slunk through an indigo tunnel and became a rich reflection of embers spilt across a concentrated, blood-like canvas. Pirouetting beams of life oozed from a seething pink ball, ballet dancers of light swept their elegantly pointed toes across the surface of the water and painted it with opaque shades of an indefinite, furiously bold kaleidoscope, never to be reenacted in the same way. Feathery clouds stripped their white cotton cloaks and revealed a new skeleton much harsher than before, where golden light catches corners and springs from one side to the other, turning incoherent horizons into audacious strokes of daring colour.

Somewhere in this indistinguishable realm of time, a fiery orb has become a glowing cinder and in a sudden conversion, bold colours snap into a timid swell of dimming pastel. Timidly, the mighty sun slips beneath the surface of a prearranged backdrop, shaken by the contorted revolution of light it has orchestrated- it must hide from it’s own brilliance.

This moment was captured,  many before and since have been missed. We neglect these diamond instances because we are far too aware of our own existence;

Human beings are peculiar creatures; we like to admire things but we prefer to admire ourselves admiring such things.

When we let go of our own thoughts and encompass a faith in something bigger than ourselves, only then are we capable of knowing this wave of enraptured admiration. In our lifetime, this feeling is as sporadical the discovery of a rare stone in a childhood sandpit; but the value of it far outweighs the worth of any emerald or diamond we could ever hold in our unworthy palms.

I believe in magic because I have felt enchantment,

I have witnessed God through His works.

My eyes will not forget what I have seen,

My soul will not forget what I have felt.

This, to me, is glory.

This is a Kariba sunset.

Gods work reflected in a frightening display of nature.
God’s work reflected in a frightening display of nature.

WE ARE AFRICA

Zimbabweans working in South Africa; perhaps some of the bravest people in the whole world. In a spiral of strife they were forced to turn from everything they knew, bravely walking away from a broken background that was once a niche consisting of family and the embedded roots of well-known culture and comfort. They left a past of trepidation with nothing but hope.

Attacks aren’t being made on a class of advantaged people who have cut queues for jobs, paid their way up, demanded employment. These are people whose palms are calloused from hard work, whose hearts are sore from what’s already been lost and who have, over days and years, toiled unselfishly to provide for a wife, a son, a daughter, a family.

So, unless downright honesty, hard work and a smile are virtues that can be identified as a crime, then xenophobia has no place in this country, or this continent.

There is a much bigger picture. We are the same.  (Find original post, here)

As an African growing up in Zimbabwe, I have seen hardship, I have seen tribulation and I know what fear looks like. I have comprehended corruption, it comes in the shape of a crowd and it has a face distorted with foolish wrath and irrational animosity. It holds an array of axes above its head and it burns with a stinging fire of acrimony and bitterness as sharp as the blades it carries. It breeds off fear and it grows when the whispers of hardship become shouts of violence. It swells and falls, and it has swelled again, its fiery fingers are burning bodies across South Africa and the flames have singed the lives of thousands of families.

South African Mobs in Natal. April 2015
South African Mobs in Natal. April

Zimbabweans have been labeled as privileged and advantaged in a country that is “not theirs”. South African’s have forgotten that these people lost their work and everything they depended on, kicked out of their own home and forced into exile. In a Sky News interview, it was reported that in 2009 alone, over sixty thousand farm workers were forced out of their homes.

Yet, through all of this, I have borne witness to hope. I don’t know what it is, but it must be the offspring of courage. It comes in the shape of a small suitcase and placid looking pieces of paper. It becomes real when a decision is made to turn away from the familiarity we describe as “home, and reluctantly walk towards an indefinite future that will require grueling work and a new struggle of adversity.

On March 20, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini simply stated that foreigners should “pack their bags and go home”.  Oh but if you only knew the courage it took to pack those small bags in the first place.

Where is home Zwelithini? There is a man who worked on a citrus farm for thirty-seven years, starting his job as a boy in the orchids, he went from a diligent youngster to disciplined manager, unaware that years of determination would be swiped like a rug from beneath his feet, leaving him on his knees, groveling alongside thousands of others. The farm, once a beautiful thriving magnitude of life, is now a scope of fields of abandoned weeds and rotting remains of insipid, sick-smelling oranges, discarded brick houses with leaking roofs and remains of shattered clay pots on dry unkempt soils. It is an empty vessel, nothing more than a melancholy reminder of what could have been. Is this the place you refer to when you say, “Go home?”

We are all strangers somewhere in this world. But now a nervous smile on the face of a hard working citizen is greeted by vehemence and detestation. We see here, that this month “More than 1,000 mainly African migrants have fled their homes, some going to police stations and other are being housed in tents on a sports field.”  Wives stand watching as their husbands are set alight in containers, they cannot see, but they hear the blood souring screams. Children get home to find their father has not returned from work. Brothers are being massacred because of a coldblooded sea of dark blue jealousy and thick crimson hatred. Africa has turned against Africans and there is a civil war throbbing in our midst, resentment pulses through the veins of the wicked.

Jon Hrusa’s photograph capturing as families leave their homes
Jon Hrusa’s photograph capturing as families leave their homes

Above is Jon Hrusa’s photograph capturing as families leave their homes.

I long for the day when we will kick bare feet through silky dust, moving in a dance of tribulation, suspending sorrow as the dust is suspended in the air about us. Particles of happiness moving in a world that will not rest until the sun has died and the moon spills shy beams of serenity over the land. This is where home is, it is no particular place, but it is a precise feeling. It is a child running out the swinging wooden door, jumping into the arms of her father. It is a smile from a neighbour, a wave from the passing driver, shared stories around the kitchen table. It is the taste of a cold beer after a hard day of work, wafting fumes of rich spices, the sound of laughter in the room next-door. Home is falling into deep, beautiful, dreamless sleep when the hours of sunlight have exhausted themselves; it is a perfect combination of love and feeling loved. It is the precious gem that Zimbabweans have lost and searched for. It is challenging to find again, especially when your neighbour clenches a knife to your throat and tells you through gritted teeth that ‘you don’t belong’.

Waiting for their father to return home.
Waiting for their father to return home.

I am a hater of hate and a lover of love. I believe that our home does not make us, rather we make our home. The home we have made is loosing beauty fast. It is time to wake up.

WE ARE AFRICA.

Statue Sparks Waves of Protest

On Thursday 9 April, hundreds of students were gathered on the upper campus of the University of Cape Town to watch as a crane carried out the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue. The statue was removed after weeks of demonstration that were initiated when students threw human feces at the figurine, which they described as a symbol of white privilege. The build up to the falling of the Rhodes statue has dispersed feelings of protest across Southern Africa, sparking a series of demonstrations relating it to Cecil John Rhodes and issues referring to the ways in which white colonialists deserve to be remembered. Following the initial riots at the University of Cape Town (UCT) campus, students at Rhodes University in Grahamstown were riled with similar feelings of unrest and consequently demanded a change in their university name. The Rhodes governing body assuaged these protests, but did allow a meeting, which was held on the evening of 19 March between students and management to openly discuss issues at hand and opinions on transformation. The vice-chancellor of the university, Dr Sizwe, made the position of the management clear in an interview with City Press on 20 March when he said that the issue of a name-change for the university was not up for debate “We haven’t given careful consideration about how to deal with our past. We must reconcile ourselves with our sorry past and move on.” (Mabizelahttp://www.citypress.co.za/news/council-has-not-deliberated-on-change-the-name-of-rhodes-university/) Vuyo Kahla, the chairman of Rhodes University gave an explanation for the action, or lack of action, taken by Rhodes University on the matter by concluding, “The reality for me is that this university has far more pressing challenges for sustainability to deal with than lesser concerns and distractions.” (http://www.ru.ac.za/studentlife/rhodesnews/articles/changingrhodesnamenotapriority.html) Rhodes was not the only University projecting dissatisfaction. The statue at the University of KwaZulu-Natal was defaced on 26 March and this was followed by a series of abuse concerning other statues which included the Anglo-Boer War soldier statue, the Horse memorial statue and many others with the most recent being the Gandhi Monument which was defaced with white paint on 12 April. See a full list of the statues that have been defaced in South Africa and how, here. Furthermore, the issue of the Rhodes statue at UCT sprung to international heights. Following initial rioting, some Zimbabweans began to call for Cecil John Rhodes to be removed from his gravesite in Matopos and his bones sent back to England. Zweli Malinga, a ZANU PF official, spoke on the subject saying, “We strongly support what is happening in South Africa. We cannot stand seeing whites coming from abroad every day to honour and conduct rituals before their ancestor who is buried on our own land.” However, Mugabe said there would be no removal of the corpse from its site from “View of the world” in Matopus, and he seemed to make light of the matter saying to South African President, Jacob Zuma “We have his corpse, you can keep his statue.” (http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zimsit_w_mugabe-we-wont-dig-up-rhodes/)

By Natalie Dumont de Chassart

Life Of A Billionaire

Have you ever seen a man walking a suitcase of banknotes through the middle of a rundown city?

I have. His limbs were spindly and weak. The wheels struggling over the gravel road mimicked the grinding of his frail bones as he hauled a load that weighed more than he did.

Has your dad ever asked you if you want to keep the money he earned last month and use it in your monopoly games?

Mine has.

Have you ever watched a young child hand over a kilogram of cash only to be told by the gentleman behind the till that it is not enough to purchase a kilogram of flour?

I have.

Have you ever stumbled upon a 50billion dollar note abandoned in the soil?

I have. Someone had used it to wipe a baby’s nose because it made more economical sense than buying a packet of tissues.

Did you ever shake hands with a trillionaire below the age of twenty-two?

I did. She asked my family for leftover milk and a slice of bread because she couldn’t afford to feed herself or her baby.

Barely before Zimbabweans had time to register the perplexing reality of what was going on at home, newspapers all over the world were flooded with reports about Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation. The information handed out as black ink on insipid grey paper seemed the only entity that could mirror this aspect of our lives. Its folds gifted the locals with a legible deposit of understanding, bearing in mind that the enormity of the effects of hyperinflation made no fathomable sense from any internal perspective. New York Times tried to answer an inexplicable question,

How bad is inflation in Zimbabwe?” This was years before the nastiest stroke had even emanated.  Other captions read; “Zimbabwe inflation passes 100,000%, officials say”  and “Zimbabwe bank issues $10million bill – but it won’t even buy you a hamburger in Harare.”

The stories seemed unreal, almost untouchable. This was some of the first news coverage of Zimbabwe’s frightening inflation. An amalgamation of the features in the newspapers and the features of my tangible life, combined in a blurry array of havoc that made one question the denotations of normality and what it meant to exist as a participant of a ‘normal’ world. Zimbabwe faced inflation and poverty in a way that few or no other places will ever experience. Economic decline came slowly at first, measured and creeping, slipping its cold fingers into people’s lives in 2000 and gradually engulfing every home and work place in it’s bitter, sick smelling breath. But inflation came hard and with it came poverty. It did not creep up on us. It did not warn us. It simply slammed its solid, concrete fist against our faces and left everybody stunned and baffled at the new and unbearable ache throbbing cripplingly through the body of the nation. As winter swung in, so did inflation, and in July 2008 inflation figures reached a hurtling pinnacle of 2660522.20 percent. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/zimbabwe/inflation-cpi).

Money had lost value almost overnight, which meant that time, precious time, had tumbled away with it. Time spent labouring, striving to earn, endeavouring to grow. Time that had been spent desperately clambering, feet slipping, palms sweating, heart racing, up the golden ladder of success. Enough time for the soft hands of a boy to become the sturdy hands of a man, years that developed calloused palms and wrinkled skin… All this time. Lost. Money that could buy you a house, could barely afford a welcoming doormat the next week. Hard work and the capital that came with it were simply wiped from existence, leaving nothing but piles of valueless paper, dappled in ink that feigned pale phantasmagorias of pride. Images of balancing rocks on a one hundred trillion dollar note seemed to mock an economy that surpassed the instability of everything, even the trembling rocks themselves.

And so when I hear about billionaires, trillionaires, quadrazillionaires, it all sounds too familiar. Yet, I come from one of the poorest countries in the world, a country where thousands of billionaires were starving.

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe
Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe