This short story is part of my book, Above is a photo showing Zanu-Pf militia burning down a lodge to the ground. Atleast 30 poor Zimbabweans lost thier jobs due to this state sponsored arson
Its Septmber 2000, Mugabe’s policies had driven the economy to halt. Many business’ closed thier doors and shut up shops fearing the first sight of state sponsored trouble, but my father’s employer Mr Johnson tried to ride out the storm. For months he operated at loss, hoping for a miracle. Unfortunately,the miracle never came.
Around noon one day in November 2000, I felt my heart broke as i approached our compund’s entrance. From afar i noticed the strange shining objects lying in the dust outs our hut. On closer inspection they was an electcrical stove, television and other appliances. Hope rose up from within me that perhps my uncle was back from the D.R.C war and bought the iterms with him. The village had no electricity,but maybe he had stolen blood diamonds like his masters Mugabe and his generals and would now pay for our village to be powered. This seemed bit unrealistic and my doubts were confirmed when i saw a man dressed in a blue work suit come out of hut and pick up television to take inside. The implications hit me like a ton of bricks . My father no longer had his job and had returned home. I would have no more wonderful trips to the city. I also doubted that i would be getting new pants and shoes for christmas anymore.
As tears rolled down my cheeks, I was greeted by my father who seemed slightly dazed. ” Hello Ntamuke ”, he said he was using my clan name, perhps in the hope that the clan ancestors would hear him and reward him by getting his job back. With my eyes fixed on an ancient Panasonic VCR, I asked my father how he was
” Things are not well for us my son. Our future in this country will be harder than you can imagine. You must work extra hard at school, for the uneducated will have it even tougher than anyone. I have lost my job as mechanic. Mr Johnson tried his best for me and my fellower work mates, but eventually he had to let go”
”But the company will open again soon won’t it, Papa?”
” Ephraim, I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure is that as long as Robert Mugabe and his Zanu- PF are in power, we will not see such miracles.”
I became emotional and asked something that i never should have: ” How will we survive, Papa?”
My father’s face became taught and he stared me straight in the eye. ”Not many children in African tribes would ask thier parents a question like that,” he said. From now on you must never speak to your elders like that.”
I apologized and my father too inside the hut ” Do not worry too much Ephraim. We must be thankful to our Bazimu [ancestors] that we are such a small family. There are others whom I worked with who were the breadwinners for thier entire extended families.”
” Yes, ” said my mother. ” We have much to be thankful for. Your father lost his job at the right time. It is planting season and he can help me this year. ” How lucky I was to have parents who could remain positive in such dire circumstances.
Parents all over Zimbabwe had difficult decision to make. For many people, living in cities was no longer feasible. With no money for food and no job on offer besides the one offered by the government to assult people, One could not survive in urban areas any more.
For many children this meant a huge change in thier lives. They would have to move rural areas where life was far more of a struggle. Children were sent to fetch water from far away sources, carrying heavy buckets on thier heads. If one needed the toilet, they would have to walk far away into the bushes and dig a hole, and preparing food took the longest of all. Without electricity, children were constantly having to find firewood for cooking. For many urban children who were used to all the conveniences of modern day life, it was like being evicted from New- York and dumped in Mogadishu. Perhps the toughest decision for parents was between educating thier children further, or putting them to work on land. The elders had seen how education could improve people’s lives and incomes, but in many cases the family would not survive without the help of the children. Most villagers followed the advice of the village chief and allowed thier children to go to school, but put them to work early in the morning and in the afternoon, when they were not at school.
I resented this, as at the time I felt that the elders were committing a serious abuse by putting such young children to work for them. As I matured though, I began to realize that their aim was not to punish us but to make sure that we were not only educated at school, but also in ways of rural life, which had been passed down though our ancestors for centuries. If things continued as they were going, it would be very important that us youngsters would have the skill required to survive off the land.
Working the land in rural Africa is very difficult thing to do. We were aware of the advancements in machines that made it possible to cultivate land and harvest crops with minimal efforts, but these technologies were not available to us. The thing which i hated about it was not that the work was very hard, but that we had to wake up so very early in order to get everything done in the day.
We also did not have much in the way of modern day medicine to help us through the day. I had cuts on my feet from working in the veld and one day stood right in a large amount of cow manure. The sensation was not unlike that of putting bicarbonate of soda on an open wound. I had learnt at school, the importance of cleaning a wound and covering it to protect you from infection, but i did not expect any mercy from elders. There were many younger than me working the same sort of conditions complaining about it to my parents would have seemed like an insult to them, for in Africa’s tribes it is believed that the younger one is exposed to these kind of hardships, the more likely one will be become a mature and responsible adult.
The most frightening experience for a young boy working on the farm was getting the bulls ready for a journey. You had to tie the two of them together while they were in the kraal. Far from coming peacefully, the bulls would buck thier horns and charge at you. Parents knew of the dangers of this and for the reason would not risk going in there alone. I would have to help, despite my short legs. I could do nothing but accept it as part of my culture and be brave.
If tying the bulls together was scary, then the trip was petrifying. I would lead the bulls by a rope along a 8km stretch of road to where our crops were. The path was narrow and the long shadows of Baobab and Mopane trees cut across it. I was well aware of the legend of wire, the bull elephant. Having freed himself from poachers, Wire set out on a killing spree. He killed 5 people on the very path which i had to walk. Rangers claimed to have gunned him down, but i was still skeptical about this. Had they definitely got the right elephant? My fear of wire and constant apprehension about the giant thorns which lay in the road made the trip a hellish for me.
As i neared the farm, the landscape changed and i found myself in grass which had grown taller than me. Now poisonous snakes were another concern. The combination of all these factors sent my heart racing……..
THE WHOLE BOOK WILL BE FINISHED BY MARCH !