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Salutes for unsung heroes

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Between 1999 and 2009 it became very difficult to run a business in Zimbabwe.

Many entrepreneurs either left the country or simply closed down and resorted to what became known as kukiyakiya in order to make a living.

But there were some, both small businesses and large ones, who hung on.

They reasoned that if they could survive the hard times, then they would surely be positioned at an advantage when things got better.

Their optimism was irritating, and they would often be heard talking about how the economy was “about to turn around” even though nobody believed them.

They were, of course, proved wrong, because the economy didn’t turn around for years and years and years.

But still, they hung on, talking positive and walking tall.

Behind closed doors many of these people were failing to sleep at night — thinking about the responsibilities to their staff, the impact on their families, wondering privately if their resolute determination to face the Zimbabwe situation head-on was a mistake. But publicly displaying nerves of steele.

Many of those people are still in business today. They haven’t realised the reward of their long vigil at the bedside of an ailing economy yet.

But you will, ladies and gentlemen — and if you don’t, then the generations that follow you will. And in the meantime, I salute you.

The advent of Aids, combined with poverty and a host of other social problems, has left thousands of children orphaned or neglected.

Some are abandoned and left to fend for themselves, while others find a relative or family friend to care for them.

I salute every child, heading a child-headed household. I realise that the sacrifice they are making will probably mean that they will not get the education they need to be able to read my salute.

All the same, there might be a Good Samaritan somewhere who is willing to give time to those who give time and pass my message on.

I acknowledge the grandmothers who, with little or no resources, eke out a living for themselves and their grandchildren, while silently grieving for their own dead offspring. I salute you.

The people we commonly call civil servants are potentially very powerful and if they should ever choose to behave badly, the consequences can be devastasting.

It’s rare that we hear anything complementary about civil servants in Zimbabwe, and yet every day thousands of government workers make their way to work to serve us in conditions that are less than ideal, and with compensation that is less than adequate.

Yes, I know there are problems, and I acknowledge the challenges.

But you only need to look at the damage that the South African civil servants’ strike has done to realise how important this community really is.

To all the civil servants in Zimbabwe who actually want to work, who try to be professional and who are committed to this country and its people (and I believe there are many) — I salute you.

There is a large community of foreigners in Zimbabwe whom we affectionately call “the dip-league”.

They work mostly in the NGO sector and some work with embassies. They come to darkest Africa for reasons as diverse as the nations they represent. Some just want “an African experience” for their resume.

Others are gung-ho do-gooders who do more damage in their eagerness to help than they realise.

Sometimes we tease and torment them; accuse them of being agents of neo-colonisation and harbourers of sweeping Western arrogance.

Well, they may or may not be, but the fact is, they do make life better for a lot of people in a lot of ways. And the sacrifices they make to come to Africa are not so very little, particularly in the emotional sense.

It’s not easy to live in a foreign country, to work with an ethic you don’t understand, to adjust to systems that are not systematic and values that are not valued.

To be far from home, family and familiar foods is not always the adventure it may seem — sometimes it’s just plain hard.

And to do it and stick with it, you have to believe in what you are doing. And so, to all my friends in the dip-league — for your good intentions, your resilience and your many sacrifices — I salute you.

Zimbabwe is full of people who daily perform simple acts of heroism who with courage, determination and resolute resilience press on, not to become great and achieve renown, but just to get through the business of living.

And so for all of Zimbabwe’s everyday heroes — I salute you. And you, and you, and even you!

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her
personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to localdrummer@newsday.co.zw

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