BY Tendai Kamba
These borders were, indeed, a construct of the colonial white men that need to be dismantled. From the labourer that left to work in the newly opened gold mines, to Inkosi Albert John Luthuli who toiled for the freedom that you enjoy today, to the recent migrant who braved the barbed wire and crossed the mighty Limpopo River to work there and provide cheap labour, Zimbabwe’s contribution to the development of South Africa has been immense sweat and blood.
Dudula was founded in Soweto a few months after the July 2021 riots that erupted when former president Jacob Zuma was sentenced to jail for contempt of court.
First in the early 1980s, our dinners were characterised by stories of young men leaving families for Jozi (Johannesburg) or Wenela and supply it with cheap labour, turning their backs on families and never return. Such stories include my grandmother’s, in which she would shed tears recounting the day her brother, said his goodbyes to her on his way to Jozi at the height of apartheid to work for the gold mines in Johannesburg and never to return.
Second, during the struggle against apartheid, we opened our homes, provided shelter, provided work, land and refuge to you our fellow brothers. We trained with our fellow comrades from the ANC ranks, took up arms and fought hand-in-hand, bled for your freedom even as we were fighting for ours.
Third, throughout history as one people we have always provided each other refuge in times of trouble. When brothers in one area fought, such as Mzilikazi and Shaka, Mzilikazi ran to seek refuge in the Matopo Hills. As they say, the more the times change, the more they stay the same, people have moved up and down the region for centuries.
No wonder we share the mighty Mapungubgwe civilisation heritage, official languages that include, Tswana, Tonga, Kalanga, KhoiSan, Ndebele, Shangani, Sotho, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa. Today, there is a disagreement between brothers in the north and rightly so those in the north are using the knowledge passed through the matriarch to run for the hills in the south.
Fourth, when you got your independence in 1994, as brothers we offered the best and the cream of our talent to help in the development of your State. We filled your universities, classrooms, boardrooms and townships with the best talent and skills next to none in the world. We sent our own children to study in your schools and uplift the standards. We chose to come and help, even though we could have gone elsewhere. We gave you our best qualified without asking for a cent on the education investments we made. We opened our markets for your goods and became your biggest trading partner in the world. Our blood and sweat has enriched your coffers through taxation, yet we have not asked for any share in it. With the help of our labour, South Africa is among the top 20 economies in the world.
Fifth, despite all our sacrifices we have never been welcomed as legitimate brothers and sisters. From a no pathway to citizenship, the humiliation of having to pay a taxi driver for permit to be renewed every three months, we have not complained but endured. We have seen foreign nationals who never lent you a place to light a fire before, the Indian Guptas been welcomed with open hands while we are labelled aliens. Yet, when Elvis Nyathi heeds the call of his ancestor Mzilikazi to return to his ancestral home of Gauteng, he is murdered and burnt in broad daylight only for wanting to provide for his family. Our claim lies in the soil as the blood of the Vendas and Ndebeles, run in our veins.
Sixth, the illegal raids under dudula seem to be directed at the most vulnerable Zimbabwean. I urge you to protect the vulnerable, these are the people who when they earn that little spend it on rent in townships, they spend in the local township economy. From their tuckshops they have revived the township economy of Thembisa, Langa to name a few. They have also become our sisters and brothers-in-law. Their hard earned cash has also provided billions to the economy back in Zimbabwe.
Far from them taking away jobs from the locals they have provided opportunities for the locals to flourish, from store owners, local taverns, local schools and the more than three million strong Zimbabweans have enriched your communities.
Finally, I understand that a few bad apples have done appalling things in their places of refuge. The law should be allowed to take its course, inasmuch as a number of Zimbabweans have fallen victim to heinous crimes at the hands of locals, many paying the ultimate price of death, should get justice as well. Let me conclude with the words of Pali Lehohla who said so eloquently “…when foreign nationals cannot trade, they will not have the next meal, and in equal measure, when a local does not work, there cannot be the next meal….”
I urge you to open your country and let your brothers seeking refuge freeze. It’s only then we can achieve the goal of taking our continent back to being the most powerful nations in the world just like our predecessors, the mighty civilisations of Benin, Congo, Mapungubgwe, Kush and Great Zimbabwe kingdoms just to mention a few. Let us not anger our forbearers by spilling our brothers’ blood. Let us appease them by embracing our brothers, and work towards building a mighty South Africa. Only then can South Africa be healed.
- Tendai Kamba holds a PhD and writes from Wisconsin, United States