By Tendai Ruben Mbofana MY dear elderly mother, in her moments of weariness, despondency and desperation — which appear to increase with maddening frequency as the unbearable and burdensome situation in Zimbabwe worsens by the day — had become fond (for lack of a better word) of sighing the Shona adages, vakafa hapana chavakaona, and vakafa vakazorora.
Of course, she would be referring to her late husband (my beloved father) who drowned and died on August 31, 2000, whilst engaged in his favourite pastime, fishing — as she always alludes to him having passed away before witnessing the pathetic mess our country has become, with the subsequent unspeakable suffering and impoverishment our so-called leaders have caused us.
Indeed, those who passed on never saw anything, and they are now at rest — as the Shona adages say.
Why would she not be thoroughly fed up, as well as sick and tired — when the pride of Africa, whose successful economy afforded her, a mere nurse, quite a comfortable livelihood, has so spectacularly fallen from grace — leaving her (as with millions other Zimbabweans) in a deplorable state of utter hopelessness and near destitution? Why would she not be exhausted (both emotionally and physically) when every little thing in her life has become a daily struggle?
My heart was wrenched the other day as she had to collect water for household chores — residing in a town that has not had a drop of water coming out of its homes taps for nearly seven straight months — whereby, she had to travel, from one place to another, covering some considerable distances, in search of the precious liquid, just to fill a few receptacles, that would not even be enough for more than a day or two. After which, she had to endure the over-bearing headache of stitching together the little money available, to buy the most basic necessities — which have become unaffordable and out of reach – with the further pressure of preparing for visitors coming in a few days, and all the requirements involved.
Can anyone fault her for resigningly lamenting her usual sigh — vakafa hapana chavakaona, and vakafa vakazorora?
It is unsettling to hear one’s own mother utter such words — realising the hell she is going through — further worsened by old age. When I heard those words of dejection — my mind immediately raced back to the days our father was still alive and ably looking after the family.
I remembered the unlimited joy and excitement he had when Zimbabwe attained her independence on April 18, 1980 — as he had been an active member of the then revolutionary Zanu PF party, leading to his blacklisting from his beloved teaching profession on account of his unwavering anti-colonial activism —gripped by unrestrained hope and aspirations for a new country where every citizen would be guaranteed “milk and honey”.
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I can still picture in my mind those tea cups we had, branded with the face of the then Prime Minister Robert Gabriel Mugabe, with the Zimbabwe flag on the other side, and the words “Zimbabwe Independence April 18, 1980” proudly inscribed underneath.
In fact, he made sure to attend both the first independence celebrations at Rufaro Stadium, in the capital Harare, and Mugabe’s “homecoming” rally in Gweru (fresh from Mozambique, where he had led the liberation struggle) —
Then, there were those two photographs of Mugabe, and then President Canaan Sodindo Banana, brightening the living room, placed atop the curtain rails for all who visited our home to see. I will not even go into the many revolutionary songs – in the form of vinyl records – that we all enjoyed singing along to, in addition to the pre-independence sitting around the radio receiver at night, as we surreptitiously listened to the Voice of Zimbabwe broadcasts beamed from Mozambique.
I reflect on to all the promises made to the people of Zimbabwe (my parents included) by their “revolutionary” leaders — of ultimately living the same lavish lifestyle that whites had, and enjoying similar luxuries as they. Indeed, when we moved to the “White suburb” of Redcliff in 1982, and I was enrolled at an equally “White school” — I am absolutely sure my parents were convinced that those promises were beginning to bear fruit, what with the higher standards of education in our learning institutions, and now being able to afford the best the country had to offer, free from the reins of segregation and oppression.
As a matter of fact, when I began writing articles in Kwekwe newspapers, from 1989 (while doing Form Three at Kwekwe High School) — calling out the Zimbabwe regime for its plunder and pillaging of our national resources as well as devilish human rights abuses — my father was not particularly thrilled, since he perceived these as unwarranted attacks on a government that was performing quite well, and doing its best.
Of course, in spite of my young age, I could clearly see the writing on the wall — of the imminent crumbling and ruination of this glorious “house of stones” — based on the rampant unchecked high-level corruption and mismanagement at the State-owned Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel), as well as the harrowing savagery I had witnessed at the tender age of nine years, with the heinous atrocities unleashed upon our Ndebele-speaking neighbours, at the hands of rabid ruling party thugs.
As much as my parents had been totally repulsed by, and staunchly against, this barbaric genocide – resulting in them warning beforehand any Ndebele-speaking families, whom they had received information would be targeted – my father largely remained committed and loyal to his beloved Zanu PF, as he still held out hope, and carried a strong belief that all would be well in Zimbabwe.
Tragically, he passed away in 2000 — not having seen, with his own eyes, the cruel tearing up of all those wartime and post-independence promises – as the country was subsequently driven right over the edge of a cliff, by the same people who professed to be our liberators and “Moses-like” saviors — yet, had become far worse than the “pharaohs” they had ostensibly “saved us from”.
Admittedly, by the year 2000, all the signs and symptoms of a severely and critically ill country, destined for the ICU (intensive care unit) were glaringly there for all to see — even those who had continued to hold on to some faith, although significantly reducing by the day, that our “liberators” would somehow still deliver.
Notwithstanding that the country was already in the jaws of a catastrophe — characterised by major fuel shortages, a local currency that was rapidly depreciating (leading us to ridicule it as the ZimKwacha — after the Zambian currency, which at that time, was possibly the weakest in the region) — resulting in skyrocketing prices of basic commodities.
Mind you, there were no “economic sanctions”, and “regime change agents” to talk about!
This was the main reason Zanu PF was nearly walloped by the nine-month-old MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) opposition, led by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, at the June 2000 general elections.
I am quite convinced that, in spite of my father never openly admitting to this fact — he could, nonetheless, tell that all the euphoria of April 18, 1980 was largely much ado about nothing – since even his optimism and confidence were clearly waning swiftly, with signs of his disappointment and frustration beginning to show.
However, as my mother – some 20 years later (after losing all her savings, investments, and pensions, due to the hyperinflationary environment of the early 2000s, and experiencing the brunt of the Zanu PF regime’s unrepentant disgraceful looting and incompetence) — would say, my late father never saw anything, and he is better off where he is now, as opposed to having lived through this hell on earth.
Needless to say, even that glamorous “White suburb”, and its esteemed “White school” have been reduced to nothing more than disgusting hovels — not even conducive for dignified human habitat, and unfit for learning of any type.
I could not agree with my mother more — since, even I (at times, when the challenges in this country become too much and unbearable) begin to feel that, those who passed away are indeed in a much better place of rest.
If only my father could see what this horrendous and sadist government had cruelly done to his wife.
If only he could see how that once vibrant and energetic loving lady had been drained and sucked dry, at the dirty wicked hands of a people who were herald as heroes and heroines — yet have morphed into the most evil oppressors this country has ever had the misfortune of being presided over.
I see the pain in my mother’s soul.
I see the depth of her despair and dejection.
I see the hollowness in her, from which the Zanu PF regime has stolen all of who she was.
If my dear father had been alive today, to see what had been done to his wife – I am more than convinced that his love for his party, would have easily turned into deep-seated loathing and indescribable revulsion, for the people he once regarded his heroes and idols.
And, then I think to myself — do these cold-hearted leaders even know what awaits them when they eventually meet their Maker?
I seriously doubt that!
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator