Letter from America: There is always something to surprise you in Africa

When we tried to find a connecting air-link by Kuva Airline, the three information officers in the booth were equally unimpressed. They knew nothing about the airline, nor did they care to find out where we could go. I was impressed by their lackadaisical approach to life.

BY KENNETH MUFUKA Though I make an annual pilgrimage to my homeland, there is always something of a surprise awaiting me. While the wear and tear of mismanagement has taken its toll, the sense of African hospitality, the ever-smiling African face — Mauya!  What have you brought us from the white man’s land, will cheer even the most hardened heart. How the gloomy situation at Robert Mugabe International Airport can fail to depress the customs and immigration officers is beyond me. The light went off, just after we arrived. Our luggage was misplaced somewhere in Doha. Two young women tried their best, writing the details of our lost luggage in the dark. The ledger books they were using were used by the British East India Company in the 18th Century. I was impressed by the bossman brother. The depressing environment meant nothing to him. The whole point of his lifestyle was to impress himself and whoever cared to take note that he was the bossman. He walked deliberately, ignoring the mayhem surrounding him. It took us three hours to register the loss of our luggage.

When we tried to find a connecting air-link by Kuva Airline, the three information officers in the booth were equally unimpressed. They knew nothing about the airline, nor did they care to find out where we could go. I was impressed by their lackadaisical approach to life. With so much going wrong around them, this attitude must be the best approach to fighting high blood pressure. After chasing the Kariba trip for two days, twice at the Robert Mugabe International information centre, having been referred to the domestic airport, we were finally sent out of town to Chisipite Bon Marche Centre. Surprise of surprises Ms Georgia Naidoo, vivacious, what Americans call a take charge lady, brought us into the global picture. It was as if we were back in the US. It was like sharing the “Been to the Mountain Experience” with St Peter. The young women who worked at the Kuva Centre were computer wizards. But I jump the gun. Contrast to the drab dresses of the Mugabe International Airport officers, these young women boasted of the latest fashions. Their shoes came from Gigi, I spotted tight fitting Amani leggings. The young men working in that office were equally illustrious in their attire, one was blessed by a Boss tight fitting trouser pair and another an Antoine (pronounced Antwan) buckle pair of shoes. Ms. Georgia, who gave me the title of “legend” served us with a disarming smile and efficiency that convinced me that I was in another country. She was dressed in a modernistic fashion, perhaps a tasteful white caftan silhouetting her upper figure in a most disarming way. Her customers fell into the same league. One was attired in an English frock, which, having distanced itself from her knees, were moderately shadowed by an overlay tunic. It was as if only the fashionistas were allowed in her airline hub. Her efficiency would bring some cheers to the worst human hear in the world. The customers were equally divided into white and black, all of them holding bunches of US dollars in their hands, business was brisk, and Georgia never got a spell to rest. Both genders spoke through their noses and were more European than I was. The point I am making is that there are two Zimbabweans. If you live in the world in which Georgia lives, it is possible that you may go for a month without meeting the political scoundrels who have made a religion of mismanaging the country. Is there hope?

As soon as one lands in the country, even in the worst of times, one cannot miss what Bishop Desmond Tutu called the humanity of Africans. That is the muti (medicine) that keeps all of us, Diasporans, coming back to the land of our fathers. Georgia’s smile is price-less. She represents our race well. All is not lost. The lost luggage manager is dull and deliberate, but he has managed to keep his dignity under the circumstances. All power to him. The atmosphere he works under is horrible, but he has not lost hope. It took a passenger cohort of 50 humans three hours to pass through immigration. That must not be tolerated. At Heathrow Airport, two dream liners landed at the same time, carrying a cohort of over 700 passengers. Using techno-screeners, we never spoke to a human. The scanners photocopied our passports and opened the gates into the United Kingdom. There was a sign inviting job seekers, presumably nurses and home care workers, to stand in line so they could be vetted. When we left, 50 of them had disappeared from the line. The roads were abusive, with potholes returning the abuse by deflating size 12 car tyres. I saw two cars disabled within five miles of the airport. I did not see a single person holding Zimbabwe dollars. One wonders, when the rulers will learn that, in the long run, people will find ways of disregarding bad laws. The hope of keeping the “stupid Zimbabwe dollar” in circulation, though desirable, is a lost cause. The very presence of two distinct Zimbabwe’s, side by side with each other, the thoroughly depressing Mugabe International Airport situation, and the brilliant lively and efficient modernistic atmosphere exemplified by Georgia Naidoo, shows that all hope is not lost. The future is there for us to see. The dream of a Zimbabwe we like is right there before us. One last word. No, my Supreme Sister Georgia, it is not I who is a legend. It is you who is a hero. You have stayed home and made life pleasant for all those around you. I ran away from the depressing situation. You are my hero.

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