Cultural differences and dating

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you are all having a great weekend. My post today is a little different from the topics I usually write about. This topic is a lot more personal but still discusses important cultural and racial considerations. When I was growing up, it was encouraged that a good move would be to marry a foreigner. This is mainly due to a lot of colonial perceptions of importance which I have discussed in previous posts. Foreigners, white foreigners to be specific are portrayed as superior, in intellect and class and generally every facet you can think of. So it was indoctrinated in what seems to be my entire generation that marrying a (Western) foreigner meant you made a good choice in life.

So here I was, staring my first year of uni, expecting to get along with foreigners like a house on fire and potentially meeting my future husband. Now see, a huge naivety I had, (along with many other Zimbabweans) was undermining the significance of cultural differences. I have dated two people from this part of the world in my time at university, both of which I got along with really well. However, when I thought of taking them back home, I was filled with bucketloads of anxiety about how they would be received by my family and friends and what my partner would think about my family and friends. Being in the middle and considering both, I knew that each side would find the other somewhat weird.

However, this is is normal in all relationships; meeting someone’s family opens you up to an entirely different side of the person you are dating. But see, when you then come from entirely different cultures, these differences are exacerbated enormously.

The moment I realised this issue is a little bigger than I thought might seem like a very trivial moment but it was significant to me and my friend (who actually has always said she is marrying a Zimbabwean for these exact reasons). We were reminiscing on the last time we had been to a Zimbabwean wedding and through the nostalgia we ended up curating a wedding playlist. If you are Zimbabwean, or coloured, rather, you will recognise these songs as being the necessity of all good weddings. But if you are not, these songs will have zero significance to you and they may actually sound like quite bad songs to play at a wedding. This is when I started to realise that I would be deeply upset if my significant other did not understand the importance of these songs to my community. I mean sure, I could teach them and force feed them African music but what about the food and the colloquial language and the style and socialisation and the cultural norms? Truthfully, I know I do not have the patience to tech someone all of these things.

While I have an extremely loving and supportive family who would most likely embrace whoever I was dating, it is likely that they would feel the same barrier that I do. I imagine this person sitting at gathering surrounded by my somewhat loud family or friends who speak more-or-less English albeit with some unintelligible words such as “oan,” “it’s chando,” “Mensa” “Jorl,” “let’s go cabin,” “we’re cutting/landing.” In all of this, I would either have to be explaining each word as it came up or leaving this person to try and make sense of what was being said around them. Moreover, behaviour in general would make me feel very nervous. My partner would not understand the crass jokes being made. Nor would my family understand a lot of my partners culturally influenced behaviours like “going Dutch.”

Clearly the themes of culture and race in Zimbabwe are interwoven with themes of cultural significance, historical considerations and economic security. Our countries and people in them have struggled with economic stability for years and looking on countries where it seems like people are doing better in this aspect, it is assumed that life with a foreign partner would be more stable. Additionally, as I have explained in a previous post “get your passport out of here,” because Zimbabweans (and other ex-colonial countries) have been taught to see themselves as less and that everything in the West seems better; including the people. However, when I reflected on how much my culture is ingrained in me, I realised that I would never want to water it down. It is extraordinarily unique and I question why I ever looked down on it.

It isn’t new news that dating inter-culturally is difficult, without even considering long-term issues such as how each of you would want to raise your children. But my question is, why it is so encouraged to date outside of the community for superficial reasons or the the illusion of obtaining a better life with someone who was born in a ‘rich’ country. My point of all of this is that the reasons we have for forsaking each other as good matches really don’t make sense when you think about it. This is not to say that dating inter-culturally is impossible or that we (or I) shouldn’t do it, it is simply to highlight the fact that you already have a solid ground of understanding with the person you grew up next to and venturing out to search for “greener grass” is not always the best thing to do.

What the people want

Happy Sunday everyone! My favourite day of the week! I hope you all had exciting or restful weekends and feel energised enough to take on the week ahead. I hope I can entertain you this lovely Saturday afternoon, or at least give you something to think/ talk about. On that note, I’d like to throw a special shoutout to all the people who have casually been discussing Zimbabwean politics with me. I have noticed that ever since I started this blog, politics seems to the go to topic when people see me which I am loving. All of these conversations are inspiring me even more and getting me to think about a lot of things I haven’t actually been considering.

Which brings me to the topic of the day, I have noticed, while speaking to people about politics that really, most people want the same things. It’s not exceptionally outrageous things or things that are difficult to achieve but for some unknown reason, politics and politicians make things harder than they need to be. Like most people, I am a Hegelian, I am a realist and I believe that people need a leader. Not only that they need one but I also believe that it is human nature to gravitate towards a leader, we are much more comfortable being told what to do (so long as it makes some sort of sense and does not go against our intrinsic morals). Back to the need, I am not saying that humans are incapable of being completely autonomous beings in charge of their own destinies, but let’s be honest, it would be a disaster if everyone could do whatever they wanted. Also, the need for leaders comes from the fact that we are community creatures, if there’s one thing that I am certain about, it is that human’s cannot survive alone. But see, our communities only function if there is someone looking out for them; someone who will have the best interest of the general group rather than each individual looking out for themselves. However, these are my personal philosophical beliefs so there are people who will disagree with what I am saying. Regardless, I fundamentally believe that humans need to be led. Where the issue seems to lie is who should be doing the leading? How do we choose that? And all the other questions that centre around the larger question of what makes a good leader.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

– Ronald Reagan

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently writing my final thesis on certain political ideologies within Zimbabwe. In order to give myself a true representation of how Zimbabweans view the things I am looking at, I have been conducting interviews with many people, asking them what they think about certain things. I have been shocked to my core about some of the responses I have been getting (in a good way). My Western trained mind expected very cliché answers like ‘we want democracy’ and ‘we want equality.’ But these were not the insights I gained speaking to everyday Zimbabweans. As a disclaimer; this is not to mean that all Zimbabweans want the things I am about to describe but the ones I interviewed did and I tried to make my interviewees as diverse as possible in terms of race, gender, social class, geographical location and age.

Zimbabweans do not want democracy. Well, more accurately they do not want direct or deliberative democracy. I do not know if it is because Zimbabweans have become so accustomed to the style of government we have now (whatever style that might be), but they want a single, strong leader to lead the country. I was really shocked that the idea of democratic representation meant very little to many Zimbabweans. They wanted democracy in the sense of choosing the next leader; on he grounds of her/his expertise, character, background etc., but after that most people did not seem to care. They did not care about how long this person would stay in power for or what form of political organisation they would undertake. They simply wanted the option to choose what they saw as a good leader and after that, the leader is expected to lead. As one of interviewees neatly put it, Zimbabweans are longing for a ‘good dictator.’

Honestly, none of this sat well with me. But the logic does make sense, I might be a little jaded because as I have mentioned, I have very little faith in humans in general. I believe that no matter how ‘good’ our dictator starts out, they could always become prey to corruption and duplicity. However, as I went along into the questions, I began to see that Zimbabweans have such bizarre political goals because of the current system they are embroiled in. I asked people what they thought would make a good leader and again, I already had expected answers in my mind like ‘educated’ and ‘honest.’ But what seemed to make a good leader is someone who does not let their people starve, someone who educates and provides healthcare >infrastructure< etc. None of these were initially really in my mind because I thought they were a given.

“Zimbabwean doctors and nurses demonstrate in Harare on November 18, 2008. Truckloads of riot police were deployed outside Harare’s main hospital to prevent scores of doctors and nurses from marching in protest at the state of Zimbabwe’s collapsing health system. At least 50 people are believed to have died of cholera this month, according to health officials, due to the rapid break down in sanitation in many parts of the capital.” AFP PHOTO / DESMOND KWANDE

Now see, my preconceived idea of a good leader had a lot to do with corruption. I would think that a good leader is one that is not corrupt but to my surprise, most Zimbabweans didn’t care about that (well not in the way I expected). People seem to believe that as long as the country is functioning and basic necessities are made available to the people then they could not care less if excess funds were being stolen from the country. To some extent I have always believed this was the case because lets be honest, political corruption takes place in all countries but in the ones where the people are taken care of, a little corruption is swept under the rug.

In short, Zimbabwean’s political goals are modest and so easily achievable. This is not to say that once/if things get better people will not expect more but it is to highlight the fact that right now, in this moment, people are suffering to the extent that they would be happy with the bare minimum of good leadership. The things people are asking for right now from the current leadership are things that are naturally expected in other parts of the world, but yet, it seems as though Zimbabweans are asking for a lot. When yet all they are asking for is a means for survival.

The reality of standing up

Happy Monday everyone! I hope that you and your families are all doing well. Thank you once again for joining me for some Monday reading. As you have noticed, a lot of the pieces I write are about things that perplex me and things I still have no answers to. I guess, I want people to be as perplexed as me and ask themselves the same hard questions I have been asking myself. 

http://www.ucf.edu

I have always been a loud-mouthed person…I always speak up to injustice and wrongfulness without second guessing and I have never found it hard to stand up for other people even if I am not particularly interested in what has upset them. I guess you can say I have an unprovoked fighting spirit. In this respect, I do not think I work well in bureaucratic environments because I believe in rebelling against ‘the system,’ (yes, I see the irony of this sentence considering I am an aspiring politician). However, because of this nature of my character, there have been many situations where people have asked me to voice their opinions on their behalf – which I have, and I have gotten myself in some trouble while doing so. Not that I really cared about the trouble, as I said, I like to speak epically in situations where I feel there has been some sort of injustice committed. What I always questioned was why don’t people just stand up for themselves? If they think something is so wrong, why don’t they just say it… I would. How ignorant was I? I stubbornly thought this for a while and even asked people why they don’t just protest themselves. It took me a lot of these questions to realize that the reason I could protest so easily was because of privilege. Privilege in the simple fact that I had always been the person to cause this sort of trouble, so I was handled in a different way to someone who was quiet and did not necessarily know how to fight people who had more power than them (institutional power in the examples I am thinking of). Privilege in that I have always been supported so I have always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, even if I am alone in that belief. Privilege in that I come from a good home, so I have never been scared to speak up even if it means losing that position or job. I began to understand that people do not have these privileges to back them up in certain situations and so, if it is between accepting something unjust or ending up in a compromising position, the former is the logical choice.

While I am using a personal example to explain the privilege that is associated with standing up to injustice and/or inequality, this privilege can be exemplified on a much larger scale. Looking at Zimbabwe, the question has been asked by young people time and time again… why is no one standing up to any of the horrific things happening in the country? I have asked my older family members the same thing, why have you done nothing all these years? Things are getting worse and worse and yet none of us are standing up. One of the answers came to me during the Black Lives Matter Movement. I couldn’t help but marvel at what was going on in the US and I thought wow, why don’t we just do that too! The honest answer is that we are afraid, we do not have the same privilege of protection that Americans do. If an American dies in protest, there will be international outcry but if a Zimbabwean dies in protest (which thousands have over the years), it will not even make an international news story, if even a Zimbabwean news story at that. Our government would kill us without questions of morality or humanity if we dared to protest for a better Zimbabwe.

Another reason Zimbabweans do not protest even though we are suffering is also something I did not consider because of my place of privilege. I have lived in peacetime my entire life, I have never witnessed a war or even layed eyes on a gun. Due to the political complexity of Zimbabwe, even if we were to get through the protest stage alive, a war would most likely erupt. It is easy for someone of my generation, who hasn’t witnessed much violence to say “let’s fight!” because we do not know what the reality of that means. I look towards other African and Middle Eastern countries who have stood up to their governments and I see the somber reality of what would happen to my home if we dared to stand up. So that really leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Either we continue to live through tyranny, or we die.

Through understanding these realities of privilege in areas of life that most of us don’t even recognize, I understood how hard it actually is to stand up (in any context) when you are against a side that has all the power. While I can do it on a small scale and not be as worried about the consequences, the situation of Zimbabwe breeds deep, generational consequences. So, I speak to Zimbabwean youth who have asked their parents time and time again why they have let all this unfold, to understand what standing up in this situation may mean. In such complicated situations as these what would then be the best solution? Do you stand up or do you hang on to the semblance of security you have?

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.” 

 – Criss Jami, Killosophy

A changed self image

Happy Friday everyone! It has been longer than one month since I wrote to/for you last! Although for me, it seems like it’s been much longer. I had a well needed break and the most warm and loving holiday period spent with family and friends 💗 I hope you all had the same and entered 2021 on nothing but immaculate energy. After the holiday period, I had the longest January ever (I am well aware that January is not over)! But for the most part, I have gotten over my covid and I am feeling healthy and energised enough to write something potentially interesting. Before I get to the actual topic, I just want to say that I know so many Zimbabweans are struggling at the moment. Since December, people have been dying from covid at a rate that we were not prepared for in the slightest and I just want to extend my condolences to anyone who has lost someone recently, I am very sorry ❤️ Those who have relatives or friends who are still battling or are still sick themselves, I am sending you love and light and God willing, you will all be ok. I thought about making this piece a covid-follow up seeing as I just went through it all myself and faced all covid politics, differing medical opinions, healthcare failures and so on but honestly, I do not know how to report on covid in Zimbabwe because like everyone else, I have absolutely no clue what is going on. Everyone is kind of left to fend for themselves as soon as they get the positive result and everyone just has to hope that they are making the best decisions for themselves or their loved ones.

Instead, today, I’d like to start a discussion over something I witnessed a few years ago. It was a very regular experience but it was something that really perplexed me and stuck with me ever since. My mom needed to go into the pharmacy so I was sitting in the car waiting for her… I was bored and she was taking long so I started to just observe my surroundings. For contextual knowledge, this was around the time where there was a forex shortage in Zimbabwe and people would spend days and even sleep in bank lines with the hopes of receiving some money from the bank. We were parked right in front of a bank and the line wasn’t too long but it was significantly long and new people were joining it. I paid no attention to race but I looked at the people in the line, there were men, women, old, young, some with babies etc. and a lot of people were chatting which made me think they had been in the line for most of the day. Suddenly, a very old women (who was black) walked straight to the front of the line, assuming that people would let her through because was a senior citizen, honestly I thought they would let her through as well but they did not. She tried to talk to people in the front of the line and ask if they would let her through but they instead caused a lot of commotion and sent her to the back of the line. I was very disappointed but I thought nothing of it, I guess fair is fair. But something stunning happened a few minutes later, a middle aged white woman got out of her car, walked to the front of line, waited for the next person to be called and confidently walked into the bank without saying a single word to anyone. No one in the line said anything to her either. I was sitting there, with my mouth open wondering what exactly just happened. Still, I did not think it had anything to do with race, I was just shocked that nobody said anything to her. So I continued watching, intrigued now and I actually noticed a pattern, there were only black people standing in the line but there were a number of white people entering and existing the bank. They were all wanting the same thing from the bank but some were waiting to get it and some were simply going in and getting it.

www. history.com

I thought about the incident for a while and realised that I have seen similar things happen quite regularly. People say that colonialism is over, slavery is over apartheid is over and they are right, these things are over but the remnants of them still exist very dominantly. During such times, a very clear hierarchy of racial significance was developed and that hierarchy clearly still exists in the minds of many. White people always have and still demand respect and authority. I am very much ok with this, where I saw the problem was with how little respect black people regard themselves with. The white people thought it was their right to ignore that line and walk straight into the bank and do what they needed to but the black people also thought it was their right as well because did not show a single sign of protest. Instances like these remind us that the historical wrongs have been drummed into our heads and we have to actively unlearn these feeling of ‘less-than’ or ‘better-than.’

While I have mentioned that I see these displayed feelings in the majority of black Zimbabweans, there is a group which also does the exact opposite. Zimbabwean black elites have re-gained authority and respect but not in a way that is conducive to anyone in the country. The groups I refer to do not only demean generationally white Zimbabweans for lacking Zimbabweaness but they also demean other black people that are of a lower social strata. These groups are a prime example of when one regains agency, self-love and respect for oneself from a place of hatred for the other rather than genuine self-love. A lot of people may fall into this trap because of the lack of re-enforcement of the significance and importance of black people, without these reminders of love, there is usually space to breed hatred for the group that has made you feel lesser. Why I think this is important is because I see African-Americans slowly building up their pride of being black and of being of African ancestry but I do not see the same pride coming out of Africa. The pride which is growing here still somewhat has an element of comparison to the white man, rather than just pure love and respect for oneself. I think it is mainly because African’s do not like to address race, it is a topic we are very uncomfortable with and so if it is never spoken about, no one knows how they should be acting or remedying the situation.

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

Bertrand Russell

This quote explains exactly what is going on in Zimbabwe. Black and white is very clearly still divided in all areas and I really struggle to understand why. Who does this division serve? I may be poking the bear here but to be frank, racism made a little more sense before. A group was made to feel lesser for purposes of power, domination and capitalisation. But now, it is blatantly clear that a skin tone does not make anyone better than anyone else so why do we still treat each other differently based on it? It makes absolutely no sense for either group to be harbouring so much hatred. What I would want for the people of Zimbabwe is for each and every black person to remember that regardless of the past, this has been and always will be your home, that you are worthy of respect, equal treatment and you should demand it from everyone including each other. Ask your other friends why they may speak to white people differently to the way they speak to you, why they change demeanour when dealing with a white person and when dealing with a black person. Demand explanations and demand change because that is the only way we can get rid of this ridiculous hierarchy which exists. For white Zimbabweans, it is time to seriously take heed of the privileges that exists to your advantage in this country simply because of how the world is constructed. You are every much as Zimbabwean as everyone else but the work towards a more unified country involves you as well and the way you choose to treat and socialise with everyone else you come across in this country.

A different type of Socialization

Happy almost-weekend everyone! I hope you have all had a good and prosperous week! Today, I come to you with a topic which I still have a lot of questions and assumptions around.

After reading copious amounts of history on former colonies and what happened to them after colonisation; how most of them ‘failed’ according to the Western standard of success, I could not wrap my head around the ‘why.’ Well that is mainly because there is no single reason for this outcome but today I will address one of the reasons that are chiefly responsible for these ‘failures.’ Western culture is one of individuality and this is rooted in almost all of the institutions and social norms in Western countries. The hegemonic dominance that then came with colonisation forced colonies to also adapt to this idea of individualism. However, the culture in the ‘failed’ states is one of communality and togetherness. Adapting from community oriented systems and ways of living to structures which promote individualism is something that countries such as Zimbabwe could not master and probably never will.

http://www.adventuretravelnews.com

From time immoral we have based our living around community and living together. What was mine was everyone’s and a single persons achievements were that of an entire community. This still exists – but it is getting less and less as Western influence permeates each generation. My point though, is that, when Western systems were introduced (introduced being a very passive word compared to how these systems were implemented), African (as well as South American and Asian) communities had to adapt and change their entire way of living. Take capitalism for example, in order to be successful in a capitalist world, a person has to be individually oriented and not worry about how their actions will affect the greater ‘community.’ This change was easy for some but for most of the country it was an unimaginable shift in the way life was viewed. In many respects, individuality is reserved for privileged societies. You can be an autonomous and stable individual in the Netherlands because you have the means and opportunities to sustain yourself through the systems that have been built for citizens. However, in places like Zimbabwe, individuality is seen as more of a burden because the support and help of a community is needed just to get by. This is probably the reason we are still very much community oriented as a people and why we fail in systems that demand us to abandon our communities for the goals of prosperity, growth and development.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” 

― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Now while I talk of the impact this had on the reception of Western institutions, cultures and expectations in these countries very briefly, there is a host of literature out there if you are interested in the topic; which can explain it in much more depth than I have. While I have mainly spoken about this contrast on individualism and communalism in the past; it is something that still very much exists today. I was so shocked when I moved to The Netherlands and I observed how much time people spent alone. When I first moved, I loved it! As I have mentioned, I come from a very tight knit community where everyone’s nose is in everyone’s business so I was quite relieved to move somewhere where nobody cared what I was doing with my life. Dutch people make small talk and that’s about it and I liked that because at home, you can’t breathe without at least ten people knowing about it. But recently, (and I’m not sure if this is because of corona or because I’ve just been away for so long), I long for the inquisitiveness and the constant noise of having people around. I have started to notice how lonely people were in this part of the world. This is not to say that Zimbabweans aren’t lonely or that there are no tight-knit communities in Western countries, the dynamics of socialisation are just very different.

I was speaking with a Dutch friend who could not believe what I was telling her about the way we socialised as a community, how much we shared and how much time we spend together. She thought the concept of ‘sympathising’ was such great, revolutionary idea (because they don’t do that here). For those who do not know what sympathising is; when someone dies within the community, the rest of the community come and console the immediate family of the deceased for about a week or two. People bring food and come and spend days on end with the family; grieving, praying, eating and remembering the person who has died. This is what I mean when I say that we NEED our communities, it is not only about economic interdependence but we have had a system of emotional interdependence from as far back as I went into history.

So yes, we have ‘failed’ in the realms of economics, politics (this is not part of this conversation though), and development. But, I don’t think our togetherness and communality is something we are willing to or are even capable of sacrificing. On this same line, most Zimbabweans have the spirit of ‘if we suffer, we suffer together.’ If someone is left behind, we will go back and get them and start the journey all over again. So, many have argued that this is why we have remained stagnant. There are many country-specific reasons that ex-colonies have ‘failed’ to be prosperous, however, this cultural dynamic is one that really got me to think because it is a dynamic that challenges me being on the cusp of both realities. I would always vote for the community oriented world but I also had to understand that the choice came from a place of privilege; I have never gone hungry and I have never struggled. I am one of the lucky ones who actually has the benefits from both worlds. But, it is still something that needs to be seriously considered as we are living in a time that needs the stability and love of communities more than ever.

The Coloured Community

Los Angeles 2017:

Stranger: “Wow, you look so exotic, what are you?”
Me: “Coloured”
Stranger: [gasps] OMG, you can’t use that term!

Firstly, I was annoyed with being called “exotic” hence my blunt, one word answer and secondly, I was confused by how someone of a different race just told me how I should or should not refer to myself and my own race. After that, years of traveling around America and Europe taught me that “coloured” in Southern Africa meant something completely different compared to the rest of the world. Where I’m from coloured symbolises a community and a culture, whereas elsewhere it is a reminder of racist, derogatory terms used during slavery. So I got groomed into telling people that I am “mixed race” but I am not mixed race…

Both of my parents are coloured, which would mean that I am technically not a mixture of black and white, I am a coloured person made from two coloured people. Complicated…I know. However, my want and need to identify as coloured is not just about the technicalities of my racial makeup, it is about the meaning of coloured in my country. The history of our community is a sordid one which we have turned into a celebration of belonging. The beginning of coloured or mixed race people was a story of slaveowners raping their slaves and so came about mixed people. So we started from a violent and pessimistic story which then got worse over time. Because of how we came about, we were not accepted by either races. We were an embarrassment to both black and white and we fitted neither category. Even now, we are definitely not considered white but we are too diluted to be considered black either so where exactly does that leave us? It left us creating our own coloured community which is comprised of people who have never really belonged anywhere else.

We have our own neighbourhoods, our food, our accent and our own culture. You could go as far as saying we have our own language because when I use coloured slang no other person can understand me except a Southern African coloured person. What is more is that we relish in our culture, we are extremely proud of it despite its stereotypes and negative aspects. We cook our curries and have our braii’s wherever we go, our accent is strong and distinguishable and our party spirit (which is unmatched) follows us no matter where we are.

The top picture is my family members when they were younger (my mother’s generation). The picture on the left is my friends and I just last December and the picture on the right is my baby brother and I. As you can see, we are all different shades of brown but we all still identify as coming from the exact same community. We understand jokes that no one else will and we see life and each other in a different way. So, yes, I am proudly coloured and that word means more to us than people will ever understand.

Lately, however, coloured or mixed race people have become something of a trend which is both shocking and quite sad. Everyone suddenly wants little mixed babies with caramel brown skin and curly hair. So after we went from being the rejected race, we are now being fetishised into the ideal physical appearance. However, what is being done is what society does with everything; make the positive aspects of something trendy while never understanding the history or pain something carries with it. Yes being seen as beautiful in society is great but we found ourselves beautiful long before you did. What needed to come before the aesthetic appreciated of a mixed person was the understanding of how we have come to be and the struggles we have faced. The struggles of being called a ‘half-breed,’ ‘half-casts’ or as having no race at all. The struggle of being identified as drunkards, lazy, aggressive, school-drop-outs teen parents, incestous and a long list of negative stereotypes. While these stereotypes are not representative of us, we are far from perfect as a community but we are a proud community. We are thankful for each other and we will always stick by each other no matter the circumstances. So all of this is what you need to understand if you want to appreciate what it is to be coloured.

July 31st

Twitter.com/31July/04072020

Hello everyone. I hope you have all had a good start to your week and I would like to thank you again for coming back to read and for sharing my posts with your friends and family. It has been extremely interesting and exciting to have people message me on follow-ups on what I have been writing about. I never intended this blog to be a sort of investigative journalism space but I feel like it is unintentionally turning into that and I am ok with that so long as everyone remembers that I don’t really know anything. What I mean by that is that I am not intentionally eliciting any sort of action from anyone, my posts are intended to be thought-provoking and I am glad that they are getting people thinking. A handful of people messaged me after reading the last post asking what the solution to the problem would be and what they should be doing to protect the future of Zimbabwe. At that point, I realised what I had been unintentionally but subconsciously intentionally doing; getting people to react to what what was going on around them. But I truthfully do not know what we should be doing. A part of me, the pessimistic part, realises that the only cry that will be heard is that of violence but the other side of me would never dream of a Zimbabwe which was at war with itself or anyone for that matter. We have always been known as being peaceful, no matter the circumstances and I honestly would never want that to change.

So this leaves us where exactly? Zimbabweans are exhausted and there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. A few weeks ago, I had decided that I would remove my name from my blog; or at least change it because I was scared. People had suggested it to me but from the beginning of this blog, political expression was always a fear of mine. ZANU-PF: I know there are a lot of non-Zimbabweans that read this blog that won’t know this terminology as much as Zimbabweans would but I will try and elaborate in instances where I can. ZANU-PF is the current and only ruling political party Zimbabwe has ever had and they have made it crystal clear that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly or freedom of conscience are not freedoms any Zimbabwean’s possess. Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, Netsai Marova and Hopewell Chin’ono are present day examples of the violence and corruption ZANU-PF uses to illicit fear in anyone who considers speaking up about their incompetence and lack of empathy in governing the country.

Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova are three brave and inspirational women who were protesting against mistreatment of Zimbabwean citizens during lockdown measures. They went missing after the peaceful protest for around 36 hours and when they were eventually found, it was discovered they had been abducted by police officers whose goal was to punish them and teach them a lesson about opposing the government. They were badly beaten, sexually assaulted and traumatised from the experience. They spent 2 weeks in hospital during which time they were ‘officially’ arrested for falsely claiming that they had been abducted by government officials. So, yes, after everything they had been through, they got arrested so that the lesson was not only taught to them but to everyone else who may have had the courage to stand up to the government. Hopewell Chin’ono is a Harvard educated Zimbabwe journalist who, despite the danger, reported on the corruption and looting of the current and previous governments. Chin’ono’s home was invaded and he was arrested by police officer for “eliciting public violence” through his plea’s for Zimbabweans to do something about the misery they are living in. Hopewell is currently still in prison and has been denied bail on no legal grounds. Both of these hopeless situations happened in the last two months. So, yes, I am terrified. But I realised that it would be quite hypocritical of me to hide behind a pseudonym or no name at all as I am writing for the purpose of change; mainly in the way people think, but change nonetheless. How can I preach that we need to do better for future generations and the future of our country and our world when I am afraid to show my face for causes that matter the most to me.

I have seen extraordinary things come out of Zimbabwe this year. People are actually speaking up regardless of the consequences it may have for them; I firmly believe that it is because at this point, many Zimbabweans have nothing to loose; they are fighting for their lives. People are making noise. There still isn’t as much noise as their should be but I am proud of my people who are petrified of going missing, being tortured and being killed. I understand the fear, I truly do but I have always said this and I will continue to say it until people understand: there is strength in numbers. The reason ZANU-PF has been able to continue these acts of tyranny is because these brave individuals usually speak up alone with little-to-no support, thus making them easy targets. If all of us say ‘Zvakwana’ at exactly the same time, what can they do other than listen to us? Zimbabweans have forgotten that the government serves us, that we hold the power and the longer we accept abuse, the further they will take it. That brings me to July 31st.

I haven’t been in Zimbabwe for a little over a month now so I will be honest and say that I do not fully know what is going on. Due to a countless amount of Whatsapp messages and social media posts regarding July 31st, it hard to know what exactly is going to be happening. Additionally, we know that president Mnangagwa has re-issued a lockdown and a 6pm-6am curfew for all Zimbabwean residents under the false pretences of covid-19. The reason for the lockdown is actually to stop people from gathering and demonstrating. There have been demonstrations by Zimbabwean nurses over the last few weeks, who refuse to work because of lack of pay and ill-treatment by the government. The president and the entire political party know that Zimbabweans have had enough and they know that if we stand together, they are finished. So they are preventing this at all costs. July 31st is supposed to be a day of demonstration by all Zimbabweans. It is supposed to be a day that we peacefully take to the streets to show the government that have had enough of their corruption, looting, violence and incompetence. I know many people are reluctant to take place for a number of reasons;

  • Our last march is not a positive example to look at because it gave us this government. We marched peacefully to end the Mugabe reign and it brought us an even worse ruler. In many ways, Mugabe had a soft spot in the heart of the Zimbabwean people and that awarded him 37 long years before we protested against him but the Mnangagwa government could not last 2 years with the most understanding and gracious of citizens so a change is definitely not something we should be afraid of.
  • Nothing will come of it. Well then we have nothing to lose.
  • Fear of covid. Wear masks and don’t touch each other. There are people all over Zimbabwe having house parties and going out so I think the covid excuse is being misused in instances that benefit people.
  • Fear of violence from the government. Obviously this is the most tricky one because this is a real and legitimate fear but I want to remind everyone reading this post that you are privileged. You have a computer or phone and internet access which means you have clothes on your body, a roof over your head and your belly is full. There are millions of Zimbabweans who are living hand to mouth, who do not know where they will sleep tonight or where their next meal will come from and that is because of the simple fact that our government is not taking care of its people. I am not asking you to die for these people but I am asking you to consider the fact that we are not them as a result of sheer luck, we were simply dealt a better hand and our children and children’s children could be living a life like that if we continue to ideally sit by as people are being mistreated all the way to their deaths.

I know for many people, it will be irritating to read this from someone who isn’t even in the country, someone who cannot stand on the street herself on July 31st but it is not a lie when I say that my heart aches not to be there. Regardless of the outcome of our last demonstration where upwards of 60% of the country took place, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt so powerful with masses of people chanting the same things as me and longing for the same things as me. Diaspora Zimbabweans forget that what happens at home effects them too even though they may not have to deal with it on a daily basis. Just because we aren’t there physically, it does not mean we cannot do anything, we can make noise, raise awareness and be there for those who are acting on our behalf. We are all in this together and I am certain that the course Zimbabwean history will be changed sooner than we think.

Re-Colonization?

Hello everyone 💕 It has been a while and a lot has happened since I last wrote.

I actually want to start the post today by paying tribute to someone special who was recently lost in our community. Death is a difficult thing and I think it’s even more difficult when it claims someone young; someone who had their whole life ahead if them. Miguel Antunes will be dearly missed by all of his friends and family and I pray for the strength for each and every one of you during this difficult time. 💗

(China in Africa: The real story)

Today, I would like to look at the somewhat dubious relationship Zimbabwe has had with China over the past few years. It is no secret to any Zimbabweans that behind all the smoke and mirrors, much of our country is being run by Chinese businessmen and politicians. Some might go so far as to say that our politicians have sold the country to China. Now, granted that Zimbabwe is a small drop in the pool of China’s current exploits, I think it is still something that Zimbabweans need to be weary about, or at least informed about.

When I arrived to Zimbabwe in December, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some construction was being done in the airport. But when I looked closely, I realised that the new section of the airport that was being built had Chinese signage. I was quite confused because Chinese is not nor has it ever been a language that is spoken in Zimbabwe. When I processed it for a little while, I actually wasn’t very surprised that this was happening, after all, there has been an influx of Chinese residents into Zimbabwe over the past few years. China wrote off a lot of our debts in the past years so some ‘accommodating’ signage is the least we can do right?

The China-Zimbabwe relationship actually started at the wake of independence. Robert Mugabe struggled to find support in the fight against Ian Smith and China reached out a long, unwavering arm. This a where a sort of love affair began between the two nations. Ever since, Beijing has always supported Harare and vice versa. Even when Zimbabwe was sanctioned by Western countries for gross human rights violations and China was encouraged to break ties, they did not. Instead, they offered political and economic assistance and bought gold (mines), platinum (mines), diamonds (mines) and real estate in the country to ‘boost’ the economy. Mugabe cherished the relationship and always had incredibly inspirational things to day about Xi Jinping:

“Here is a man representing a country once called poor; a country which never was our coloniser, but there you are. He is doing to us what we expected those who colonised us yesterday to do. If they have ears to hear, let them hear.”

(Robert Mugabe on Xi Jinping, China-African Cooperation Summit 2015)

It is understandable, when reading this to sympathise with what Mugabe meant. The country faced a lot of social, political and economic turmoil after independence and much of it can be attributed to the fact that the new politicians did not know how to govern the country they had just been given. A lot more support during the transition was expected from colonisers; in this case the British. Support that was promised and never given. So, no one really knew what to do with Zimbabwe; how to run an entire country, to follow through with what was promised to the people and to appease the international community. And again, China extended their other hand when Zimbabwe needed it and got more and more involved in the running of the country. But now that time has gone by, I do not think it was China giving to us at all, I think it was the other way around. Engulfed in the pressure and whirlpool of his mistakes, Mugabe let more and more of the country get sold. China was the only supporter of Zimbabwe or Mugabe for that fact but what was forgotten is that in politics there is no such thing is blind support. It has now reached a point where most businesses operational in Zimbabwe are Chinese owned and most political decisions are made with China as a main concern.

What is the harm? – I have actually heard people say this. Yes, our country is the most devastating state it has ever been in but accepting blind capital injections from outsiders will not fix our problems. What do we do when China decides they do not want to keep giving Zimbabwe a ‘free-ride’ or worse, when they decide that the country is theirs to take? What happens when China decides that Zimbabweans are obsolete? That what they want from the country can be achieved without Zimbabweans, which is the exact environment we are setting them up for right now.

(CNN.com)

This is what happens. It will start slowly, where there are sporadic cases of Zimbabweans facing abuse at the hands of Chinese bosses; just like this but I think the racism and xenophobia towards Africans in China at the moment tells us that it will not stop here. In this instance, an employee (Kenneth Tachiona) was questioning their boss on some late/missed pay, at which point the boss decided that it would be ok if he shot his workers. Although the shooter, Zhang Xuen was arrested for it, my confidence in the Zimbabwean justice system is nil and I am sure absolutely nothing will happen to him. Although the Chinese embassy claims this was an isolated incident, it was captured on tape so something tells me that there are many other ‘incidents’ which have gone unmentioned. There have been low murmurs of human rights violations on Chinese mines but there have been no actual reports on them, apart from this one, which was caught on tape. There have been some reports by the Zimbabwean Environmental Law Association (ZELA) that Chinese owned mines often operate under “dangerous, harsh and life threatening” conditions but I believe that our dependence on Chinese businesses will mean that none of these violations will be rectified.

I know that as a people, Zimbabweans are used to riding the wave. We let things get done to us time and time again and find ways to adapt rather than fight back. I believe this is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. We need to wake up when it comes to situations like these and think of the future of our country. Obviously if it were up to us and not ‘our’ politicians, we would not be selling our country bit by bit but this is the current reality of what is going on. The question is whether or not we will do anything about it or, rather, whether or not we can do anything about it. The world is changing faster than any of us could have anticipated and I think now is as good a time as any for Zimbabweans to take charge of their own lives and their own country.

Get your Passport out of here

Happy Thursday beautiful people! I hope this has been a positive and fulfilling week for you all. I am here again to talk about something that has been on my mind for the past two years. Yeah, a very long time, I know.

(Wikipedia: Zimbabwe Coat of Arms)

As I have mentioned many times, I have lived in Zimbabwe for about 90% of my life. I went to one of the best private schools in the country (Chisipite Senior School). Putting my school aside, no one can dispute the fact that the level of education in Zimbabwe in general is incredibly high. I genuinely did not have a hard time adjusting to university because my high school had worked me to the bone and taught me more than I needed to know for tertiary education and I will forever be grateful for that. So, I want to make it clear that I am not speaking ill of Zimbabwean schools but simply pointing out how flawed the education system is in general, as are most of our institutions.

It first dawned on me that there was something wrong with the way I was educated when I realised that I could recite American presidents one after the other, I know all dates of most of the big European wars, I know most of politicians that were involved in European history, I know when they died and what they did… I know European and American authors and great literary works, I know the historical icons that hail from these places and I know about the successes and failures of Western institutions. I know more French than I do Shona (for those who do not know, Shona is the native language in Zimbabwe) and I even know about Middle Eastern conflicts and international diplomacy. All of this I knew before I even started my tertiary education. But if someone had to ask me about Zimbabwe’s fight for independence, the real details, like the ones I know about World War II, I would be blank. I don’t know what my country was like before colonisation, I don’t know where all my customs come from and I definitely do not know any of the leaders that existed before colonialism (if there was such a thing as leaders that is, as I definitely think hierarchical organisation is an extremely Western concept). I think I know one Zimbabwean author (I read the book and it was brilliant but for some unknown reason, I did not look for more). The Zimbabwean music I know, is the music they play in clubs and I do not have a single inkling as to how my culture has developed over time.

I do not blame any of my schools for not teaching me these things. After all, they were trying to do what was best for us; teach us about the West so we could someday go there and make a better life for ourselves. For me, it worked didn’t it, I am currently getting my degree and spewing my Western facts in all my classes and essays. After I graduate, I will probably get a job in a country that is not Zimbabwe and begin to build my life there. This path is seen as a huge success. From about ten years old, I was told by everyone, that the goal was to do well in school so that I could leave the country and make a better life for myself somewhere else. To enable this, our teachers had to teach us about all the things that would make us pass Western exams and have recognition that would get us out of the county.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Zig Ziglar

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that knowing about different cultures and countries is wrong but not knowing about my own is a huge disadvantage for your own growth as an individual. The worst thing is that most people never think about it, not only Zimbabweans but I know so many countries which teach the same way Zimbabwe does and the products of this system never stop to consider how little they know about their own country. And why should they? No one will every ask them about the history of their country. The ‘intellectual’ conversations that will always be had will be about the West so we will never be faced with the realisation that we are ignorant about our own countries. So it stands that if you want to be part of the intelligent conversations, to be considered educated, you have to know as much as you can about the major powers in the world and if you want to know about your own country it should be treated more like a hobby or general interest.

I said, two years ago, that I would make it a point to start learning about my country outside of school, but have I? No, because I am treating it as general interest…there is always something more important to know before I try and acquaint myself with where I come from. I know why this is; it is partly because I honestly don’t know where to begin and partly because I am embarrassed to ask questions about my own country because surely, by calling myself an educated twenty-two year old woman, I should already know the answers to these questions. But I don’t and in the grand scheme of things, in the goal of ‘getting out,’ it doesn’t matter that I don’t know these things.

To me, it seems that this kind of is education has caused conflict in the hearts of my generation. Our countries tell us we are liberated and we mean something in the world but in the same breathe, they do everything in their power to push us to understanding Western ways of life and suppressing our own. So where does that leave us? Having to choose between two different identities of who we are and who we want to be?

Honestly, I do not know the answers and I do not know how to fix the problem and that is why this has been on my mind for two years. I think this is something we all need to start thinking long and hard about. I believe asking these questions could lead us to learning wonderful and amazing things about ourselves, where we are going and the point of it all. In my first year of university, all my independent essays were all on topics I thought would make me sound more clever, none to do with Zimbabwe because I thought that it would be silly and no one would be interested. Now, in my second year, every chance I get to talk about Zimbabwe, I do… even though I never learn about it in classes, I teach myself and apply what I learn, to my country. My final dissertation is about Zimbabwe and it has been the most exciting and mind opening project I have ever undertaken. I have been beaming with pride with the relationship I have been growing with my country but when I really look at it, it is still within the constructs of what is considered important in the West. So, I still have a long way to go in trying to decipher where I have come from but I have began the journey.