This morning, January 15th 2018, the Zimbabwean government shut down the internet. Apparently it is being used to incite violence after people took to the streets to protest the new fuel prices of 12 US dollars a gallon. How do people feed their families if they are mostly not working, or working and not getting paid and still have to buy fuel off a salary of a few hundred dollars a month when they do get paid??
A government that was supposed to be a new start seems to be headed exactly in the same direction as our 40 year dictator rule under Mugabe.It seems expecting change in Zimbabwe is too much to ask for.
A year and few months back, I sat in my apartment in Brussels crying actual tears as I watched BBC. People in my native country of Zimbabwe were on the streets celebrating. After almost 38 years under the oppressive rule of former president Mugabe’s regime, it was finally over! Ousted in a bloodless coup, the embattled president resigned while parliament was in the process of holding a session to impeach him. I called my friends and family all over the world to share in the moment. Watching our people celebrate in the street, something they had not done in over 2 decades for fear of being tortured by the government was a thing of pure bliss, that we had never seen before.
Zimbabwe is a very emotional topic for me, why it took me so long to write about it here. Well that and previously, I did not want to be accosted or want my family to be harassed by the government for my internet activities. I am still apprehensive as I write this but here we are.
Amongst all my friends I was probably the least optimistic about the coup. In my eyes, the whole thing was a sham, with the military coming in to remove Mugabe to replace him with his former henchman Emmerson Mnangagwa, the architect of Zimbabwe’s genocide history. Right before our eyes, the ruling party, Mugabe’s party, Zanu PF, had found a way to reinvent themselves by casting off their leader and tricking the Zimbabwean people into thinking they were heroes who liberated them.
And now this worthless government has already shown us their face. They started with stealing the election, in the tightly contested general election that followed and now things have only gotten worse. They did not waste time putting murder on their resume, when 6 people were shot in cold blood while protesting the election results. We are now again sitting in insane inflationary prices of basic commodities, as well as fuel and food shortages. We are a country that has not had its own currency in over a decade since our own became worthless and we took on the US dollar to sustain ourselves. We continue to survive by wit, the grace of God and remittances from the many of my generation who live in their diaspora. The change that was promised is nowhere to be seen.
I had a rough 2018, fighting for my career and life, a fight that has become all too familiar since I left home when I was 18. Stubborn as hell, to think my personal circumstances determine the size of my dreams, i am part of a generation whose choices were stay and starve or go and fight for your life elsewhere. I am blessed to be educated and have some means to creatively support myself, unlike a lot of my country people and and those from similar circumstances. I have insane respect for all immigrants, legal and illegal.
My generation in Zimbabwe is one that has had to come to terms with that some of us may never call Zimbabwe home ever again.. Americans used to love asking me how I chose my undergraduate school, University of Chicago, and my answer was always, I did not choose it. It was an opportunity to better my life and there was no discussion with my family about whether I got on that plane or not. I did what I had to do, and 13 years later on my third country now, I am still fighting the same fight.
My tears on the 21st of November 2017 were more than just about seeing my people so happy. They were about the many times I have had anxiety fighting for my life and begging to be allowed to live in other people’s countries. They were for the many years I do not see my family, it will be 4 years right now since 2015, because I am working so hard and fighting immigration authorities in different countries for a shot at my dreams. People ask me if I miss home, I do not even know how to respond to that! Most of all people think I am so strong to be out here on my own.
To that I respond I actually am not. I never had a choice in this matter. I am doing what I need to do and most people would do the same if pushed. That is what most people miss about immigrants in my position. Whether we are from Zimbabwe, Syria, Colombia or Somalia, nobody leaves their home and fights this hard outside of it unless they absolutely have to. To quote Warsan Shire, a Somali-British writer and poet from her powerful poem entitled Home, “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
This is a reminder that next time somebody shouts, “Go back to your country!” to immigrants, some of us do not have much to go back to.
I am every so hopeful for us, for all of Africa, that we will rise above this bad leadership and conflicts and stuff. We have so much potential that is being squandered. Zimbabwean will forever be some of the smartest, most enterprising people you will meet and I still maintain that my generation and the one after us will turn these situations around.
Look at all that we have to work with here.
In the meantime though…
I miss my home and my family everyday but the best I can do, is kick and survive out here, try to take care of them when I can, and hope this never ending storm will pass.
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