17 October 2011

Reflecting on my South African heritage and finding my Zimbabwean roots

South Africa carries a strange allure for Zimbabwean Ndebele’s. It is that land that stays in our dreams, whispers in our waking moments with a strange call that seems to grate on the conscience self that declares one to be Zimbabwean.
As my dear friend & famous writer, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, puts so eloquently in her blog, we are a people not quite comfortable with our place in the world. I mean, if the current government denies the white Zimbabwean his citizenship what does that say about the Ndebele who arrived in Zimbabwe only a generation before Cecil John Rhodes? It is a complicated question that not many stop to consider and even less have sympathy for but that does not make it any less urgent, any less an issue that the modern Zimbabwe should face and deal with. Just ask the estimated one point five million Zimbabweans living in South Africa. A statistic of which I now find myself a part of.
It has been a complicated journey. I did not make the jump across the Limpopo River in one leaping bound. The journey has taken me from my humble home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to a four year stint in Algeria, North Africa before finally returning to find that to find that the geographical anomaly that the Ncube family called their shelter from the universe had transported itself from Bulawayo, 1500km's down the road to Randburg, South Africa.
I will not lie and say that it is not without relief that I am able to call Randburg home (for now) but as always in life, it is more complicated than that. Whereas Zimbabwe hits the headlines with stories such as, “No power in Zim Capital for three days” or “Mysterious fire _____ “(one can fill in the blank with the aid of Google) South Africa has not been the image of a welcoming host country. I watched with horror as people were burnt alive in the townships, listened with concern as friends recounted incidents of racism, tribalism and general xenophobia in everything from border control to their universities.
My own encounter with the above, happened three days after my arrival in South Africa. A simple visit to the Post Office to open a Bank Account turned into a nightmare. The teller first expressed incredulity that the Department of Home Affairs had written in ink on my visitors permit in my passport. He then handed it over to the manager who rained a litany of accusations that included:
“You Zimbabweans are a problem..."
"Your passport is expired...." (despite the bold lettering declaring it to expire in 2017)
"Your passport has been tampered with...." (Really? What is with me and passports!)
"I cannot help you, go and find business elsewhere...”
To say I left that office furious is to understate it. I was a mix of emotions, made worse by the recent rejection of my visa application by the French Embassy in Oran. But it got me to reflect on the fate of the foreigner, a state I have been living in for the past four years. It is a sad state of affairs to be a foreigner in the modern world. It is a stripping away of the right to call oneself at home, to basic services & respect. And as much as Zimbabwean Ndebele’s would like, no love, to call South Africa their home away from home, that ancient place that the spirits of our ancestors call us back to; the bleak truth is that our home is to the north and not south of the mighty Limpopo River.
And as much as I admire South Africa, with her multiculturalism, her super liberal constitution, the comedy that is Julius Malema and the superwoman that is Thuli Madonsela, I can never allow myself to fall into the trap of forgetting those roots that lie buried somewhere in the land that was once called ‘Africa’s Paradise’.

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