On Zimbabwe, home and belonging

I left Zimbabwe when I was sixteen. Sixteen is a difficult age at the best of times and leaving behind everything that I knew was hard. I missed home and I missed my friends. I missed the Zambezi River.

And even though it was just next door, South Africans were very different to Zimbabweans. My new friends wore tight skinny stovepipes while I wore red velvet bellbottoms. They spent hours whirling and straightening their hair. They wore shoes.

South Africans didn’t ride bikes, run wild in the streets or kiss boys behind the school bicycle shed.

They were sophisticated.

They were different.

I went back to Zim for a holiday in my early twenties. I remember riding a bike around my old neighbourhood and cycling up the driveway of our old house. 17 Epping Road. It was a beautiful big home with a very long driveway. I thought it was so cool and fun until suddenly I burst out crying.

There were strangers living in that house. They’d put up a fence and a gate and painted the walls a terrible colour. The huge avocado tree in the middle of the driveway was gone. My childhood swing was gone.

I didn’t need to go inside.

It was sad and awful and a huge realisation.

Zimbabwe, my home, was no longer my home.

Over the years, I settled. And now I have lived in South Africa for much longer than I ever lived in Zimbabwe. I am South African.

I’m happy here, I feel at home, I am at home.

But Zimbabwe shaped me. It shaped me in every single way, in the way I speak, the way I think, it gave me my spirit and my fabulous nature, it gave me ‘being African’ and being free and it gave me astonishing friendships and extraordinary love that has lasted my entire life.

So this evening when I heard the news that Mugabe had finally resigned, I was elated. I leapt up and down while watching the television. Hundreds of thousands of people on the streets celebrating, singing and dancing. They were jubilant. They are jubilant. Mugabe has made their lives hell for 37 years.

They deserve this chance at freedom.

I suddenly felt lonely. I put on my old red velvet bellbottoms and headed to my local bar. It’s a Mozambican bar here in South Africa and always filled with Zimbabweans. I love it. It’s African. I drank with strangers. We watched the television, we clinked our drinks, we hugged and I may have kissed a stranger or two.

Zimbabweans are great kissers.

Later in the night a Zimbabwean walked me home. I didn’t know him but I knew I could trust him. Zimbabweans are like that. They’re kind, peaceful, brilliant people.

I climbed into bed, happy and tipsy but also a little bit sad.

And suddenly I couldn’t stop crying.

And I’m still crying.

I’m crying for the millions of people who were displaced.

I’m crying for the devastation of a country, for the brutal regime, for the murder and the torture and the loss and the senseless useless terrible waste.

And I’m crying for me.

And my childhood home.

Because even though I’m a lot older now, and South African, I will always be Zimbabwean too.

Intrinsically Zimbabwean.

So here’s to red bellbottoms, curly hair, bare feet, kissing behind bike sheds and also to a new and decent government, freedom, peace and democracy.

Here’s to home.

Viva Zimbabwe, Viva.

22 thoughts on “On Zimbabwe, home and belonging

  1. Wonderful post, I loved it….Congratulations to you and Zimbabwe, Violet! Here’s to an awesome and peaceful future! Hope there are a lot of content smiles and happiness permeating slowly but surely across the wonderful country. I also hope tourism picks up and a lot of people get to see and learn what it is like to be in Zimbabwe. And I also also hope that the cricket picks up and they become even more famous than they were, during the reign of the Flower brothers!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful and true.

    Yours Sincerely J Bredenkamp INC Attorneys and Conveyancers (Reg No.2001/004985/21) Your Conveyancer Janine Bredenkamp (Director) 30 Dundalk Avenue, Parkview, Johannesburg, 2122 Private bag X7, Postnet suite 51, Parkview, 2122 Tel: (011) 023 8701/2 and/or (011) 023 6224 Fax: 086 514 9292 and 086 614 9088 Email: admin@jbattorneys.co.za Confidentiality Notice: This page and any accompanying documents contain confidential information intended for a specific individual and purpose. This information is private and protected by law. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying or distribution, or the taking of any action based on this information, is strictly prohibited. E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error free, as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message which arise as a result of email transmission. If verification is required, please request a hard copy version.

    From: violetonlineisonline Reply-To: violetonlineisonline Date: Wednesday, 22 November 2017 at 1:55 AM To: Janine Subject: [New post] On Zimbabwe, home and belonging

    WordPress.com violetonlineisonline posted: “I left Zimbabwe when I was sixteen. Sixteen is a difficult age at the best of times and leaving behind everything that I knew was hard. I missed home and I missed my friends. I missed the Zambezi River. And even though it was just next door, South Afric”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved reading this and I am rying now too. For you and the millions of other Zimbabweans that were displaced, that were brutalised, that suffered such inhumanity and injustice. I’m crying too for us here across the border. For we too have had our dreams shattered and our hopes dismantled. But Africa is an incredible place – resilient and hopeful even in the face of despair. We have to hope that things turn out better in Zimbabwe – and here.
    But mostly Sandi, I am amazed to read that you still fit into your red velvet bellbottoms – for that, I give you a bells!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thank you for sharing such a personal and valuable insight into a monumental political change! May peace & kindness at last prevail, in a governmental level- it sounds like the regular folk already have that. 🙏🏼❤
    And yes: who cuts down an avocado tree??? 😩
    Blessings on you and the country of your heart Violet ♥️ G

    Liked by 1 person

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