We still have each other… don’t we?

When I was in Zimbabwe, I realized that there was a subtle resentment that most Zimbabweans at home directed towards those in the diaspora.

In the years of extreme hardship; it was easy to either envy those who were outside the country or to resent them for what appeared to be their good fortune in having escaped.

With the advent of new and social media forums; Zimbabweans in the diaspora have found a means to engage in conversations about the state of affairs in the country and they are mostly a very vocal, angry and boisterous lot.

While I was in Zimbabwe, I never really understood why these diasporan Zimbabweans seemed so angry over the lack of electricity, medicine in hospitals, teachers in schools, food in supermarkets, doctors and nurses or every other calamity that was being endured by those of us who were within the country’s borders.

Why were they getting so upset, I wondered.

Especially since they had had the ‘good fortune’ of escaping and now from the comfort and distance of their ‘adopted’ countries – they could still muster up enough energy to display so much outrage at the suffering they couldn’t possibly understand because…well…they weren’t here, they weren’t in Zimbabwe.

They weren’t the ones standing in long queues, they weren’t the ones sleeping outside banks, they weren’t the ones waking up at odd hours to fetch water from distant boreholes in the city; they weren’t the ones losing property to high voltage electricity surges that accompanied load shedding.

I just didn’t understand why they would get so furious – often they sounded more furious than those of us who were enduring these hardships.

I would read more venomous denunciations of the state of affairs in Zimbabwe from the remarks of diasporans online than I encountered in public commuter taxis or buses or places where people grumbled and complained and cursed about the dwindling fortunes of the country.

Why were they so angry?
What ‘right’ did they have to be upset?
Weren’t they the ‘lucky’ ones that got away?

These were some of the thoughts I had and sometimes, I was even tempted to think that their outrage was just a show they liked to put on… just to make the rest of us who were actually going through the torment feel like they really cared.

And sometimes, I saw their Facebook profiles – pictures of Zimbabweans frolicking around in the snow without a care (or so it seemed) or hanging out in posh-looking bars where they were often the only brown-skinned faces in an ocean of white ones.

It seemed, from those Facebook pictures that they were in the diaspora having a jolly good time while the rest of us struggled in grinding misery. What did they know – really know – about our suffering?

Insulated as they were (or so I thought) by the ‘good living’ they were enjoying in Canada, Australia, the UK, the USA – places I did not dare dream of setting foot in.

Places that represented privilege and money and most of all – opportunity.

And I remember the irritation I would feel when in the middle of a discussion about some latest catastrophe that had befallen us (Cholera outbreak or what-not) someone from the diaspora would butt in to air their views and have the ‘nerve’ to sound more upset than we were!

What right did they have, I thought at the time, what right did they have to care about what was going down in the country they had chosen to flee?

But I was wrong in assuming back then that any Zimbabwean had a choice or that anyone would freely desire to live in a foreign land and face the kind of hardships I have now learned so many of my countrymen and countrywomen have endured these last years.

In my various meetings and discussions with them, I hear terrible personal testimonies of struggle, fear, suffering, agony and indignity that befell them as they tried to eke out a living in a land they did not belong to.

I write this blog post with an incredible sense of shame; I am ashamed that I judged so harshly people who suffered just as much as I did and who did not have the benefit of having a support system in the form of family, friends, home and familiar places.

Now I understand why they are angry – angrier even than those of us who were in Zimbabwe in its worst recent years.

They are angry because they made huge personal sacrifices that have forever altered the course of their lives.

They are angry because they live in countries where they are treated as second class citizens, stripped of their dignity and forced to forget their glowing transcripts and dust-covered degrees and certificates to become lowly menial labourers.

They are angry because they have lost loved ones and not had the chance to say good bye or to bury them.

They are angry because they have fallen sick and gotten better without a single relative to nurse them back to health, because they have been hurt and they had no one to call out to in an alien land.

They are angry because they suffered too.

And they are angry because deep in their hearts they know that their suffering was needless; that the downward spiral our country took was avoidable and they are angry because they were forced to swallow their pride and work under the most appalling conditions; live under the most harsh terms and watch their lives hang in suspension for years as they apply and wait for papers and permits and residence statuses and indefinite leave to stay!

They are angry because they are now a disenfranchised group, because they have borne children here and because their lives are uprooted from where they come from.

They are angry because their identity has been threatened with the refusal to grant dual or multiple citizenship.

They are angry because they have worked shift-upon-shift and sent money back home to spouses, children, relatives or friends who took advantage and squandered what they sweated so painfully to earn.

They are angrier than I could ever have a right to be, they have suffered beyond what we could have imagined… and I am ashamed that I once thought of them as being without legitimacy to complain because I believed their absence stripped them of the right to speak about the suffering I thought they had escaped.

I live in the UK now and I tolerate it.

I remind myself of the goal, of why I am here and of how I am going back home soon.

And so I have a new respect for these sons and daughters of Zimbabwe, who have borne it all with little complaint; who have soldiered on with little appreciation coming their way.

I am ashamed and mostly – I am so sorry.

Sorry that in my mind I had created an ‘otherness’ out of them; that I had been complicit in reducing their status as legitimate citizens and stakeholders in sharing Zimbabwe’s fate.

And when they come home to visit, having gotten papers after so many years… don’t we just like to remind them how we suffered in their absence? Don’t we like to remind them every chance we get that, “you were not here” – and in that statement we welcome them with reproach and also we silence them by reminding them that they don’t know the story because they missed out on several chapters.

But here’s the thing – we (who live in Zimbabwe) don’t know their story as well. We also were not there, and in the weighing scales of suffering – we like to assume that our suffering was greater and therefore our entitlement to complaint is higher than theirs.

The truth, I am learning in this cold, foreign land is that Zimbabweans within and without the borders of the Motherland have all suffered.
We have suffered.
And it is not right that we have had to suffer.

It is even worse that we should use that suffering as a divide to keep us apart.

Having lost so much these past years – can we afford also to lose one another?

I want to believe that as long as we have one another – there’s hope, surely there is hope for a people as brilliantly gifted and talented and resilient and hard-working as we are?

Or am I just a dreamer?

I used to think this was always a passport to freedom...turns out for many Zimbabweans..it was a passport to a different kind of captivity


16 thoughts on “We still have each other… don’t we?

  1. Eyram says:

    My sentiments exactly Delta. What we have is each other; all we have is each other, and we should never judge. I have been guilty in a similar fashion. I always wondered why every African in the Diaspora wasn’t gung ho about going back home to “make a difference.” I was bewildered that some people actually just have no drop of will to return. I think I am still coming to terms with that, but I am certainly farther along in my understanding and appreciation of others whose paths are not carved for that destiny.

  2. barbara says:

    Very well written Delta and thanks for the sensitivity with which you handled the issue. I was once hurt very badly by a journalist who wrote that we had no right to ‘pontificate” and profer opinion on the state of our country, forgetting that during the tough years when there was no food on the shelves, diasporans sent home bins of food at exhorbitant cost to family. they sent home the “forex” that kept the economy going during the years of crazy inflation. Thanks very much for this blog post!! and yes: all we have is eachother and if we recognize our collective wound, we can find a collective solution for it and come out healed stronger and above all with a new sense of what it means to be Zimbabwean. thanks

  3. Vimbai says:

    Touching article Delta, I have not been repented at all not because of anything much. Only because I never disliked them, but certainly you have thrown a lot in a new light. I’ve been enriched in appreciation.

  4. ntando says:

    Too close to home. But do they all understand NO they think u have no right to worry. But its not so. How many times have we packed our bags wanting to go back home but to what? Home will always be home, where the heart is. No matter how far I am I’m concerned about what my brothers go through. No one has a right to judge anybody because u don’t know the reasons that compelled them to leave. Well said D we might as well stand together listen to each other and pray for each other. After all we only have each other

  5. madubesbrainpot says:

    I could not agree more.People at home assume that those abroad have it easier but they have no idea how hard it is, especially if you go to a place where you are made to feel that you do not belong. On the other hand, having been away for almost 2 years and I recently got back, I can totally identify with the anger towards increasing rentals, property values, goods and services-something that is (wrongly) attributed to the assumption that each person is receiving remittances from someone abroad. At the end of the day it all boils down to mis-information and we need not hate each other but all work together to challenge those who forced some of us to leave and others to stay on in unbearable conditions.

  6. Lily Favour says:

    Delta dear, thank you for this….when I started reading, I was so fast to conclude that if they truly are angry, they should come and live her and in doing that we will know that their anger is legitimate.Thanks for this eye opener:)…btw, where are you?…’coz I can’t find you on FB.lol

  7. Bafana says:

    I felt my heart sinking when I read this. Being away from home is not easy even if conditions were infact better but what more when you are made to feel unwelcome in a foreign land. Men Its sad. Please keep on doing a good job of speaking out for our dear brothers and sisters in the diaspora D.

  8. thoko says:

    I was very much touched by this article and it’s thanks to people like you that have seen and experienced both ends of story and spreading the word, which hopefully will get to many that this misconception of people abroad being better off would be given a rest. Yes some of them are better off but it is a true and painful struggle. It mostly feels like taking a step forward and seven back. We just hope that one day, people back home would not recent us or envy us the way they do.

  9. Fadzie Makawa says:

    very insightful thoughts around experiences of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora… such exchanges of experiences are important so that we can also appreciate what they are going through……..It’s never easy having to leave your family for ‘greener pastures’, but what is needed is to continue being connected to each other.. we are one people. one nation, despite our circumstances!

  10. Simba says:

    you are right,we need each other!

  11. Caro says:

    so so true, thanks for this article. The diaspora is a lonely place and I always find it hard to explain to people back home.

  12. M.c. Zimbabwe says:

    As a big ambassador in the country..That brought a tear to my eyes…I have respect for my brothers, sisters, relatives, friends and schoolmates who live by these same shared sentiments. Totally powerful.
    God bless Zimbabwe and her children worldwide.

  13. StashStash says:

    Yes, we have often ‘othered’ Zimbabweans abroad. I thought all my problems could be solved once I got out of this god-forsaken country. But I have experinced racism of an incredible magnitude in some countries, and the harrowing tales of humility I hear from friends working in developed countries make me feel priviliged to be among Zimbabweans eking out a lliving, right here in Zimbabwe.

    very insightful writing De.

  14. alfred says:

    How my heart weeps for my family , friends , country man & the motherland. God bless Zimbabwe & all her beautiful people.

  15. This is so very true. And as Stash says, we have so often ‘othered’ Zimbabweans abroad without trying to understand what struggles they experience and how these are all part of the reconstruction of the Zimbabwean identity. We shall never again be the Zimbabwe of old, and so it is only natural that our roles will change; our perceptions of Zimbabweaness will alter; our ideas about what exactly Zimbabwe is (physical place or place in our imaginations) will be redefined. Thanks for this!

  16. msakereth says:

    Wow, I had chills reading this because you speak so much truth, not just for the people of zimbabwe but for most africans.
    I was “lucky” to come to the US at a young age but for my parents, I can see in their eyes The regrets.The sadness. The madness. Leaving behind and selling our home in cameroon in the name of moving to a promise land. A land that did not recognize any of their degrees,achievements and skills. How can someone who holds a PhD become a taxi driver? Someone who use to be a political figure, respected by many, a Nursing assistant? A dual dgere holder working in a factory for minimum wage? All because french is their first language, or they have an accent or many of the other ridiculous reasons they have for treating us the way they do. And all the while facing racism from whites and black americans alike. I will rather be poor/suffering and be in the midst of my people than be in that state in a foreign land. There is no place like home….the achievements of some immigrants after 10 yrs abroad pales in comparison to what some of ours peers who stayed at home have achieved. Truely sometimes, the grass IS NOT greener on the other side. Dont be decieved by the illusions. Pictures on facebook speak a thousand words and 99% of them are false stories.

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