Gratitude Memoirs #4: Thanks to those who’ve believed in me (Guest Blog)

By John Mokwetsi

I often doubt myself.

I question myself and I question why things are programmed the way they are in my life.

Maybe I occasionally suffer from impostor syndrome or maybe I am just never quite content with whatever I may have achieved.

There are times I when try disassociate myself from my successes and from those achievements people use to define what I am or what I have become.

It is never enough to be me. Some call it ambition and a psychologist friend says it is low self-esteem.

...I have been to places I never thought I'd be, done things I never imagined I'd have a chance to do and people who've believed in me every step of the way!

…I have been to places I never thought I’d be, done things I never imagined I’d have a chance to do and people who’ve believed in me every step of the way!

But it is when I forget other amazing things about being me that I am reminded by my tortured conscience what the great spiritual writer, Thomas Merton once said:

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

In those moments when I have felt my ambition waning, when I have considered my resolutions to be as worthless as the paper they are written on – I have had shoulders graciously offered to me to lean on… and to weep if need be.

Perhaps I took to heart the words of that brilliant French novelist by the name Marcel Proust who said: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Whenever it seemed as though my soul where lost and searching for the path; I have always had that unexpected yet amazing midnight call or that thoughtful and encouraging Facebook inbox and more importantly – the motherly assurance that all would be well.

My mother has had to play the role of a father figure in my life and as a single parent her life was far from easy and fulfilling these roles required a great deal of dedication.

Despite the financially constraints she worked hard to ensure I was fed, clothed, sheltered and that I got a reasonable education.

She has been there to listen to my stories of disappointing girlfriends.

That closeness can only be born out of the heart of a woman, for it is the maternal love that can only be patient with the whining and complaints I had almost on a frequent basis about this and that.

I only discovered a half-brother and two sisters very recently. After 32 years of living I found myself with siblings – a brother and sisters.

Before them, I’m grateful to the close friends I’ve made over the years because I think my friends somehow became dots that linked up to create the person I have become.

From Tafadzwa Chinembiri who has always been there… to Delta Milayo Ndou who always says I can be whoever I want to be… to Bethel Goka who keeps on pushing me… to workmates who have monitored my progress and cheered me all the way and to Joseph Katete’s ears that never tire of my fears.

I am especially blessed to have my wife Mildred who chooses not to see my weaknesses while I am indebted to Vincent Kahiya who put his head on the block for me.

I think of and appreciate people like Ignatius Mabasa for the inspiration and for believing in me, as well as the colleagues I met at the University of Sussex and all the help they gave me (Zondi, Mialisa, Tanya, Sammy and a host of them).

At some point in this whole article, I obviously have to make mention of my favorite football team so here it goes – to Dynamos supporters for showing me that when you cheer others you cheer yourself too!

But I reserve the last and most important mention for my son, Jayden.

Jayden is the brother I never had, he is the reason I work hard, he reminds me of the father I never had because he passed away when I was too young cry.

Jayden is the personification of all my joy as a father and the embodiment of all my fears that go with fatherhood.

They are many others I did not mention, not because their contribution was less important, but because there are far too many to mention.

Suffice to say, I remember each and every one of them and I am so grateful to them.

Gratitude Memoirs #1: For Confidence ‘Kisha’ Mshakarara, with gratitude

She stood by the doorway of the bedroom that we had dubbed the ‘girls’ room’ and spoke in measured tones, expelling each word carefully as if it was important to get the words out in their right order.

There was uncharacteristic hesitation in her speech, as though she knew these were the right words to say but that saying them was the wrong thing to do.

She sounded conflicted but resolved.

“I am going into town right now and when I come back, I want to find you gone. Take your pregnancy to its owner. I don’t want to see you in this house again. Is that clear?”

It’s been too long for me to remember my exact response to that but I am sure I said something like “Alright” or “Yes, I will” or “Okay”… I don’t know.

Perhaps I said nothing.

Perhaps I was too shocked and numbed at that point to think of an appropriate response to this woman who had been all but surrogate mother to me for the six years I lived under her roof.

Some memories lie buried deep under layers of greater events, more imposing struggles and instances of excruciating suffering which dwarf everything else that preceded them.

So my recollection of these particular events is neither sharp nor precise, merely a hazy outline of what I remember to have happened and now, after so many years, what remains are broad stroke reminiscence of pains that have long ceased to matter.

What I remember is that it was 12 July, a Monday in the year 2004 – a solid decade ago and so much has happened in my life since then as to render these events relatively mild in magnitude but not in consequence.

I was three and a half months pregnant and had been back home for just three days on semester break after writing my first year examinations at the University of Zimbabwe where I was student.

The circumstances under which I wrote those exams require a whole blog to outline, suffice to say that, I had been hit by a car along Harare’s Rotten Row the previous month and suffered injuries to my hip joint rendering me unable to walk.

I had written my examinations after being carried on the backs of fellow students from one exam room venue to the next – but that’s a story for another blog.

On this Monday of 2004, I was being kicked out and I had no clue how I was to walk from the house of my uncle where I had lived since I was 14 to my boyfriend’s home which was about 15 minutes walk away.

For starters, my hip hadn’t really healed so I had trouble walking – it hurt incredibly to even move, let alone attempt to carry my bags and measly belongings and present myself at my boyfriend’s doorstep claiming refuge for myself and the baby I was carrying.

As fate would have it, one of my dearest friends from High School whom I had not seen in over a year had returned to Zimbabwe and called to say she was coming over to visit me and catch up.

I remember telling her that visiting me was not a good idea because I had just been ordered to vacate the premises and I wasn’t even sure if I would be welcomed at my boyfriend’s home.

I don’t think I cried that day.

Maybe I had known and expected this course of action from my aunt – that kicking me out was what the average parent or guardian does under the circumstances.

Anyway, I packed what I could and my heart was aggrieved at all the piles of cherished novels and books I could not take with me.

I had no idea how exactly I would walk to my boyfriend’s house and my aunt had not specified what time exactly she would be returning from town so I had no clear sense of deadline, only the knowledge that I was no longer welcome there.

The answer came in the form of my friend, Kisha, who showed up at the door even after I had warned her that she might not be met with a warm welcome as I myself had now become persona non grata.

She showed up regardless of the fact that she had just arrived from a grueling 12 hour journey from SA and hadn’t even seen me in over a year.

She showed up because that’s what real friends do when you’ve gotten yourself into trouble – they show up.

It was Kisha who carried the luggage and it was Kisha who bore the weight of my body leaning against hers for support.

It was Kisha who made jokes about the situation, made me laugh so hard that although it took me double the time to get to my boyfriend’s home – I wasn’t in a state of despair.

It was Kisha who saw me off to what would become my premature marriage to a very young man of 23 that I was madly in love with.

What should have been the worst day of 2004 was saved only because a wonderful friend of mine showed up and for that I am grateful.

I don’t know how I would have made it without her, Kisha has a habit of ‘showing up’ especially when the going gets tough.

...Confi, we have come a long way from the girls we used to be..

…we have come a long way from the girls we used to be..

This blog is to say (in many words) that I love you and I am so thankful you showed up when you did.

There are thousands of memories I have of you and countless acts of kindness you have bestowed upon me but somehow – I remembered 12 July 2004.

Thank you Confie.

No. I won’t give a eulogy

A while ago I had a nightmare in which my best friend Talema Moyo had died. The sharpness of that pain woke me up and long after I had realized it was just a bad dream – the feeling of loss and regret lingered.

Loss because she has always been there and I mean through the good and the worst… she has been a witness to my life. I remember a character in the movie Shall We Dance who said:

We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

That character was talking about her marriage but for me those sentiments capture the way I feel about my best friend. I love her beyond words and if she died I don’t know what the hell I would do and although it is selfish of me – I always hope I die first.

…did you ever know that you’re my hero?

I think she has always been the stronger one of the two of us and perhaps she will bear the loss better than I could. I love her because our friendship has always been about goodness.

In a world where so much bad happens, our friendship has come to represent all that is precious and beautiful. And being the flawed person that I am (who has committed more than her fair share of wrongs) our friendship represents the good in me because she brings it out -always.I would truly be lost without her.

Besides the feeling of loss, the dream invoked in me feelings of regret because I felt like she hadn’t really known how much I loved her. It was why her death had hurt so much because it seemed too soon, too sudden and there were things I felt I had to say but in the dream it was too late and she was already dead.

These were things I would have to say in her eulogy at her funeral but she wouldn’t be alive to hear them. So I hope to never give her a eulogy, no. I will say what needs to be said now. I will say it while I still can.

It was her birthday on the 26th of February and I stayed up preparing a recording for her. I sang a song for her to try and express how much she means to me BUT then I never sent it (I have it on my phone).

I didn’t send it to her because I have a terrible voice and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get the song to come out the way it sounded when Bette Milder sang it. The song I sang for her was Wind Beneath My Wings. Considering that my friend has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard so I was ashamed to send that recording where I was sounding less than spectacular.

Because while I may be praised for whatever I have accomplished very few people know that my best friend has been the driving force for about 15 years now.Below are the lyrics of that song and I can relate to every word:

It must have been cold there in my shadow,
to never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.

So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

I don’t want to give a eulogy when she dies… I want to say all that needs to be said now. To tell her that she is amazing beyond words, that I know God wanted to convince just how much He loved me by blessing me with her friendship.

I want to say it now before she is no more. That she has believed in me against all odds and that I tire of living up to the high expectations she has for me. I want to say I am indebted to her in ways I could never repay.

And I want to let her know that she is the wind beneath my wings because I am afraid that one day I might wake up and find my nightmare has turned into reality.

Conversations I have…

I have realized that sometimes, I order my thoughts best during random conversations with people. One such conversation took place a few days ago from a guy I vaguely know as a regular contributor to my weekly column in the Sunday News. We don’t converse often and he just stumbled into me on Google-chat. He was in the mood to pick my brain and the conversation went like this:

7:08AM fuzaneb: hi D, always been a breath of fresh air when it comes to your outlook on life, but ha, sometimes i find yu kinda too radical, militant and plain bullish!

7:09 AM me: I am only that way just to demonstrate that I am dead serious about some issues and once that message gets across…I relax and chill

7:11 AM fuzaneb: which makes a politician of sorts out of you?

7:16 AM me: lol, I wouldn’t say that

7:20 AM fuzaneb: ha ha ha, there is a coward in you too – just pulling your leg. i often see a Margaret Dongo in yu though – remember her? out of interest, does the word loyalty exist in yo vocab?

7:21 AM me: loyalty?

7:21 AM fuzaneb: yep loyalty, control, conformity,subordination …. that kinda stuff

7:21 AM me: oh.
7:22 AM I would not put loyalty in the same bracket as subordination
7:23 AM Loyalty, like submission is an act of the will….it cannot be forced on someone

7:25 AM fuzaneb: there yu go nw D, raving philosophical – i can tell yu already activating yo defences – relax bo

7:25 AM me: Submission is voluntary, subordination is not
you just flicked a switch in my head, lol

7:25 AM fuzaneb: ok, how about control?

(5 minutes later)

7:31 AM me: what about it?

7:32 AM fuzaneb: your thoughts on it, being the damsel who insist on 152.78% freedom?

7:34 AM me: It depends on what you mean by control exactly. Do you mean power relations in relationships? Control over resources or control over persons?
7:35 AM me: Or control over self?
7:35 AM me: To me freedom is control over self….whether the self is packaged in a male body or a female one….as long as that person can claim to have control over them-selves – they are free

7:36 AM fuzaneb: wow, love the diversity and depth of your perspective. I mean it in the parochial sense of power dynamicss in relationships

7:37 AM me: you were not particularly specific….lol
power dynamics in relationships are inevitable but the manner in which they manifest is often what I may take issue with

If they manifest as physical or emotional abuse, economic deprivation or any other negative and harmful violation of another person’s dignity – I resent those manifestations of control

7:39 AM fuzaneb: so, if yu cant give up at least partial control over self, how do yu build bridges with the other person. aint compromise imperative there?

7:43 AM me: Of course you can give up “at least partial control over self” (as you put it) because if you own your self, you get to do with yourself as you please….including giving yourself – whole or half – to another

7:44 AM fuzaneb: WOW, I LOVE THAT – think this enigma packaged as Delta is getting more and more unravelled in a positive way. have always held this stereotype of a completely intransigent, riotous Delta, if yu get ma point

(9 minutes later)

7:53 AM fuzaneb: nice chatting with yu D, may yo star continue to shine hey. remember to start looking outside the window too phela (males) rather than always looking at yo mirror (women). that for me should widen and balance your perspectives and debunk a number of unwitting stereotypes and myths about us

7:54 AM me: thanks…sorry I am multi-tasking

fuzaneb: fine then, catch yu some other tym – wat’s on the menu this Sunday?

7:56 AM me: Havent decided yet….something on marriage though

7:56 AM fuzaneb: look forward to that, bye

And I wonder; what is your take on freedom? What does it mean to be free? What does control mean to you and how should loyalty be defined, expressed or manifested? This conversation got my thoughts churning….now I ask your indulgence – what are YOUR thoughts on these things? (Now I know most of you ABSOLUTELY hate leaving comments, and I respect that choice; I just hope this one time you’ll make an exception). Could you please have this conversation with me?

the friends who know where the bodies are buried…

...we all know where our skeletoons are buried...question is who else does?














I think it’s safe to assume that you have at one time or another watched a movie where one character goes out on a limb and does someone a huge favor at great personal risk.

Then as the movie progresses you find that character gets killed by the very same person/people they were helping because ‘they just know too much’.

I used to find it very ironic but of late I have come to understand the rationale behind that brutal act of ingratitude – fear.

I think there is nothing as frightening as having someone knowing your deep dark secrets and having the potential to expose them!

The question is who knows your ‘deep dark secrets’ better than your friends and who helped you bury them – if not your nearest and dearest?

We all have a friend (or two) who knows where the skeletons are hidden, they know our ‘past’ and they were there when we were covering up our tracks so no matter where we go, who we later become – these people have certain information about us that could be damaging.

Every person who has had to ask a friend to lie for them knows what I’m talking about.

To borrow from DJ Sbu’s tagline on the show ‘Friends Like These’; Ladies and gentlemen, how many of you have ever put your faith in a friend?

I would bet at one point in time you all put your faith in a friend, confided in them and sought their help in order to save your own skin.

Many people get to maturity after going through the rigors of a riotous, wild and rebellious youth were they do things that they live to regret and would rather bury in their past.

With age comes maturity and a sharp clarity that ruthlessly allows us to see how stupid our actions were; what fools we made of ourselves and with that insight – comes the faint hint of shame.

We are ashamed of our past, we hate it and want it to be forgotten, erased from our memories but how do you erase it from the memories of those who helped you bury it?

Some of them may not even be friends, just people who know stuff about you that you wish you could keep secret for ever – they know where your bodies are buried.

These are the people who went to college with you – who know the number of sugar daddies you had, trying to pass them off as your ‘uncles’. They were there when you fell pregnant, far from home and scared to death: they also know that you never had that baby.

These are the people who went to college with you – who know you got a high school child pregnant, got charged with statutory rape, spent a few nights in a cell and managed to settle with the girl’s family out of court before the news reached your family.

They know your scandals, but luckily for you – you know where their skeletons are hidden too.

How do you face the friends who know where the bodies are buried?

I know for most people they don’t worry too much about having a friend ‘sell them out’ because they also know stuff about their friends so they have some kind of insurance policy.

It goes something like, ‘rat me out’ and I’ll ‘rat you out’ but of course we never say these things out loud; its just an understanding that is communicated silently – it’s a pact between friends.

I’ll never tell because they’ll never tell – or will they?

Every man who has ever asked his pals to give him an alibi after he got home late, slept out all night, or impregnated some whore, will probably relate to this phenomenon of having someone who has info on you that can sink your marriage or ruin your life.

The same goes for any woman who has ever asked her girlfriends to cover up for her when she went off to some rendezvous in the process of having a steamy affair with her boss (or whoever).

She’ll get home and be like, ‘I was with so and so; she was really in a bad state, I couldn’t leave her like that, call her if you don’t believe me’ – or some nonsense like that.

And the friends will vouch for the lying cow and go so far as to swear by all that is holy that they were indeed together on the night/day/time in question.

These are the friends I’m talking about.

I mean the friend who knows every last one of your illegitimate children because you made arrangements for them to go to his office to collect their fees so that your wife never finds out that you sprouted children all over the place like some mushroom farmer.

That will be the same friend who, when you are dead, and these women start appearing out of the yellow to claim from the estate will admit (sheepishly) that they knew all along that you had kids stashed somewhere.

Then of course your now widowed wife will wish she had laced every meal she served your friend with poison – the snake!

I mean the friend who knows that you lied and that your firstborn isn’t your hubby’s kid because you had that one night stand to get back at him.

You were never really sure whose it was until the baby came out looking just like the fellow at the club but the ‘girls’ knew because they were there that night egging you on to go ahead and ‘drown your sorrows’ when they knew that you couldn’t handle your liquor.

So when you found out you were pregnant you called an emergency meeting and everyone unanimously agreed that you pretend that night never happened.

Those are the friends I’m talking about – the friends who help you bury the truth beneath layers of lies, deceit, pretense and half-truths.

The friends who know where the bodies are buried.

Parting shot: “Then you should have died! Died, rather than betray your friends, as we would have done for you! – Johanne Kathleen (JK) Rowland author of ‘Harry Potter’