Dreaming of Zimbabwe: Tales from the diaspora

Almost 24 years in the past, Lance Guma got here nose to nose with a gun.

A person had adopted him out of the primary submit workplace within the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, earlier than trying to impress him into an argument. Lance was 22 years previous.

Lance remembers the gunman threatening to drag the set off earlier than shrugging and telling him nonchalantly: “You’re making an excessive amount of noise.”

He was sure it was a warning. As a scholar chief at Harare Polytechnic School, Lance had spoken brazenly about police brutality and advocated for a rise in scholar grants.

He didn’t hassle to report the incident to the police.

“That is what occurs to activists,” Lance, now 46, explains over a Zoom name. “They (the state) will create a pretext to do one thing to you and you’ll battle to hyperlink it to your activism as a result of they’ll make it so random.”

That was the primary time he contemplated leaving the nation, however it was not the final.

Pupil activism

When he was 20, Lance had enrolled to check broadcast journalism.

He rapidly delved into the world of scholar activism, taking part in a wave of scholar protests in response to the nation’s worsening financial scenario and police brutality.

Throughout his first 12 months on the Polytechnic, he met Lawrence Chakaredza, a scholar chief often called Warlord, who attended the close by College of Zimbabwe. At simply 5 ft, 5 inches, Warlord was a talented orator and a legend among the many scholar physique for at all times being on the entrance of a protest.

Famed for carrying a helmet he had wrestled from police throughout a protest, Warlord organised demonstrations towards police brutality and in help of accelerating scholar grants.

His fearlessness impressed Lance, and collectively they protested towards the notorious Scottish physician Richard McGown, nicknamed Physician Demise, in 1995. McGown had carried out greater than 500 anaesthetic experiments on Zimbabweans between 1981 and 1992, together with administering epidural morphine to kids. He was accused of killing at the least 5 folks, together with two-year-old Kalpesh Nagidas, a Zimbabwean of Indian descent, and 10-year-old Lavender Khaminwa, who was Kenyan-born.

Regardless of being arrested in 1993, McGown nonetheless had not been convicted practically two years later. Lance had been following the case and met with the dad and mom of Lavender Khaminwa. Quickly after, Lance, Warlord and one other scholar activist, Pedzisai Ruhanya, determined to go on starvation strike. Becoming a member of protesting crowds on the trial, the three college students sat outdoors the courtroom, the place they refused to eat or drink for 5 days. Apprehensive for his well being, Lance’s dad and mom drove the six hours from their dwelling in Bulawayo to attempt to persuade him to cease, however he refused.

The starvation strike helped the case make worldwide headlines. However, regardless of their efforts, McGown, who was discovered responsible of two instances of culpable murder, was sentenced to simply 12 months in jail, six months of which was suspended. He was launched on bail after in the future as he tried to attraction towards his conviction. The attraction failed, and McGown ended up spending a complete of 4 months in jail.

Many Zimbabweans had been shocked by the sunshine sentence, which they believed highlighted continued racial inequities within the nation.

All these years later, Lance’s anger remains to be uncooked as he remembers the case. “Somebody can’t come from Scotland and experiment on Black sufferers in Zimbabwe,” he says.

Lance Guma and Lawrence ‘Warlord’ Chakaredza; the moveable radio on the aspect was used to take heed to ZBC and BBC broadcasts in regards to the starvation strike [Photo courtesy of Lance Guma]

A number of months after the starvation strike, Lance efficiently ran for secretary-general of the Pupil Consultant Council (SRC). Together with Pedzisai, who was elected SRC president, he led a number of demonstrations to demand the federal government increase scholar grants.

“We needed to close the city down,” Lance says with amusing.

“We ran constructive demonstrations, and we had been the primary SRC to extend our grants. We had been on the peak of our powers.”

He laughs on the reminiscence of him and 5 different SRC members working Ignatius Chombo, then minister of upper schooling, out of his workplace, throughout one of many protests. “He was mainly avoiding us and pretending he wasn’t there,” he recollects.

Blacklisted and overwhelmed

After graduating from faculty, Lance hoped to place his broadcast journalism diploma to good use. However he had already been blacklisted by the state-owned ZBC – the one broadcasting firm in Zimbabwe.

He ultimately discovered work as a TV correspondent for overseas media organisations. In 2002, he coated Zimbabwe’s presidential election for CNN. It was a very tense and shut election and when the incumbent, President Robert Mugabe, declared victory, the chief of the opposition Motion for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, accused him of rigging the vote. Safety forces had been despatched to patrol the streets. International media organisations, CNN amongst them, had been important of how the elections had been performed.

Six months later, on his manner dwelling from an interview with UK-based radio station SW Radio Africa, Lance was attacked by six males on a bridge that linked Arcadia, a suburb of Harare, to the primary railway station.

“They hit me with a brick on the top, stabbed me with a screwdriver within the again and took my cellphone and pockets,” Lance recollects.

It’s unclear who the attackers had been or what they needed, however Lance suspected the assault was linked to his protection of the elections.

This time, he reported it to the police, who he says dismissed the assault as a mugging with out investigating it.

For Lance, it was the ultimate straw. He had a spouse and kids now and felt the danger of staying in Zimbabwe was simply too excessive. In 2003, he and his household packed up their lives and fled.

Lance stands outdoors his dwelling within the UK in November 2020 [Photo courtesy of Lance Guma]

‘A thorn within the flesh’

They landed in Scotland, the place Lance already had some buddies, and he discovered work in a cake manufacturing facility.

“It was chilly. And you realize, there was a time the place I critically debated with whether or not I may survive that form of local weather and say that is my new dwelling,” he recollects.

Two years later they moved to London.

Lance had taken up a suggestion to work for SW Radio Africa, thought-about by many to be an anti-Mugabe station. Based by Zimbabwean journalist Gerry Jackson, it reported on present affairs and informed tales that may in any other case get journalists in Zimbabwe arrested. A lot of their content material comprised of phone conversations with folks on the bottom.

“The federal government had been jamming our transmission on shortwave, as a result of clearly we had this example the place they’ve a monopoly on broadcasting,” he says.

“We had been a thorn within the flesh of the federal government,” he provides, proudly.

Lance left the radio station in 2012 to concentrate on Nehanda Radio, a challenge he had initially based as a interest in 2006. At the moment, he runs the radio and web site, which offer 24-hour information on all issues Zimbabwe.

Lance with Zimbabwe music legend Thomas Mapfumo for Nehanda TV in Leicester, UK in March 2013 [Photo courtesy of Lance Guma]

‘Essentially the most tough second’

Regardless of being greater than 8,000 miles away, Lance’s activism nonetheless has its penalties.

In 2009, his mom handed away and he was not in a position to attend her funeral due to his precarious place with the federal government. “That’s the most tough second I’ve needed to endure,” he displays.

However generally he feels as if hazard can nonetheless attain him, just like the time he says an nameless Fb web page claimed a hitman had been employed to assassinate him.

Nonetheless, he feels safer within the UK than in Zimbabwe.

A navy coup compelled Mugabe from energy in 2017, however the local weather for journalists and dissidents has not improved within the years since. He reels off an inventory of these dealing with persecution: Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist and anti-corruption campaigner, who was arrested for a collection of tweets that inspired folks to attend an anti-government rally and charged with inciting violence; Jacob Ngarivhume, a Zimbabwean politician, who was arrested alongside Hopewell; Job Sikhala, an outspoken authorities critic who went into hiding after showing on a police needed listing and was later arrested; and Joana Mamombe, a politician who was kidnapped and tortured after talking out towards the federal government’s failure to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m able to do my job from the place I’m. I don’t should be in Zimbabwe to be efficient,” he says.

It has been a tough time for a lot of Zimbabweans. Excessive poverty rose from 30 % in 2017 to 40 % in 2019, in keeping with The World Financial institution. Baby poverty has reached a report excessive of 70 % within the nation. On the finish of 2019, the unemployment fee was 16.4 % and this has solely worsened through the COVID-19 pandemic. Final 12 months, a joint report by the European Union, FAO, OCHA, UNICEF, USAID and WFP highlighted dire ranges of meals insecurity, estimating that 4.3 million rural Zimbabweans are going hungry.

Lance interviews MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai in London in October 2013 [Photo courtesy of Lance Guma]

Lance confesses that there are moments when he feels the exile neighborhood is just not doing sufficient. “The Zimbabwean exile neighborhood is letting Zimbabwe down. You understand it was really the exiles who led the motion that helped to free South Africa,” he says.

He feels there’s a lot extra to be executed.

“Exiles have a possibility to guide one thing particular. To make the most of the freedoms within the nations the place they’re, whether or not you’re in South Africa, UK, or Canada. You might have the liberty to foyer, to advocate, and put your motherland within the discourse to be mentioned. There’s a massive inhabitants [of Zimbabweans] within the diaspora and we’re not making the most of the place we’re,” he says.

Whereas Lance doesn’t see the Zimbabwe he as soon as went on starvation strike and marched for, he doesn’t hesitate when requested what he misses most about dwelling. “The meals,” he says. “It tastes higher.”

Tawana Zendera: ‘I didn’t know I used to be Black till I got here to the UK’

Tawana stands for an image [Photo courtesy of Tawana Zendera]

Twenty-seven-year-old Tawana Zendera moved to England in 2002 when she was eight years previous. Her dad and mom had left two years earlier than, whereas Tawana and her siblings stayed behind with their uncle and maid.

The very first thing Tawana noticed when she arrived in England had been Zimbabweans. Their dad and mom’ four-bedroom terraced home in Bedfordshire was full of brown faces like her personal. Little did she know it could not be like this in the remainder of her small, majority-white city. At her faculty, she was considered one of 4 Black kids.

In Zimbabwe, Tawana and her household had been firmly upper-middle class. They lived in a four-bedroom bungalow on one-and-a-half acres of land that had been bought by her grandfather, who Tawana says was the primary Black individual to personal property within the Harare suburb of Belvedere. Her father was an engineer for Air Zimbabwe they usually went on household holidays three or 4 occasions a 12 months.

In England, nevertheless, her Blackness made her “different”.

“I didn’t know I used to be Black earlier than I got here to the UK,” Tawana says with amusing. She shakes her head, her brown eyes trying up every now and then as she chooses her phrases fastidiously. “I assume that’s the privilege of being within the majority – you don’t have to consider how you slot in since you simply do.”

She felt the privilege she had loved slip away.

“I realised that within the UK I’m not benefitting from the generational wealth that my grandparents constructed up. We mainly needed to begin from scratch. Being working class isn’t one thing that we anticipated,” she says.

Tawana recollects being in a store as a baby when one other lady requested her how previous she was. On the time, Tawana’s Zimbabwean accent nonetheless lingered over her phrases and when she replied, she says the lady gave her a grimy look after which ignored her. “Despite the fact that I may communicate the language I realised I’m not aware about the tradition and the nuances,” Tawana says.

As she watched her mom navigate her job as a main faculty instructor on the faculty Tawana attended, she observed that she, too, was totally different. “She was extra reserved, extra guarded. I knew that’s who she needed to be to suit into the brand new setting,” she says.

However there have been occasions when “becoming in” wasn’t an possibility – just like the time when Tawana was 17 and a bunch of white males known as her and her mom monkeys and threw their drinks at them. “We realized to keep away from sure neighbourhoods over time simply because we knew we might by no means be acquired nicely there,” she says.

Tawana at her uncle and aunt’s home for Christmas circa 1997 [Photo courtesy of Tawana Zendera]

‘This go well with of whiteness’

In contrast to her youthful brother, now 21, and her older sister, 29, who acclimated to England “like fish to water”, Tawana struggled.

“I’ve needed to sacrifice being my true self. I’ve needed to sacrifice my psychological well being by staying in England. I solely really feel at dwelling inside my 4 partitions.”

“I really feel like I’ve to put on this go well with of whiteness and it has taken a toll on my psychological well being,” she provides, explaining that she is at the moment in remedy for anxiousness.

Tawana does expertise moments of solace when she watches Gringo, a basic Zimbabwean comedy, or has a heat plate of sadza, a staple Zimbabwean meals, made for her by her Zimbabwean accomplice.

The sensation of otherness she first felt when she received to England has by no means left her. “Over time it has gotten steadily worse, with it affecting the best way that I kind relationships with folks as a result of I at all times assume that I’m not going to slot in,” she explains.

One of many issues she struggles with is Britain’s failure to deal with its historical past.

“White folks throughout Black historical past month would say that England isn’t racist as a result of they’ve by no means seen anybody being racist after which when I attempt to clarify to them that what we’re combating is institutional racism as a result of that’s what England does finest, they are saying that that doesn’t exist both,” she says.

“It’s a continuing state of being informed that I’m imagining the racist expertise that I’m experiencing.”

Michael Chitehwe: ‘My buddies bought me an journey’

Michael Chitehwe in Zimbabwe visiting household in 2018 [Photo courtesy of Michael Chitehwe]

When Michael Chitehwe, now 43, left Zimbabwe, he was on the lookout for an journey.

“I didn’t have a cause to depart,” he says matter-of-factly, talking from Scotland.

In 1998, Michael was 21 years previous and had a snug life in Zimbabwe, working at his sister and brother-in-law’s telecommunications firm.

However curiosity is a strong factor, and when he started listening to about buddies within the UK who had purchased a automobile or received a mortgage, he was intrigued.

“My buddies bought me an journey and stated there have been extra alternatives,” he recollects.

He left quickly after. “My mom solely knew the day earlier than I left,” he chuckles barely.

“I used to be younger, and I had this opportunity. I believed, if I don’t expertise this now, I’ll not get this opportunity once more,” he says.

Michael first moved to England, the place he stayed for 5 years and studied nursing. However when a job alternative arose in Scotland, he moved.

He made buddies nearly instantly. “Individuals simply took you for who you had been. It was a extra welcoming feeling than the opposite locations I’d ever skilled,” he says.

“There’s quite a lot of neighborhood spirit. I rapidly managed to combine in Scotland, and it was simply wonderful.”

Quickly after he arrived, he additionally discovered a bit of the journey he hadn’t realised was lacking – his future spouse.

Now, he says, “there’s no incentive to go dwelling”.

Michael (proper) and his finest man at his marriage ceremony in Scotland in 2005 [Photo courtesy of Michael Chitehwe]

Michael’s spouse and kids are Scottish, and he doesn’t need to transfer them away from the one dwelling they’ve identified. He additionally enjoys his job as a medical nurse supervisor with an addictions group on the NHS, the place he has been for greater than a decade.

“I just like the job as a result of I’ve an amazing group that helps me. We help people who find themselves stigmatised by society and altering their lives. As a supervisor there’s a fixed demand and modifications to be applied particularly with Scotland having the best drug deaths in Europe,” he says.

He admits that he was nervous about how he could be acquired when he first began the job. “At first it was a bit scary and intimidating as in most conferences I sit in I’m the one Black individual, however you rapidly recover from that and Scottish individuals are probably the most pleasant and useful folks, which makes my job simpler.”

Michael has made certain his household stays linked to his heritage as nicely. “My spouse and children have been to Zimbabwe to go to they usually like it. The final time we visited with my spouse’s sister and her household and they’re dying to come back again.”

He says his kids “can’t imagine the house and freedom there’s. My 14-year-old daughter at all times feedback on how joyful and welcoming everyone seems to be even after they don’t have a lot. Additionally they love the wildlife and the meals gogo (grandmother) cooks for them.”

Though he has toyed with the concept of retiring in Zimbabwe, for now, Scotland is dwelling.

He says it helps that it has hanging similarities with Zimbabwe. “The surroundings and pleasant nature of the folks. Plenty of inexperienced land, mountains, and rivers. Additionally they like to drink lots,” he provides, jokingly.

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