I haven’t blogged for a few weeks. Between navigating the pressures of everyday life and following the news on elections, attacks, Scripture Union being banned from school, politicians with videos and photoshoots and now the imminent intro of bond notes – sometimes one just can’t figure out which point to ponder to be honest. I am however moved by the efforts of the likes of Pastor Evan Mawarire with his #thisflag campaign, the sentiments of Zimbabweans far and wide, passionately calling for change, crying out for an opportunity to be heard. I like millions of others, continue to hold on to hope for a better Zimbabwe – because simply put, we miss what was and cannot go on like this.
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land
I have a lot riding on the home front. The future I envision for my kids doesn’t involve toiling through the challenges that arise from cultural differences in far off places or having to wait a few years before they can reunite with their relatives. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the privilege of being where I am at and the opportunities that are a part of my life. However I would be lying if I didn’t say nostalgia makes a stop-by from time to time and I wonder what Zimbabwe will become with what’s going on right now.
Luck or blood, sweat and tears: How have others made it thus far?
There’s the adage that goes something like “when opportunity meets preparedness success ensues.” Roman philosopher Seneca defined luck as the moment when preparedness and opportunity collide. Many of us simply assert that it is about being at the right place at the right time – or not! In the advent of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic collapse, there have been many that have come up from the rubble imposed and made a name for ourselves. Never mind whether they came up legally – that’s a debate for another day which I’m pretty sure leans more to one side than the other for a good number – but let’s continue. Reports of upsurges in growth in other African economies such as Uganda, Ghana, and Angola for instance, have me thinking much about what our forefathers did wrong for this generation – our generation – to be held ransom by the madness that prevails from the powers that be. Again, political a debate but a crippling reality for many of us all the same.
Having migrated from the U.S several years ago, settling on home ground for several years and now living in the UAE, I’ve surrounded by fast paced growth so much such that it really emphasises just how messed up things are on home turf. I was away for 12 months and came back to find new buildings having been opened all around my neighbourhood. Bridges linking one part of town with another, with the sparkling sea underneath are everyday occurrences here. There was a time when Zimbabweans used to describe the likes of Zambia and Malawi as disasters, chuckling away at the very notion of the kwacha. Now the kwacha trades while we print bits of paper that are supposed to preserve currency in our nation. Whose currency when they killed ours. There was a time when we would be a part of the roaring crowd at the National Sports stadium, basking in the festivities of Independence Day celebrations – and no, it wasn’t under duress either. But I digress.
I love my country with a love that has grown as I have become older. I want my children to speak Shona fluently, to ride bicycles through my city’s leafy suburbs, to not debate about the cost of living when pitted against all the other countries I’ve had the good pleasure of living in and for the notion of opportunity to move back home to not be a topic of melancholic debate. We have watched madness prevail in Zim for so many years to the extent that no one is surprised anymore. We say we’ve reached the bottom only for more crazy to make an entrance to the party.
A whatsapp message circulated this week about how we have grown so accustomed to creating jokes concerning our demise; that no one is making the right kind of noise when they should. Were there signs five years ago for what we are experiencing now? Is there anything that we could have done to be prepared for the bond note aka zim-dollar come back? What about those of us with money in the soil or businesses we’ve spent years sowing into, cultivating and nurturing as we work towards one day reaping the bountiful harvest of our hearts and hands’ toil? What happens to our hopes? What happens to our dreams?
My thinking was incited by one morning’s bible reading. As I navigated through the verses of Matthew 25 – the story of the 10 bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. The bible describes 5 of them as being foolish and the other as being wise; foolish in that they took lamps but carried no back-up in terms of olive oil for their lamps. The wise dames on the other hand carried with them reserves; that is, they were prepared.
As the story continues we are told that the bridegroom is delayed to the extent that the bridesmaids fell asleep. When the bridegroom arrives at the midnight hour, the OPPORTUNITY that the bridesmaids had been waiting for all along presented itself. As suggested by the words of Seneca, the wise bridesmaids were lucky and therefore able to attend the marriage feast while the other 5 foolish bridesmaids missed out on the opportunity as they had to go and source more oil to keep their lamps alight.
Simple yet intriguing a story it is in that it so very accurately describes what is commonplace in the lives of many of us. Opportunities come about, but due to lack of preparedness, many of us are left in a quandary, talking about what could have been had the conditions been different. Alternatively and much to the benefit of the prepared ones, they are able to exploit and maximise upon what they are presented with regardless of what the environment dictates. Many of us are wondering what will happen yet, yet there are others who were burnt last time and won’t be burnt again. They are working tirelessly to ensure that they won’t experience a repeat of 2007/2008. Jokes and all – it’s not hard to sense the tones of resilience, still. Still our people stand, still our people push on.
But then there’s ZIMBABWE
So I bring it to my nation of Zimbabwe. In the advent of the so-called crackdowns on corruption (there haven’t been any real crackdowns by the way…coz that would mean half of govt would be carried off somewhere…), exposure of those taking home monthly salaries that surpass those of the United States President – I ask myself whether there is such a thing called “luck” or “opportunity meeting preparedness” in a country like Zimbabwe. Can you do all your research, write all your proposals, draw up all the graphs, practice your pitches a thousand times in front of the mirror, put in your 10k hours, take all the professional development courses on offer – and really get your break, THAT BIG BREAK THAT LITERALLY CHANGES YOUR LIFE!? – IN ZIMBABWE????
In the days of “burning” the Zimbabwe dollar circa 2007/2008, many because of their access to foreign currency, were able to make lucrative business investment decisions that saw them prepared for the downturn of events that ensued with the introduction of the multi-currency system. Some bought land and built properties whilst others invested in organizations or started businesses that are still standing despite the abysmal reports on the economy. That’s a classic example of opportunity meeting preparedness – LUCK EVEN… (and either Seneca’s or my assertion of “Zim Luck” applies here).
Then there was the guy who from the money made through “burning”, imported multiple high-end luxury vehicles and flew to Joburg for an omelette everyday (you see because if you can have a Sandton omelette as opposed to a Harare omelette…YOU HAVE ARRIVED#cueChrisBrown….”Look at me now”), whilst renting an apartment on Harare’s Fife Avenue. This guy threw parties at the hottest clubs in town, threw money on the dance floor, had a bevy of women around him at all times, drank himself to stupor and was in the church pews on Sunday morning, tithing “burned” monies and making pledges to donate vehicles and the likes. No exaggeration here – I was in Zimbabwe during those days and saw it with my own eyes #TOMFOOLERY.ALL .AROUND. But when things changed and the U.S dollar came into circulation – #LAWDAMERCY!#BROKE.TO.BEHIND.THE.BACK.OF.BEYOND.
Now I find myself asking what next. What next with the looming bond note? Surely we can’t go back to empty shelves should Pick n Pay pack up the trolleys and roll out since the lure of the US dollar no longer prevails. Every which Zimbabwe related page you open, there are reports of this and that not working, big wig so and so being exposed and to that I ask – what’s next? Ideas and potentially profitably concepts abound within the people of Zimbabwe without a shadow of a doubt. After all, we still boast of an education system that surpasses that of any other African country in the very least despite what’s on the ground – not withstanding that the education minister’s concern over teachers’ teaching attire. Our people have survived the inexplicable save for war – GOD’S DESIGN TO MAINTAIN A PEACEFUL NATION. But are we really free? Do we really have a fighting chance at birthing radical change that puts us back on the map? I guess the debates of what needs to happen will rage on and all remains to be seen.
Is it possible to do business based on merit and credibility as opposed to knowing “such and such” who holds position of “Director of So and so” at the Institution of “what not?” Fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora ask me often enough, what opportunities can be exploited back home. The truth is, perhaps there are many sizeable opportunities, but many believe one needs luck to remotely access them. By LUCK I mean MONEY and CONNECTIONS.
Without those two things – the road to travel is marred with grit and every concrete boulder on every which way you turn. The path is perilous, the trials enormous, with folks asking you to do the unorthodox to see your vision through. I speak from experience here, working on project permits that took years of following up – daily. Showing up, daily. Making calls, daily. There was no luck there. There were no affiliations that could open doors for us. It was sheer grit and a faith in GOD that still mesmerises us today. What we were promised would take four months, became a process that lasted over 2 years – 3 if you factor in the breaks in between when we ran out of resources. BUT GOD came through!!! It was hard, costly and unfair. In the process I watched so many thrive because they knew so- and-so or related to such-and-such. This was infuriating but we weren’t about to sell our souls to the devil. It was a faith fight!
And it’s about to be a faith fight bigger than ever before now, as we are fighting against a series of goliaths, not just one. Marriages are on the brink, suicides and drunkenness are claiming our peers. Children are being left without parents. Hospitals are struggling to cope, every kind of doctrine is being preaches in our churches and the government…well, the news has it all. Ladies and gentlemen, we must stand in PRAYER. PRAYER AND TRUTH IS WHAT ZIMBABWE NEEDS. NOT their truth, about liberation struggles and what not…BUT GOD’S TRUTH. We need our anthem “Ishe komborerai Africa back”, we need our Scripture Union back on our schools, we need our families to stay together and turn all they know how to back to what GOD is saying and doing. We need to invite GOD into Zimbabwe.