Death of a tyrant…
Yesterday we learned that the despicable tyrant, Robert Mugabe had died in Singapore. It seemed a bit of an anti climax to me. I have very mixed emotions right now. I always thought I would rejoice and do my happy dance at the news, through a party even, and while there was some satisfaction, it did not last long. I remember my parents having to flee the country because their lives were in danger, leaving my brother and I at 17 and 19 behind. Dads life’s work wiped out in the years that followed. I remember the toll it took on our family. Fathers, brothers, uncles, friends fighting a brutal civil war. Many of those who survived would never be the same again – maimed, scarred inside and out, trying to pick up the pieces of their lives when the dust settled.
My older brother Terry, was one of the Greys Scouts and spent so much time away from the farm. His wife had to learn the skills needed to keep the farm running through the different seasons, taking care of the planting, irrigation and harvesting of the crops; dealing with the workers etc.
I remember the mortar attack on the outskirts of Salisbury, hearing mortars whistle over the house and waiting for one to hit. The men getting us to stand in doorways or lay down in the bath, turning all the lights out. We found out the next day how close we were to being hit and were thankful to be alive.
I remember bomb and terrorist drills at school; being made to sit on the playing fields for hours while they did a sweep of the hostels after a bomb threat; an unclaimed suitcase being denotated by the bomb squad; doing drills with the borders at a country school; learning to shoot as a trainee teacher – a requirement to teach at this country boarding school.
I remember the bombing campaign around the city. I was close 3 times to a bomb blast. Once, I went to the movies and the movie theatre next to the I was in was bombed. I was constantly on high alert and worried about both my brothers in the respective army units. I lost friends and school mates; grieved with those around me who lost family members or limbs etc.
I remember the horror of planes being shot out of the sky and any survivors being executed on the ground. The brutality of mothers, babies, missionaries being raped and hacked to death. I remember having to travel between cities in armed convoys.
People were resilient. When we could not import goods because of sanctions, we made them ourselves – fabrics, clothes, shoes, glassware, pottery – anything we needed. We exported food to neighbouring countries. People worked hard, played hard, loved fiercely. Neighbour helped neighbour. We were connected, mostly happy and longed for peace.
Then came “Independence” and the shortages – food, fuel, the basics. I worked for the railways and we were told in an official memo that no whites would be promoted in the future. The railways used to be high quality even servicing Botswana. Our roads were well made, but slowly, all the expertise began to leave – Doctors, dentists, engineers, IT professionals, even educators – and the decline began.
I left the land of my birth at age 23, never to return. I miss the people, the way of life we had, the sunshine, the bush, the wildlife. The last time I was there was 1998, when I went to visit my brother, not knowing I would never see him again. Six weeks later I left Africa for good but still carry the internal wounds and scars. I already had PTSD but it would not be diagnosed until is was in my 40’s.
My citizenship was stolen from me because I am white and was living in South Africa. I had to become a South African because they would not renew my passport. According to Bob, white people could not be Zimbabweans. We could only be the enemy.
Losing my brother in such a brutal way changed me forever – as it did all my family. Mugabe’s sister wanted his farm and escorted the people who would eventually kill him on to it. Thousands of people displaced during the farm invasions and turning the country from the food bowl of Africa to the begging bowl.
The fact that Mugabe died in asylum in relative ease in Singapore, on the stolen wealth of his people, sticks in the craw. He ruined a beautiful, productive country. His death changes nothing. The country is in ruins, the people are out of work and struggle to feed their families and they still have a tyrant in power. I grieve for this beautiful land and it’s people scattered far and wide and of course, especially those we left behind.
I feel stuck, not sure how to move on. Where I once had an something or someone to direct my pain, anger and, dare I say, hate at, I no longer do. It feels empty. So much energy wasted. I feel powerless. I dream of Zimbabwe becoming a thriving country again but lack the courage to return and help it happen. I am too broken; too disillusioned; too sceptical.
So, while one side of me is quietly happy, the other side is empty, lost, broken. I need to move on and focus my energy on getting well, living well, being happy in the place I now call home.