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Looking back into the future

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turned 49 last Sunday which is a mean feat in a country whose life expectancy has plummeted to
around 35 if not worse. I look forward to clocking half a century next June by which time I hope things
would have been straightened out. Forgive me for being optimistic. As Zimbabweans we have no choice
but go up, because we have scrapped the bottom.
I

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Looking back into the future

  1. 1. Looking back into the future The Last Straw by Lenox Mhlanga I turned49 lastSundaywhichisa meanfeatina countrywhose life expectancyhasplummetedto around35 if notworse.I lookforwardto clockinghalf acenturynextJune bywhichtime I hope things wouldhave beenstraightenedout.Forgiveme forbeingoptimistic.AsZimbabweanswe have nochoice but go up,because we have scrappedthe bottom. I was bornin a yearwhenthe countryexperiencedrecordlowsthistime intemperatures,notthe economy.Thiswinterissomewhere nearthere andbeingaJune babyIhave more or lessbeenable to handle the cold.Butthiswinterisparticularlybitterinmore waysthanone.Before Iget there letme justpicka numberof milestonesinmyveryactive lifetime. WhenI came intothe worldwe were partof whatwas knownas the federation.Thiscountryhadthe lion’sshare of developmentwhencomparedtothe thenNorthernRhodesiaandNyasaland.Thiswas mainlybecause of the large white population.Thisledtomassive labourmigrationsfromournorthern cousinswhoevenatthat time were takenassecondclasscitizens. In mychildhoodIhavingbeingbornwitha silverspoondanglingfrommymouth,Iwas terrorizedbya childof what wasknownthenas MunyasarandiorMunyasa forshort.ButI wasobliviousof the political upheavalsof the time whichtousmanifestedinthe formof occasional riotsandpatrolsby burlywhite policemenwe called amajoni. My father,havinggrownupandeducatedinSouthAfricathrew himself headlongintothe nationalist politicsof the day.He hada lotto gainand to lose too.He had juststarteda familyandhad a well payingjobas a furniture salesman.Thiswasata time whenanythingtodowithbusinesswasthe white man’sdomain.Infact he had beenappointedmanagerof the shophisJewishemployershadopenedin Bulawayobutwas notallowedtotake upthis plumpositionbecause,youguessedit,he wasblack. However,hisemployers,realizinganiche marketforfurniture among the growingblackmiddle classof nursesandteachersopenedanotherbranchalongLobengulaStreetwheremyfatherwasdesignated ‘saleman’eventhoughhiswasactuallymanagerof bothbranches.Itwasat thisbranch of Mackays furniture shopthatthe likesof the late JoshuaNkomo,SidneyMalunga,JosephMsika,JohnNkomo, Lazarus Dlakama,and otherswouldmeetandstrategize asitwhere. It was the late Malungawho wasto tell me yearslaterthat itwas my fatherwhosoldhimhisfirstbed. The late Vice PresidentNkomowastoconfirmthisfora fact. My father’scontributiondidnotendin supplyingbeds,radiosandtelevisionstoamodernizedclientelewhowere latertobe the who’swhoof Zimbabweanpolitics.He pioneeredwhattodayismisnamedindigenization.He wasamongthe firstcrop of blacksto start theirownbusinesses, Thismightsoundlike the storyof the life of myfather,butsomewhere inbetweenthose pagesthat made thiscountry’shistorywasa bemusedme takinglife aseasyasany middle classkidof the time.
  2. 2. Obliviousof the dangerthatmyfather’sinvolvementinnationalistpoliticswouldbringtothe familywe enjoyedthe statusof abantwana bezipantsha literallythe childrenwhogrew upincomfort. Unfortunately,little of myfather’sentrepreneurialspiritrubbedoff me atthe time.Instead,he cultivatedinme a voraciousappetite forreadingmaterial.Ivividlyremembersharingthe newspaper withhimeverymorningfromthe time Iwas inGrade One.Thoughtat that time myinterestwasin cartoons andcomic stripsthat dominate the editorial page of the Chronicle of those years.Iledtomy blossomingintoanartistof note at Masuku PrimarySchool inTshabalalaropedinmy teacherstodraw illustrationsforthe radiolessonsconductedbythe immortal MsChilds. My fatherwasto laterinvolve himself withfootballrightfromthe sixties,servingHighlandersFootball clubin variouscapacitiesrightupto the honoraryPresidencyof the teamhe holdstoday.Forme this meantthat I had the privilegetobradto my friendsnotonlyabouthavingwatchedTshilamoyadestroy GweloUnited,butthatplayerssuchas BillySibanda,Lawrence ‘Lofty’Phiri,EdwardDzowa,Tommy ‘Squeezer’Masuku,IsaacMafaro,PeterZimutoactuallysleptatoutMhlahlandlelabungalow during camp. The familybusinessgrewunderthe JTembabrand and yetthe war tookits toll.The guerillaswould benefitfromhisgenerosityinLowerGweruviathe bottle store atMaboleni.Yetironically,myfather was to be detainedinpostindependentZimbabwe,the countryhe helpedliberate.Thiswouldbear seedtothe bitternessaboutpoliticianshe hasharboredforall these yearsandhas rubbedof me somehow.Nextweekwe continue the saga… Ends…

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