Monthly Archives: June 2013

Age of Zinc is proud to present the third installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

Back in the rural area, in 1985, we started cutting grass to re-roof one of the rooms.  A neighbor offered to do the thatching of the house for free. We were living with my father’s brother’s wife. My father’s brother offered to look after us for a year, and to pay our school fees. He also offered to plough fields for us during this year.  Other people in the community helped with maize. My father’s father had died a long time ago.

My mother’s family lived close too. Their land touched the boundaries of our kraals. We could see the houses. But she was not able to support us. 1987 was the year that I completed my grade seven. During that year my grandmother passed away.

Picture 056

I completed my grade seven and did well but there was no money for me to continue to study for O levels. If my parents had money at that time ….

So after grade seven, I came back to the city to be a domestic worker. My time in school had not been good because of the war. I came to Harare to work. I did this for my brothers. The little that I got I paid was for my brothers’ school fees and to pay for some groceries.

Harare during that time was good.  There were many things that were available. There was a type of bread called lobels – it was good bread.  People moved around selling this bread with the motorbikes. You could tell it was this lobels because of the smell. Then there were deliveries of milk from the dairy board. The delivery men had carts with bells.

IMG_5505

I started working in Kuwadzana  and then went to Greendale. In Kuwadzana my boss was a tailor and her husband worked in a garage. In Greendale I was working for a teacher. The little money I was getting was useful. I could buy my clothing, my brothers’ school fees, and sometimes some groceries for them (soap, cooking oil). My brothers, they lived by farming.

The house in Kuwadzana had seven rooms. My boss rented three rooms out. It was her own house. She only had two kids. I slept with the kids and we were eating together. I was not very grateful because I wanted to be in school and do my O levels. I was forced by the situation to become a domestic worker. I told myself that there was nothing I could do.

Advertisements

“The Great Ball on which we live. The world is our home. It is also the home of many, many other children, some of whom live in far-away lands. They are our world brothers and sisters.”
— Primary school geography textbook, Alabama, USA, 1936

Age of Zinc is proud to present the second installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

My father was a drunkard. He had his alcohol and his girlfriends. He was paid each week and then he had a girlfriend on Friday.

We knew that this was where his money was going: to his girlfriend and the shebeens. He drank a type of beer that was a bit like moonshine called kachasu. It looks like water, but it is illegal and very dangerous. It is a spirit brewed outside Harare.

IMG_5495

For food, it was very difficult for me and my brothers. We had an auntie who wanted to help, but she had a bigger family and could not afford to do much. She was also renting.

Meanwhile we were being chased from the rental houses. They would say you have failed to pay your rents.  Then me and my brothers spent a week sleeping outside. We found a space near a shopping centre. The bars there meant that it was very noisy.  I managed to wash our clothes and we would bathe ourselves in the Manyame River.

My father’s aunt was helping with the food. Also, we went outside looking for blackjack, a green vegetable, that we could cook and add salt. When we were sleeping outside my father was not with us. He went to his girlfriends or was at the shebeen.

Life, it worsens. But I made sure that we went to school. I was putting used oil that we found on our skin instead of Vaseline but I made sure that me and my bothers looked nice so that we can go to school.

Picture 041

Then my father was fired from work and I asked myself “what can I do?”  In the rural area, we had been using my grandmother’s house but no one was taking care of the fields.  My father’s mother was also divorced and she had left her extended family.  I decided that we should go back to my father’s father; that would be our rural home.  Still, I needed the bus fare to go there.

My father’s brother was working and I asked him for help but he did not want to look after “these kids.” Me and my brother.  He told me: “ I have my own kids”.

IMG_5516

To pay the bus fare, I reported my father to the police and he was arrested. He spent a night in custody and the police said to me “Tomorrow bring your brothers to us, to Chitungwiza.”

I explained that I wanted to take us back to my father’s father. The judge asked my father, and he said that he did not have money.  So the courts wrote a warrant for the bus.  We went home with just our clothing.

“I arrived at length at Cairo, mother of cities and seat of Pharaoh the tyrant, mistress of broad regions and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendour, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the halting-place of feeble and mighty, whose throngs surge as the waves of the sea, and can scarce be contained in her for all her size and capacity.”
— Ibn Battuta

Age of Zinc is proud to present the first installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

I was born in 1969 in November.  I started school in 1980. By then I was big to be a grade one kid.

I first came to Harare in 1981 when I was twelve.  I came with my mother and brothers.  We joined my father.  During the war, he had been shot in both legs.  He was treated at a hospital in Harare and after the war he remained in the city.  Before the war, my father had lived in the rural areas.

In 1983, my parents had separated.  My mother returned to her family.  My mother took us to my father’s mother and left us there – me and my two brothers.  It was not easy for me to stay in a farm area.  My grandmother was not working.  We survived by growing crops – using our hands in the fields.  My father did not visit, and did not support us.  My younger brother was still using napkins in 1983.

After some time, I took my brothers to my father.  It was not easy to stay with him – he was renting just one room.  After some months we took another room in St Mary’s in Chitungwiza– near to where my father was staying.

When I brought my brothers to stay with my father I thought it would be easy but it was worse because it was in town.  My father was working in maintenance at Schindler lifts at that time.  He had money but he was not even paying for the rentals or our school fees or buying us some uniforms.  Every month we were chased away from school because we did not have uniforms and had not paid our fees.  Have you been chased from school?  You are not alone.  But I kept trying – and gradually I moved through the grades.  I was catching up.

“Our grandfathers had to run, run, run. My generation’s out of breath. We ain’t running no more.”
— Stokely Carmichael