Dreaming of Zimbabwe: Tales from the diaspora


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

A person had adopted him out of the principle 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 tug 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 pupil chief at Harare Polytechnic School, Lance had spoken overtly about police brutality and advocated for a rise in pupil 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 wrestle 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.

Scholar activism

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

He shortly delved into the world of pupil activism, collaborating in a wave of pupil protests in response to the nation’s worsening financial scenario and police brutality.

Throughout his first yr on the Polytechnic, he met Lawrence Chakaredza, a pupil chief often called Warlord, who attended the close by College of Zimbabwe. At simply 5 toes, 5 inches, Warlord was a talented orator and a legend among the many pupil 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 assist of accelerating pupil grants.

His fearlessness impressed Lance, and collectively they protested towards the notorious Scottish physician Richard McGown, nicknamed Physician Loss of life, 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 a minimum of 5 individuals, 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 mother and father of Lavender Khaminwa. Quickly after, Lance, Warlord and one other pupil activist, Pedzisai Ruhanya, determined to go on starvation strike. Becoming a member of protesting crowds on the trial, the three college students sat exterior the courtroom, the place they refused to eat or drink for 5 days. Fearful for his well being, Lance’s mother and father 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 only 12 months in jail, six months of which was suspended. He was launched on bail after someday 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 continues 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 transportable radio on the aspect was used to hearken to ZBC and BBC broadcasts in regards to the starvation strike [Photo courtesy of Lance Guma]

A couple of months after the starvation strike, Lance efficiently ran for secretary-general of the Scholar Consultant Council (SRC). Together with Pedzisai, who was elected SRC president, he led a number of demonstrations to demand the federal government increase pupil 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 operating Ignatius Chombo, then minister of upper training, out of his workplace, throughout one of many protests. “He was mainly avoiding us and pretending he wasn’t there,” he remembers.

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 international media organisations. In 2002, he lined 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. Overseas media organisations, CNN amongst them, had been crucial of how the elections had been carried out.

Six months later, on his approach 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 principle 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 remembers.

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 chance of staying in Zimbabwe was simply too excessive. In 2003, he and his household packed up their lives and fled.

Lance stands exterior 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 associates, and he discovered work in a cake manufacturing unit.

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

Two years later they moved to London.

Lance had taken up a proposal to work for SW Radio Africa, thought of by many to be an anti-Mugabe station. Based by Zimbabwean journalist Gerry Jackson, it reported on present affairs and advised tales which may in any other case get journalists in Zimbabwe arrested. A lot of their content material comprised of phone conversations with individuals 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 mission 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 capable of 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 typically 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 army coup pressured Mugabe from energy in 2017, however the local weather for journalists and dissidents has not improved within the years since. He reels off a listing of these going through persecution: Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist and anti-corruption campaigner, who was arrested for a sequence of tweets that inspired individuals 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 checklist 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 need to 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, based on The World Financial institution. Baby poverty has reached a document excessive of 70 % within the nation. On the finish of 2019, the unemployment fee was 16.4 % and this has solely worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Final yr, 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 will not be doing sufficient. “The Zimbabwean exile neighborhood is letting Zimbabwe down. You understand it was truly the exiles who led the motion that helped to free South Africa,” he says.

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

“Exiles have a chance to guide one thing particular. To reap the benefits 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 profiting from 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 mother and father 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 mother and father’ four-bedroom terraced home in Bedfordshire was crammed with brown faces like her personal. Little did she know it will not be like this in the remainder of her small, majority-white city. At her faculty, she was certainly 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 yr.

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 on occasion as she chooses her phrases fastidiously. “I suppose 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 remembers 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 unclean look after which ignored her. “Though I may converse 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 major 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 atmosphere,” she says.

However there have been occasions when “becoming in” wasn’t an choice – just like the time when Tawana was 17 and a bunch of white males referred to 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 obtained effectively 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 presently 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 companion.

The sensation of otherness she first felt when she bought to England has by no means left her. “Over time it has gotten steadily worse, with it affecting the best way that I type relationships with individuals 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 individuals 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 preventing 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 relentless state of being advised that I’m imagining the racist expertise that I’m experiencing.”

Michael Chitehwe: ‘My associates 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 motive to go away,” he says matter-of-factly, talking from Scotland.

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

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

“My associates bought me an journey and mentioned there have been extra alternatives,” he remembers.

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 assumed, 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 associates virtually instantly. “Folks 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 shortly 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 recognized. He additionally enjoys his job as a scientific nurse supervisor with an addictions staff on the NHS, the place he has been for greater than a decade.

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

He admits that he was apprehensive about how he could be obtained 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 shortly recover from that and Scottish persons are essentially the most pleasant and useful individuals, which makes my job simpler.”

Michael has made certain his household stays linked to his heritage as effectively. “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 not consider the area and freedom there’s. My 14-year-old daughter at all times feedback on how glad and welcoming everyone seems to be even once 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 thought 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 individuals. Plenty of inexperienced land, mountains, and rivers. Additionally they like to drink loads,” he provides, jokingly.