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Sprouts from arid land



I grew up in Tsholotsho in rural Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. Tsholotsho is arid; any attempt at agriculture is a waste of time. But the people of Tsholotsho try agriculture every year; what else can they do, but hope. Tsholotsho was one of the places in Matabeleland ravaged by Gukurahundi (the massacre of Ndebele people in the early eighties that resulted in the death of about twenty thousand people).
Gukurahundi missed me by about two years, but it did not really miss me: I grew to the gloomy effect of elders who had not been home in twenty years because they ran away from advancing, brutal soldiers. I grew up to the tension of constant bitter talk from the remaining elders. I grew up to a pervading sense of hopelessness: There are no opportunities in Tsholotsho; the men travel down to South Africa as soon as they leave school and school is a place just to grow up and await one’s turn to go to South Africa; crossing the border illegally across the crocodile infested Limpopo river. The jobs on offer there are limited to being a garden ‘boy’ in the ‘suburbs’.
Life is very difficult for men in Tsholotsho; imagine what it is like for the women. The only prospect for the women of Tsholotsho is to get married to someone working in South Africa and stay home and wait for him to come home, and the men come home only once a year for a few days. Trotting to school ten kilometers away early in the morning the girls dream of nothing really but to get married to someone working in South Africa who comes home once a year. A few like me dreamt of being a teacher or perhaps a nurse. But I dreamt in silence: People would have laughed if I gave voice to my dreams.
The women do not get out of Tsholotsho. But I got out of Tsholotsho. I did this by daring to dream and believe that I could be anything I wanted to be. I now stay in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second city). I run a successful semi-professional hair dressing business and have learnt to bake and decorate wedding and birthday cakes. I have not stopped studying and will not stop. I am married to a highly educated, modern man who encourages me constantly and wants me to be the best I can be.

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