There’s no place like home

23 April 2019 | Columns

Michelle Mushonga

Mable glanced at the tiny little girl softly napping against her chest. Her small lips were slightly parted and her breaths were so soft it was as if they were merely a whisper of life. Her miniature hand was tightly wound around Mable’s middle finger, as if she feared that her mother would disappear in her sleep. “This is it,” Mable thought, as she glanced at the plane tickets in her hand. She had travelled numerous times before, but this was not a two-way ticket to Zanzibar or Johannesburg. This was a one-way ticket to new beginnings and a better life. She consoled herself by remembering that she was doing this for the innocent little soul in her arms. She lovingly brushed her hands through her daughter’s hair, more for her own comfort than her daughter’s. Mable was deeply saddened. Noticing the wretched expression on her face, her husband squeezed her hand in reassurance.

“Good afternoon passengers. Ethiopian Airlines flight 216 to Kigali is now boarding at gate 3. Please have your boarding pass and identification ready. Thank you.”

Mable awoke the snoring five-year-old. She clutched her handbag with one hand, tightly held her daughter’s tiny hand with the other, and followed her husband along the hallways of the busy Harare International Airport. This was it, she was leaving everything she’d ever known behind in the hope of finding a better life.

In contrast to her sombre mood, her daughter skipped alongside her, giggling in anticipation for what the future had in store for them.

“Yay, we’re going to another planet!” the little girl screamed in excitement. Mable’s glance moved from her daughter to the airport, as they climbed up the stairway of flight 216. She smiled, hoping that she was doing the right thing.

The above narrative paints a picture of the first time we ever moved in 2007. My parents made the decision to leave home to provide better opportunities for their daughter and two sons. It was not an easy decision, but like many Zimbabwean families, it was something that just had to happen. It was the first of many big changes in my life. At only four years old, I was clueless to the fact that this was just the beginning of a life full of migration - from Rwanda to South Africa to Swaziland, and finally to Namibia. I am no stranger to new beginnings.

A few years ago, when people heard Zimbabwe, the first thing that would come to mind was Robert Mugabe.

As a young Zimbabwean who grew up in diaspora, I knew this all too well. Revealing my nationality was usually followed by a question about Mugabe.

There was no Bob without Zimbabwe and no Zimbabwe without Bob. The two were bound in a twisted, abusive holy matrimony. Mugabe being the conniving husband, constantly sucking the life out of Zimbabwe, while convincing her that he truly does love her. And Zimbabwe being the naive wife, who constantly defends him by claiming: “He will change! With time, he will change.”

After almost four decades, Zimbabwe finally realised that a conniving dictator such as Bob would never be any different and filed for divorce in the form of a military coup. Who would have thought that Zimbabwe would exist without her Bob?

I remember the day it happened like it was yesterday. I walked into the living room, only to be greeted by my whole family hooked by Aljazeera, watching the recent turn of events unfold.

“The military has given Robert Mugabe until Friday to resign,” was all I heard. Bob? Resign? The two could never exist in the same sentence. Bob would never willingly resign. In my mind, it was all one big, sick joke.

It has been almost sixteen months since Robert Mugabe resigned, but Zimbabwe is still in a state of dire economic crisis. Some would even argue that it is currently worse than it has ever been.

Growing up, my mother would tell me tales of her childhood - tales of young children playing out in the open until late and tales of villagers that lived as one. The Zimbabwe she paints is but a distant fantasy compared to the Zimbabwe we see. The new generation of Zimbabweans will never see my country for what it truly is: A concoction of diverse, rich cultures, overflowing with beautiful green forests and captivating wildlife. Instead, the Zimbabwe they know is whittling away in suffering and thin with poverty. The Zimbabwe they know is filled with hopelessness.

At 50 years old, my mother has seen 17 different lands, six of which she’s lived in, and yet, her thick Zimbabwean accent still punctuates every syllable. Zimbabwe still flows through our veins. After all, there’s no place like home

I speak for most Zimbabweans when I ask: Will Zimbabwe ever be a better place? I guess only time will tell.