Dear Robert, Through the insanity that has been your reign there have been times when I seriously started to believe you were immortal and would live forever, but just recently your sister died and now I hear you are slowly losing your battle against cancer. It would seem all men die sometime.
It’s with this in mind that I felt the need to write this letter and say things that have been on my heart for a while, but never had a chance to say. People fail to understand my underlying loyalty to you which has often been seen as some insane allegiance to what they perceive to be a monster or likened to the warped sense of loyalty of a child to an alcoholic and abusive father. I hope from this piece they will see what I saw and get a glimpse of what I feel.
First of all, I want to say thank you. It was because of your efforts that I was born into a country that was indeed free and embodied the very traits of the rainbow nation that South Africa seeks to be today. I have freely enjoyed and taken advantage of the first fruits of liberation that you fought to give every person that called themselves Zimbabwean, regardless of their race. Post-war healthcare made tremendous advances and black and white sincerely lived side by side in harmony without the need for constant reminding to play nicely. We had the luxury of living in a country where we felt safe at all times and petty theft was the extent of our crime worries. There is a reason why the majority of displaced Zimbabweans would go back home in a heartbeat should things become tenable again and for this I thank you. It was because of the Zimbabwe you built for us.
Thank you for emphasizing the importance of and giving so many resources to education. When you observe countries with a lack of it you truly understand the desperate need for it. Because of your belief in the need for every child to have education of the highest standard, we proudly grew up to be the country with the highest literacy on the continent. We are not who we are by chance, it was because of your high standards that we developed a work ethic that appreciates the need to labour hard to achieve one’s goals and this has held us in good stead when we had to survive in countries far from home, it’s given us an advantage over others because we get things done. You never gave us BEE on a plate, thereby ensuring a culture of entitlement never crept in.
While I am grateful for what you did for us, there is a part of me that feels extremely angry and betrayed by you. At some point things went very wrong, and I believe it all began when Sally died. In your grief you forgot that, though you lost a wife, we had also lost a mother. You withdrew, became angry and turned your back on us. This rage was further fuelled by what you perceived to be treachery by the Blair administration with regards to the land reform programme and Britain’s refusal to fund it. Your obsession in righting this wrong destroyed us. While I understand and fully appreciate the principles behind your land reform policies, the fact that they were fuelled by fury made it a total shambles. You didn’t even see what was happening around you. You were so caught up in this one personal vendetta, you single-handedly nearly ruined my future and the future of all the other millions of Zimbabweans that now have to live as second-class citizens in places so far from home in an attempt to feed their families. You stood by, watched us pack and go, all the while calling us names, but never once initiating dialogue to find out why we were leaving.
Do you have any idea how bad it’s become for those of us not fortunate enough to land on our feet? The pathetic lows we have had to sink to – from crime to prostitution – just to put food on our tables, qualified teachers and nurses having to settle for being maids and security guards. You built us up only to let us be torn down and persecuted daily just for being foreign; with some of us having to die for it. You allowed the world to strip us of our dignity while you turned a blind eye as we became the laughing stock of the world. You betrayed us by standing by and allowing greedy ministers in your cabinet to literally rape our country for their own gain, leaving nothing for anyone else. Hungry children resorted to eating bark from trees just to survive while “she-devil-we-do-not-speak-of-who-you-married-in-a-moment-of-insanity” shopped up a storm around the world.
Not once did you ever stop to acknowledge or try to contain the imploding mess around you. There was never a time when you showed concern for us who have to inherit this mess that you created and are burdened with having to work twice as hard in an attempt to turn the country into anything worthwhile for our children to inherit.
You are dying now and the hyenas are baying at your door. As I see it, you have two options: You can either give in to the sharks and hand over the reins to the Mujuru’s/Shiri’s and plunge us into further darkness giving the world the right to remember you as a despot, or you can finally right the wrongs of the past years and handover to someone we can trust. It’s not too late and you owe it to us. You owe it to me! I am praying that in your final moments your heart is filled with remorse and that when you choose your successor, you take time to remember the Zimbabwe you always dreamed of, think of Sally and what she would have wanted and, please sir, just this one time, think of us. May your final gesture be of you finding a way to somehow start to give us back the country you have held to ransom for 15 years.
I will mourn deeply when you are gone and I will take time to remember the fond memories. But I will also keep the bad memories close at hand for one day soon I will be in a position to make change and I want to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes you did.
Until we meet again,
Brendah works for a management consultancy during the day, you know, one of those companies that no-one really knows what they do. Before she defected and went uber-corporate she worked for UpperCase Media and the Mail & Guardian and now does her writing on a freelance basis. She has dreams of being the change Zimbabwe needs. And did we mention she is female? Black female?
Alcatraz had some of the best prison food in the United States.