Weekly Column: Homecoming, nuptials and new year

By Samuel Chamboko – Greetings and belated compliments of the new year. Here’s hoping we will all have a thoroughly enjoyable 2011. Like many exiles from the Northern side of the Limpopo, as customary every December, I made the trek North to enjoy the festive season with family and friends. Personally it was special in many ways, the most important being I was getting married (legally that is). So through the kaleidoscope of emotion and spiritual connectivity that I feel whenever I visit the country of origin, my arrival this time was pregnant with anxiety on one side and excitement on the other. Suffice to say that the event went smoothly and was thoroughly enjoyable.

The visit also give me an opportunity to observe people, my own people, places and other events that were unfolding while I was there. There was also the opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, eating. There is something about eating the food you grew up eating. The nostalgia it brings when the favours hit your taste buds is just indescribable. I am a great fan of African cuisine and strongly believe that its one of those things that has not been marketed properly. When most tourists come to Africa, they come to see or hunt animals, to see the continent’s natural wonders and beautiful people, but they miss out on the wonderfully tasty food that the motherland has to offer. We do not punt our food enough to make it acceptable to non-Africans, like the Indians do. Look at the way Indian curries have taken over fish and chips, as the UK’s favourite food. It’s not by accident, Indian people are very possessive about Indian food and preparing it the correct way. They went to Europe and opened eateries that serve authentic Indian food, just the way their grannies cooked it. What have Africans in the Diaspora done about promoting African cuisine so that it becomes acceptable by non-Africans?

I get this feeling that a lot of people think that white farmers were persecuted in Zimbabwe and they are ran away. Far from it. Anyone who was in Zimbabwe last December will confirm that there seem to be a lot of white Zimbabweans making the trek home. We waited together for delayed flights and in the long queues and sweltering heat at Beitbridge, all eager ‘to be home for Christmas’. A lot of them still call the place home and every December just like the ‘border jumpers’ and other economic exiles, all make the trip back home. There is an observation that I made though about Zim whities, unlike other places in Africa, where white people still think they are superior, Zim white folk have seemingly accepted that we are all equal. They do think they are being robbed when a black guy greets them. You gotta love them. The majority are very fluent in ChiShona and siNdebele.

A lot of Zimbos in the Diaspora of course would like to know what home was like. From my own observations, things have improved greatly from the last time I was there. The one thing that seems to be on a gradual decline is the state of infrastructure. The roads, especially in urban areas are terrible. The buildings, even in the capital’s CBD look old and in a general state of disrepair, but nothing that a lick of paint or a scrub can’t fix. People looked happier and healthy (in Zim fat=healthy). Many families managed to fill trolleys with food and goodies for their Christmas festivities, which is quite refreshing considering that  two years ago shelves of most supermarkets had nothing.  There is one  contrasting view in outlook between ‘Diasporans’ and ‘local based’. While Zimbos in the Diaspora are obsessed with the political situation back home and constantly have debates on online chat forums and pubs about what will happen etcetera, the folks back home are not worried about politics. In the 3 weeks I was in the country, I did not  hear a single political conversation. People are worried about getting the elusive US$, and having a good time.

The other thing that I realized people back home are battling with is this thing called global warming, especially those in agriculture. It’s really become quite confusing when the rainy season begins and ends. Traditionally, our rainy season begins in October , however in the last few years the season was starting as late as Christmas. This year was different. Late November there were rains aplenty, so spare a thought for the farmer who was planning on the basis that the rains will be late again. Talking about farming, I’ll take this opportunity to dispel a misconception that people are starving in Zimbabwe because there is no food, because all the white farmers were chased out. Don’t believe it. Go and see what children of the soil are doing on the land of their forefathers. It is still at a small scale but shows signs of a lot of growth potential.