Sleeping Like a Hare Millions Billions Trillions    
African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

Multiple choice
November 6, 2010, 9:39 am



Dear Family and Friends,

Not many people can bear to watch the main evening ZBC TV news bulletin these days. Thirty one years after Independence it is still filled with stories that apportion blame for everything that is wrong with Zimbabwe on: “the whites, the neo colonialists, the colonial settlers, the west.”  

Six years ago, in October 2004, instead of my usual weekly description of life in Zimbabwe, I sent out a letter called: “Until we meet again.” It was not written by me, but by my mother, Pauline Henson, a white Zimbabwean who was saying goodbye to her family and friends and her life here which had spanned more than half a century. She is one of an estimated four million people, a third of our population, who had no choice but to leave home in order to survive. In those six years my Mum has not forgotten Zimbabwe for a single day. This week, in recognition of a quarter of our population of all skin colours, who have been forced to live as strangers in strange lands, my letter contains four extracts from Pauline’s column: Outside Looking in”:

“Friday November 5th 2010.

Six years ago on this very day I left Zimbabwe. I knew as I flew out of Harare that life would never be the same again for me. I was leaving behind a whole lifetime of memories, of friends and family – a daughter and a grandson – to come to a country where I had been born but which was as alien to me as Africa had once been.

Time heals all wounds, they say, but for me the passing years have only emphasised the sense of loss. “I am a Zimbabwean” I tell people here but hardly a day passes without Robert Mugabe or one of his cronies telling white people that their skin colour and their colonial past excludes them from making that claim. I was reminded of that as I watched a re-run of ‘Mugabe and the White African’ this week and heard Ben Freeth ask the question, ‘Can a white man ever be an African?’ For Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ but for me and thousands like me all over the diaspora, Zimbabwe continues to be the place we call home. I think of all the thousands of children I taught and of the teachers I trained – black Zimbabweans all of them – whose acceptance and friendship filled my days in Mutoko and Murehwa and I wonder how we have arrived at this racial intolerance in Independent Zimbabwe. This week, for example, a female Zanu PF member called for the death sentence for anyone who supports sanctions or is friendly to the west! 

But it was a letter in the Financial Gazette that really attracted my attention this week. “Is this racist?” asked the letter writer and quoted a question from the Grade Seven examination which every child in Zimbabwe sits at the end of primary school. This is what the Grade Seven children were asked in a multiple choice question on the General Paper: “Before Independence blacks and whites failed to live together peacefully because: A. the whites had guns.  B. the blacks liked to strike. C. the whites did not like the blacks and D. all the blacks wanted to live in towns.

 Whether this is racism or not, I do not know but what I do know is that it is a very badly designed multiple choice question, aimed at 11-12 year olds to test not factual knowledge but political opinion with racist overtones.   

As Zanu PF gears up for elections, teachers in rural areas are once again in the frontline. Zanu PF does not care for educated people, they think for themselves and so teachers are beaten up for daring to express alternative views. Three of those teachers are fighting for their lives in a Mission Hospital after a violent beating by Zanu PF thugs in Bikita. All over the country anyone with educational qualifications must be pondering their futures in this divided and intolerant country.  No wonder the International Crisis Group declared this week that Zimbabwe is ‘on a knife edge’ in the run-up to the elections.”

To read Pauline’s full column please visit my website. Until next time, from a Zimbabwean at home and one away from home, thanks for reading, love cathy

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