Busiso and moving to South Africa

Busiso was 14 when he moved to South Africa.  Zimbabwe’s economy had taken a spectacular nosedive, and it was decided that for him, South Africa was a better environment.  His father was already working in Pretoria as a doctor, but the rest of his family stayed back home.  Busiso was completely alone in Johannesburg.  “It wasn’t the easiest of moves”, he says, as he shifts slightly in his chair.  “It was during that time when xenophobia was a thing.”

                                               “IT WAS NOT THAT EASY AT ALL.”

Adjusting to a new school, St. Benedict’s, made things even harder. He’d left just when he was solidifying friendships – Busiso didn’t know a single person in his new high school. “To add to it, when I came here, I skipped a grade.  So I was a year younger than everyone.”  There was only one other Zimbabwean there, who was a year older than him.   He was surrounded entirely by South African students, all older than him.  It was painfully obvious that he was an outsider, and there were many times that Busiso didn’t feel like he belonged anywhere.

Busiso HS

Busiso as a high school student

 

New school, new curriculum, new environment, new country – Busiso had to adjust quickly to his new life.  “It was a bit intimidating, I felt a bit out of place.”  Eventually, he found his footing, and it was thanks to his adopted city.  “Thing is, there’s a lot of people you can meet when you’re in a place like Joburg.  It’s not the friendliest place, but you’re definitely guaranteed to make friends.”  Although there were moments in the beginning where he wanted more than anything to go home, his father encouraged him to tough it out. Now, looking back at those growing pains, Busiso’s come out of stronger, wiser, and more well-rounded.

 “I WAS STILL IN THAT COCOON THAT  ZIM PUT ME IN”

 Having experienced life in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, Busiso has to come to appreciate the similarities and differences between the two countries.  “It’s a lot more liberal here(South Africa)”, he says, in comparison to conservative Zimbabwe.  For him, people in South Africa are more open and expressive, something that took him by surprise when he first arrived.  “I was still in that little cocoon that Zim put me in, where I don’t question my elders.” It was only after the big move did Busiso start to question what was previously unquestionable, and open his mind to new ideas and ways of thinking.

                                                

Busiso goes back to Zimbabwe on a regular basis. Here he is at last year's Colour Run. Image sourced from Liyon Media

Busiso goes back to Zimbabwe on a regular basis. Here he is at last year’s Colour Run. Image sourced from Liyon Media

Fast forward to 2015, and Busiso is fully settled into life in South Africa.  He is currently in his second year at Rhodes University studying law.  “One thing that I’ve always been hardheaded.  I like being right”, a smile on his face, as he explains his degree choice.  “Having knowledge of the law is power.”  Ever since Grade 10, Busiso knew was sure of himself, what he wanted to study, and where to go.  Although the University of Pretoria was his original choice, he has no regrets about landing up in Grahamstown.  “It (Rhodes) produces a certain type of person that I’d want to be like.”   It was an added bonus that Rhodes is known for its Zimbabwean-friendly atmosphere, with Zimbabwean students making up a large percentage of the international students.

                              “IT WAS NICE TO BE ABLE TO DROP A ‘ZVIRI SEI SEI'”

Happy to be amongst fellow Zimbabweans, being able to speak and hear his own language, was a big change from Busiso’s high school experience.  He’s learnt to reconcile the boy he was when he left Zimbabwe, and the man he became in South Africa.  However, he has, and always will be a Zimbabwean.  “Growing up there (Zimbabwe), as a child, really made me Zimbabwean.”  Busiso’s heart will always be with his country, and even though he wants to start his career in South Africa, he has every intention of going back home and making a difference.  “One thing I want to do is take what I’ve learnt back home.  If every educated person is leaving Zim, how are we going to grow?”

 IMG_1931

Advertisements

Let’s Talk About Mr.Rhodes

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about the protests at University of Cape Town, and followed #RhodesSoWhite and #RhodesMustFall.  Yes, the age-old problem of colonial legacy and heritage has reared its controversial head again.   Southern Africa has come alive on this touchy topic, and judging from the reactions and debates on social media, the region is far from reconciling with its colonial past.

Cecil John Rhodes

The now infamous Cecil John Rhodes Statue at UCT. Picture sourced from the Guardian website

Cecil John Rhodes was not a nice man.  That,  I’m sure, we can all agree on.  He lied, stole, cheated, and harassed his way to become filthy rich.  For the longest time, he was presented in the history books as a progressive forward-thinker, who almost single-handedly made Southern Africa what it is today.  Yes, he did shape Southern Africa.  And this region still bears the scars of his schemes and interference.

This is the heart of the issue now:  there’s a giant statue, in the heart of a campus in Southern Africa, of a man who deserves zero adoration, respect, or celebration.  Rhodes did donate the land for the UCT campus – but then again, it wasn’t really his land to  start with, was it?   People walk by that statue every day, a constant reminder of the ‘great’ man who deigned to donate ‘his’ land and money to the establishment of a university.  In a country that is  still negotiating a difficult and traumatic history, it’s understandable that some students at UCT would be hurt by constantly being exposed to a monument of a man who killed millions of natives and relocated thousands of others.  And when people feel like their voices are being shut out, when the Powers That Be refuse to even listen to your views and complaints, people get desperate.  People get angry.  People get drastic.  The poo being flung on that statue was a demonstration of that frustration, anger, and disgust.  It worked.  People started to listen to their grievances.

Then came an equally controversial subject: changing the name of Rhodes University.   This debate is not new; the proposal was first tabled all the way back in 1994, by the then Student Representative Council (SRC) President Vuyo Kahla.  Fast forward to 2015, and the debate rages on, but something has changed.  The warm, friendly atmosphere at Rhodes has often masked the underlying frustrations and tension that bubbled to the surface a few weeks ago.  If  an institution does not condone, nor associate ourselves with the views and morals of Rhodes, why do they insist on keeping the name?  Name changes are not new: after Independence, did Zimbabwe not change its name from Rhodesia?  If a university is so intent on preserving its brand, then surely its reputation should be based on the quality of its education, and not its name?  Ultimately, why, until now, have people been so dismissive about this issue, an issue that clearly affects ALL of us?

Photo sourced from Wikipedia

Photo sourced from Wikipedia

Colonial baggage and the legacy of Rhodes is a burden that every Southern African must bear.  History has not been kind to Africa, and as a Zimbabwean living in a foreign country, I can personally say that nothing is more aggravating than someone trivialising your distress and your history.  Living with colonial legacy is hard enough, do we really need to live with the monuments that glorify a man who represents a particularly  dark period in African history?  A man who said,

“Pure philanthropy is very well in its way but philanthropy plus five percent is a good deal better”

AND

“I prefer land to niggers.”

Removing such monuments, contrary to popular belief, is not “erasing history”.  Rather, it’s acknowledging that some of the men and women who were celebrated as heroes in their time do not deserve that honour today.  The statue of Cecil John Rhodes in Zimbabwe was taken down, yet we are still very much aware of his life and legacy.  Statues of Lenin, Stalin and Saddam Hussein have been torn down, but that was not followed by the world collectively hitting Delete on their histories.

A statue of Rhodes in formerly Southern Rhodesia

A statue of Rhodes in formerly Southern Rhodesia

The statue was taken down and relocated to a museum

The statue was taken down and relocated to a museum

At the end of the day, this is a discussion that’s not going to go away.  It shouldn’t go away.  The effects of colonisation are still strong today, and even though the Born Frees didn’t live through it, doesn’t mean we are not affected by it.  Telling someone to “get over it” is downright insensitive and ignorant.  All it comes down to is consideration.  For any progress to be made, and for Southern Africa to reconcile with its tumultuous past, each of us needs to be open to each other’s perspectives, distress and opinions.  To quote my Vice Chancellor, Dr. Sizwe Mabizela,

“When you walk in someone else’s shoes that is when you realise what it is like to be that other person.”