‘Nothing is worse than your past’

2010-11-13 17:39

My favourite place in South Africa is the Union Buildings; it represents both South Africa’s past and present.

When I go there I immediately identify with the history of the country, but it also houses the leadership that carries the hopes of all the people of this country. It’s just beautiful. The environment and greenery make me feel peaceful and at home.

I’m a football fan and one of the things I love about South Africa is the passion of the football fans. The vuvuzela is something that’s come to be associated with South African football.

The other thing I’ve come to really love about South Africa
is the freedom of expression.

As a Zimbabwean, it’s a significantly ­different environment.

I’m not making any judgments of my own country, but the democratic tradition as expressed by a free rainbow nation is something I’ve come to love as much as I’ve come to love the spirit of co-existence between diverse people and cultures.

What makes me uncomfortable here
is the attitude towards foreign nationals.

I deliberately don’t call it xenophobia, which is strictly defined as an intense or irrational fear of foreigners.

I don’t think South Africans have that. But the attacks on foreign nationals has made me a bit uncomfortable as a foreigner with an African-wide perspective, and it does make my family reflect on whether or not to stay here.

My family and I have been here for six years, and we have lots of South Africa friends. We see the bigger picture and know that South Africans are very welcoming.

The most significant difference in development work
here compared to other African countries is the state’s ability to deliver services to its people. Here the government has the capacity to deliver.

In other countries non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have significant programmes supporting service delivery.

Here it’s about working with the state and NGOs to increase the existing ­capacity to deliver.

The hardest thing about working here is seeing the effect of your work on poor people in an environment of increasing inequality, high levels of HIV infections and gender-based violence, and continuing to work while hoping to make a difference or to see tangible changes.

What drives us is optimism. We ­believe the future is positive.

The biggest lessons I’ve learnt here
are that economic growth does not mean less poverty and inequality; and to rise to the challenge of working to end inequality affecting poor people in a country that is considered a middle income and emerging market.

When economies and GDPs grow, we shouldn’t assume it means better lives for the poor.

That’s been a sobering lesson for me and it’s got me to reflect on economic growth as a driver for ending poverty.

What I’d like South Africans to know about Zimbabweans
is that they are hard-working people.

Not only here in South Africa, but also at home.

Zimbabweans are very resilient people who have had an equally challenging history as South Africans: they’ve lived through colonialism, a war of independence, rebuilt their country, and are now going through a period of decline.

Through it all, they’ve remained hard working, resilient and optimistic about the future.

I don’t miss any food from Zimbabwe.
All the food I can get in Zimbabwe I can get here, which is why I feel so at home here.

What makes me most proud of Zimbabwe, is that when I tell people where I’m from, our work ethic is the first thing people comment on. That and that we’re honest and friendly.

What gives me the greatest hope for South Africa ironically is its past. When you look at what this country has come through then the future can only be bright. No challenges you face now can be worse than what you’ve gone through.

The democratic foundations of this country are strong: your Constitution and the fact that it can’t be easily changed.

My favourite South African – aside from everyone else’s favourite, Madiba – is Ringo Madlingozi.

His music resonates beyond the borders of South Africa and across the continent and he’s very close to our number one musician Oliver Mtukudzi.

They’ve done ­several collaborations, one of which I recently saw at the State Theatre.

I don’t think South Africans are hard to befriend. Maybe it’s because I’m a football fan and usually when I start a conversation the language is the same.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a health freak, but the local food I just don’t get is atchar. All that fat floating in liquid just doesn’t cut it for me.

I was picking up my weekend papers at a service station when this guy approached me and said he’d been having problems with his neighbour whom he thought had bewitched him and he wanted to hit back.

He’d heard that Zimbabweans had strong magic and he asked if I could help him out. That’s the rudest thing a South African has ever said to me.

The high levels of crime in South Africa infuriate me, especially the crimes of passion where jilted lovers wipe out girlfriends and their children.

A woman has a right to decide what to do with her life and her future and it’s important for men to understand that.

In the long term I will definitely go back to Zimbabwe where I see a future in leading my country.

I will play a leading role in shaping Zimbabwe.

I don’t foresee being president, but I will play a leadership role.

I’d tell anyone contemplating moving here to come, stay and enjoy the country.

I’d tell them that crime is a reality, but that it’s often overblown and that it’s possible to live here and enjoy your life.

I’ve agreed to be interviewed because
I have had a positive experience and I’m optimistic about the country and its people.

There are exceptions and aberrations, but a few bad people do not define South Africans.

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