“We don’t take Zimbabwe serious enough,” laments triumphant South African film maker Xoliswa Sithole.
And she gets hot under the collar over the sociopolitical problems in that country.
Sithole has cause to be opinionated. She just won a Peabody Award for her film about the brutal lives of Zimbabwe’s children.
The Peabody is the world’s oldest prize to honour the best in electronic media.
Sithole’s wining film is titled Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children. It follows three children struggling to survive the harsh realities of extreme poverty in Robert Mugabe’s country.
These children are Grace, Esther and Obert. Grace survives by helping her father scavenge through dirt bins for bones to sell and survive.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Esther looks after her mother who is dying of Aids.
Boy child Orbert is 13 and has left school – he can’t afford the $2 per term required fees – to go and pan for gold to feed himself and his grandmother.
Speaking over the phone, Sithole’s voice grows stern and her words deliberate when she talks about the plight of children in a now impoverished Zimbabwe.
“As a person who benefited from Zimbabwe’s education system, I find the current situation heartbreaking” says Sithole.
She was born in South Africa but went to Zimbabwe when she was only three. She now again lives in Joburg.
“I’m as much a Zimbabwean as I’m South African,” she declares.
The 90-minute film was filmed secretly. Sithole says she was “given permission to do a film about her own childhood in Zimbabwe, but the film ended up being about children education and the loss of opportunity in Zimbabwe”.
The country once boasted one of the best education systems on the African continent.
It became an inevitable creative path to pursue for the film maker and mother of one. She’s grows mournful: “If children loose their ability to dream, then there’s something wrong with the world.”
Sithole worked with True Vision to produce her winning film.
The film has also been used to raise funds for the children and put them through school.