Blackhumouristpress's Blog

September 14, 2009

Zimbabwe and Rhodesia

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A tall blond woman with an uncommonly beautiful face walked up wearing a wind breaker that had a patch on it that read, Red Cross.  This tall blond woman went by the name of Jennifer.  Jennifer grew tired of being a sexually desired object for most of her life and at the age of twenty one, spun the globe and purposely kept her index finger below the equator.  It landed in the country of Zimbabwe.  Fortunately for Jennifer, she did not wind up in a country where she had to speak French, Dutch or Portuguese.  The people of Zimbabwe spoke English.  They learned English by the English and for a while, the country went by the name of Rhodesia.  Jennifer wasn’t even born when the country was called that.  In fact Jennifer was living in the country nearly a year when she figured out that Rhodesia and Zimbabwe were the same country. Many white farmers had long since moved out of the country and there were just a smattering of whites in big cities.  Jennifer didn’t seem to mind.  Jennifer went into a grocery store in the capital during her first few days in Zimbabwe in hopes of buying enough food to sustain her for a few days.  Upon entering a clean looking grocery store, Jennifer was shocked to see employees standing around a nearly vacant store.  There was bottled water and a few loaves of bread

 left.  Jennifer had no idea what it meant when the total in Zimbabwean Dollars came to $350,000.00 for two liters of water and a loaf of bread.  She gave the cashier a twenty dollar bill in American money and told her to keep the change.  The cashier pocketed nearly $400,000.00 Zimbabwean Dollars for herself which was the equivalent of a month’s pay.  It was a good day for that woman.  The only problem would be that she would have to spend that money immediately before the value changed.  The value of the Zimbabwean Dollar dropped by the minute.  Inflation was somewhere near 26,000% at the time of Jennifer’s arrival. Today it is nearly 2.2 million percent.  Jennifer picked the second poorest country in the world to make a difference.  As far as reaching the poor and impoverished, Jennifer was right on track.  To compound all of this, the president of the country declared land owned and run by white farmers to be seized.  There were nearly 400 white owned farms that helped the country sustain itself in 2000.  By 2007, there were just a handful of white hold outs that were in danger of not only losing their land but their lives.  Zimbabwe was really not a safe place for white people much less very attractive female white people.

            Now at time when blacks were squatting on white farm land and killing white

farmers, Jennifer showed up as innocent as Bambi.   The unemployment rate was somewhere near 80%. In the capital of Harare, she went to a clinic for women and told a large black woman behind a desk that she wanted to help.  This large black woman was surprised by the beauty and ignorant innocence of a young American woman, in a foreign land, unescorted.  After the initial shock, the woman sent her to the middle of nowhere.  The town she sent her to was dangerous and not far from the border with South Africa.  Most of the men and women were trying to enter South Africa illegally in hopes of finding a job.  Even if one could find a job in Zimbabwe, their currency was worth nearly nothing.  One might need a dump truck of money just to buy a meal.

            Jennifer showed up with a long tight skirt that went to her ankles.  She wore Birkenstock sandals with a shirt with George W. Bush’s face on it.  The caption said, “Wanted for war crimes”.  The people of the town were living in shacks with no plumbing.  There was no school for the children and no infrastructure to speak of.  It was worse than Tijuana in just about everyway and in this cesspool of human misery and squalor.  Jennifer was arguably one of the prettiest women in the world.  She came to the village with a back pack and an acoustic guitar.

            Jennifer’s father was a partner at a large law firm in downtown Chicago.  Their offices took up several floors of a high rise.  To be a part of this law firm was prestigious.  Attorneys were paid well. 

            Jennifer’s father had been a life long Republican.  He voted for every single Republican presidential candidate going back to Barry Goldwater.  Jennifer’s father was religious and driven.  They were Episcopal and lived in a small suburb that was in the top ten richest burgs in the country.  The village is called Kenilworth and all the streets were named after small towns in Great Britain.  England Primarily.  Most of the inhabitants were of British descent and very rich.  Jennifer too was of English lineage.  Ironically, Jack, Jennifer’s father, gave over $10,000.00 a year to an Episcopal missionary who was stationed in Namibia.  Jack was never even sure where that was.  He just knew his money went there to promote Christianity and safe drinking water.

            Jennifer went to prep school in the east and attended Stanford.  It was at Stanford that Jennifer had a history professor that told her that all American history was basically fabricated lies just like the bible and that the age of imperialism had come unravelled after World War II and the United States picked up where Great Britain and France had left off.  A man who had studied his whole life and received a doctorate at the age of

 forty five, challenged young and impressionable people to do something with their lives.  This professor read and re-read H.L Mencken and Nietzche in a studio apartment, with no wife and no family.  His big moment was protesting the war back in the late sixties and getting arrested.  He was promptly bailed out by his parents but told the story for so many years after that his time in jail went from four hours to four weeks.  His fabled plight resembled a Kafka novel rather than a simple act of civil disobedience that was considered to be a step above j walking or spitting on the sidewalk. 

            Be all that as it may, her father, his job, their community, their homogeneity, their insulation and so forth was somehow wrong.  Jennifer’s good fortune to be born into a good family was about as unlucky as some poor bastard’s luck to be born at a squatter’s camp in Zimbabwe near the border with South Africa.  Jennifer bought the line that it was up to her to make a difference.  Jennifer actually did make a difference in the lives of many people in Zimbabwe as did her father.

            Jack, the father of Jennifer, indulged his daughter despite the fact that he worried that at best, she would be gang raped by low level military leader, seeking to over throw Robert Mugabe, the first and only president of Zimbabwe.  At worst, Jack feared that Jennifer would be killed.  Either way, Jack knew that he could not stop Jennifer from doing what she wished.  He never set the stage for the word no and so Jack could not say no to Jennifer.  Jack built a hospital, a church and a school for the people of the town.  Doctors from France came and donated their time to help the people of the town.  Jack came at the insistence of his daughter to the remote town that did not even have a name.  He drove with a guide six hours in a Land Rover Defender on dirt roads until he found his daughter.  Along the way, Jack remembered his father’s friend who he had met in Great Britain during World  War II, was someone who had come from the area that became Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe.  He fought in the Second World War for Great Britain and lived on a farm about an hours drive outside of the city of Salisbury.  Jack’s father had always talked about visiting his old war friend in Rhodesia back when things were going well in the mid to late 1960’s.  They never got there.  Now Jack was riding in a Land Rover on roads that once existed during the days of colonial rule.  In many areas, the paved roads ceased to exist.  It after all had been over forty years since colonial rule.  Jack’s father never lived to visit his old war buddy but his son made it his duty to visit his daughter in what was once Rhodesia.

The children of the town danced and sang for Jack and hugged him.  It was

 the first time in his life that he had ever hugged a black person and the people of southern Africa were not like the caramel colored blacks back home that had mixed with whites at some point somewhere between modern times and the landing of the Mayflower.  The people of the town were blacker than black.  Their skin shined and their teeth and the whites of their eyes contrasted greatly.  Despite the fact that they had very little, they were happy looking and Jack left Africa feeling that he had done something very good despite the fact that he was badgered by his daughter.  Jack felt good about his contributions and that of his daughter until he received the news with a photograph that Jennifer had married a native of Zimbabwe.

            Nkute was like any other poor native of Zimbabwe.  It hadn’t been that way for him when he was young.  Nkute’s father was a well paid servant in a white household near Salisbury.  The man that Nkute’s father worked for was a politician that represented an area of Salisbury in the parliament.  He was part of the Rhodesian Front.  He had a hand in what was called the Lancaster House Agreement.  He wanted to ensure that if black majority rule was on the way, that whites still had a stake in the new government.  Whites were to retain 20% of the seats in parliament.

  Nkute lived in a descent home and was a champion Cricket player when the country was still Rhodesia.  After 1980, things began to change.  The white family that his father worked for moved to New Zealand and his father was out of a job.  Nkute’s family eventually moved out of the city to the country. 

Nkute was as an excellent student  He was sent by his village to school in Australia at the age of fourteen.  Nkute lived at the boarding school.  He was an exceptional student and gifted at soccer or as the call it, football.  He also was a valuable member of the school’s Cricket team.  Nkute did well all throughout school and became a doctor.  Nkute owned a house in suburban Sydney and had a nice life.  While listening to the BBC one day on his car radio, Nkute heard about white farmers being killed and land going to waste in Zimbabwe.  He listened to the reports of runaway inflation and the lack of medical attention for most who inhabited the country.   

Back in the Rhodesian days, white soldiers who assisted the British South Africa Company, were each given 3,000 acres of land through grants.  The leader of the British South Africa Company was a man whose name was Cecil Rhodes, hence the name Rhodesia.  The received a royal charter back in 1889.  The blacks on that land became tenants or were thrown off.  Blacks were given land in low rainfall areas and the good land for farming with good rainfall was given to whites.  At the time of independence, white farmers owned close to 5,000 farms.  The white farmers provided housing, school and hospitals for their black employees.  40% of the farms in the country were run by the 5,000 white farmers who made up over 60% of the country’s GDP.  Rhodesia was the bread basket of Africa.  Nkute understood what it was like to be ruled by white people and was happy as a young boy when independence happened.  It appeared to be the right thing for the majority.  The problem was the land distribution killed Zimbabwe’s ability to sustain itself.  People who did not understand and know how to farm, were given land and let the land go fallow.  It became paramount to import food to feed Zimbabweans.  The rate of malnutrition is at about 45% now.  It is low considering the inflation rate was 2.2% million percent when I first wrote about the inflation rate.  It has now risen again.

  Nkute took a leave of absence for a year from the hospital he worked for in Sydney and went to work for Medcin sans Frontier or Doctors without Borders.  Nkute made his way over to the same town that Jennifer happened to live in and the rest is history.  The normal boy meets girl stuff took place.  He was on good behavior while trying to woo her.  They married in Zimbabwe and disagreed as to where they would eventually live.  Jennifer did not want to remain in Zimbabwe the rest of her life nor immigrate to Australia.  Being in love with his beautiful wife, he decided to follow her back to the United States.  Nkute had to take further courses and training in order to be a full fledged practicing physician in the United States.  They both volunteered with the Red Cross together.

            “Excuse me, I am Nkute Nabazeen and thees ees my wife Jennifer… We har weeth thee RRRRed Crrross… Have you anyone who ees urt frrrom the fire?”  Said Nkute, in his strong southern African English accent.



            Nkute and Jennifer met with the tenants one by one and interviewed them in order to determine if they had somewhere to go for the night. At the end of the night, Nkute and Jennifer returned to their condominium on the 32nd floor that overlooked Lake Michigan. Jennifer went into their bedroom to light candles and prepare to do some yoga to help her unwind from the days events. Nkute purchased the Cricket Ticket on the Dish Network. India was playing South Africa in a test match. Nkute ate a deep dish pizza of spinach and onion, drank a Dutch beer and thought to himself; isn’t life grand?

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