36 years ago I was a young boy aged 5, staying with my civil servant parents in Nyanga, a scenic part of Zimbabwe.
My mother was a nurse and my father a primary school teacher. The community i lived in was small and intimate. Everyone knew each other and helped each other with little difficulty. Being an Anglican Mission, we attended the same church, same school and were treated at the same hospital.
I remember vividly how my two sisters born after independence in 1980 grew and how my parents did everything they could to ensure that we were properly fed and clothed. For my parents being civil servants then was good. My parents got their salaries on time and because of that my parents were able to purchase things on credit.
My father acting on the advise of his father, my late Grandfather bought a plot in the Nyamazi area in 1984 and tried his hand on market gardening, growing onions and cucumbers and vegetables for the local market. This was his way of preparing for retirement. My mother also used her hands outside of her nursing job. She used to knit jerseys, taking advantage of the super cold winters in Nyanga. As years went by she bought a knitting machine but never used it, because customers preferred her hand made jerseys. As years went by using her networks she started selling groceries to her neighbours and friends on credit. She still does this to this day.
For my father, market gardening became a past time and he did it well, but the market was not always there, not because there was no need for what he was growing, the climate was good and allowed almost everyone with a back garden to grow their own. There was little specialisation back then. This often frustrated him, but he never gave up. As a young boy, I would take a basket of onions and cucumbers and move around door to door offering the wares. On good days i would come back and hand over the cash to my father. On bad days i would come back with the basket full. It never used to bother me. The very next day i would head off again to the same people and make sales. No one forced my father to farm, he did it because he loved it.
He bought his own plot and while he was not a large commercial farmer he grew enough to feed his family and sold the surplus to supplement his salary. I learnt a few skills early too, like driving, thanks to my father. As soon as i could reach the pedals of his Datsun 1500 truck, which was in Grade 5, he taught me to drive!
What does this story have to do with what Zimbabwe Independence day means to me. Everything. We take for granted the things we are able to do now because we can. My father never used to talk about his struggles growing up. The little he told me involved herding cattle and during the war smuggling clothes from the city using his 1965 Volvo 121 series, at great risk to his life. But it had to be done. The part he played was played by so many unknown heros who walk and live in Zimbabwe or all over the world.
As a young boy i remember some sort of celebration in 1980 when a huge party was held as Zimbabwe became independent. Jubilant people drank and danced. I was too young to remember everything but when people are happy you just know they are. You feel it.
Times may be hard for many of us today, but that does not change who we are, we remain Zimbabweans. At 40, i still have dreams and i want to make a difference. The problems we face today are very different from the problems my parents faced when we were growing up. I have my own family too which needs to be fed and clothed. I am happy that i have more tools and resources than my parents had to solve problems. What i have learnt and continue to learn is that it is important that we never stop learning. We must make a choice and decide where we want to go and start directing our efforts and actions to achieve our goals. We must ignore all the noise and focus on improving our capabilities and networks. Don't ever stop learning and never give up.
Lessons from my story
1. Create networks, one day you will profit from them
2. Learn important skills early and don't stop learning new ones as you grow
3. Never stop dreaming no matter how difficult things are
4. Never take things for granted just because you can
5. When you fail at something, never give up keep going
Happy 36th Independence Day people.