The house was deserted. There was no sign of life at all. The yard was dirty. Dry leaves fallen from the mango trees were strewn all over the place. All windows were closed. Looking at the quality and state of the curtains on the windows, I knew things were not well with my brother’s family. On the doorstep were a few pairs of worn out and beyond use tennis shoes and Chinese made push-ins. There was deathly silence. Few young boys were playing football in a dust road that passed behind the house. They were all shabbily dressed. In torn shorts that exposed their buttocks. Some were not wearing anything on the top and a few were wearing what you could hardly call T shirts. The sight of these boys was sorrowful. I felt bitterness within myself. I picked about three bricks and heaped one upon each other and set under a mango tree waiting.

It was early December 2007 when I decided to leave my rural home in Shurugwi district under Chief Nhema and decided to visit my brother who was working in Kadoma and staying there with his family. Many years had gone by ever since my brother had visited the rural areas. There was no communication between him and others at home in Shurugwi. This was probably because the postal system was no longer as it was years back when letters to families and friends were read at the school’s assembly every afternoon after sports or general work. I remember in those days at school when everyone at school felt the pride of receiving a letter for any of his / her family members let alone a personal letter. I went to school up to form two because my mother, who was a single parent could not afford paying school fees for me and my brother who was doing form four. My father had passed away when I was doing form one when he drowned in a dam catching fish for sale to raise money for the family.

The memory of that day, when my father’s body was discovered floating lifeless on his belly bring sad moments to all family members. It was painful. After his death, my mother took it upon herself to see that the family was fed, clothed and sent to school. At times we would work in other families’ fields where we got payment in various forms. Others would pay us with maize meal, bars of washing soap, packets of sugar, worn out clothes etc. Payment in cash was rare. It was a hard life, with nothing to smile about.

After my brother completed his ordinary level, he was taken to Kadoma by a relative and got employment at a textile company between Kadoma and Chegutu. This development brought much hope for the family that remained in the rural areas. We all hoped that at least now things could change for the better. Weeks turned into months, months into years, but we never got anything from my brother. Not even a word on how he was faring. Mother got worried, I got worried and neighbors got worried as well. I remember how we would painfully hope to see him disembark the Tauya Bus Service that plied the Gweru Sherekete route. All the hope ended with the sad realization of his absence each weekend. I came to hate these weekends for I noticed that mother would shed a tear each time she saw other sons and daughters of our neighbors visiting their families for the weekend. It was really sad.

In 2007, life got so tough that we could hardly get a day’s meal. The crop had failed the previous farming season. There was nowhere to get part time work. Everyone was facing difficulties. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know where this situation was taking us. It was like being washed away by a flooded river with no-one to save you. We were hopeless. We waited for death. We grew thinner and thinner by each passing day. We learnt to survive by cooking mangoes, paw-paw (before reaching maturity stage) and eating hacha. Families started laying claims of ownership to muhacha fruit trees. Picking fruit from trees other than those you had claimed ownership brought war among families. It was a crazy situation.

This is the situation that saw me traveling all the way to Kadoma in search of my brother. Now I found myself sitting under the shade of the mango tree. Waiting for people I knew nothing of their whereabouts. I started to doze sitting on those bricks. I was feeling hungry and tired to the bone. It was hot that day. Kadoma is generally hotter than Shurugwi. It was around past six in the evening when my brother, his wife and two kids came back. I was shocked when I saw him. He was even thinner than I ever imagined. They were carrying hoes in their hands. They were looking so dirty. A sure sign that they were coming from the fields. This got me confused. I never thought people living in towns would work the fields. This was a sad reality for me.

We passed greetings and he introduced me to his wife. We went into the house and what I saw told it all. Life was as tough here as it was in the rural areas. He told me how he worked in the fields of the newly resettled farmers for bags of maize meal. That night’s supper consisted of sadza eaten with boiled cabbage without cooking oil or tomatoes. We went to bed late that night as both of us took turns to narrate stories of our experiences. I felt pity for my brother, he felt pity for me. We felt pity for each other. What a turning point. Hope lost. Reality dawning. Poverty striking. Only God knew. Only God knows now if we are going back to those hard times. Another GNU to stop the decay? I wonder.

Source: Collen Hwara, a textiles factory worker