Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Child - Yours to Rent or To Buy

In a joint investigation by Eyewitness News and Carte Blanche it came to light that Zimbabwean women living in the Johannesburg CDB are and have been, for a while, renting out their babies for a grand total of R20 a day to women who then take the kids out on the street to beg for money.

Any motorist will tell you how hard it is to pass a woman at the traffic lights who has with her a child, and not feel the slight tinge of guilt when you see the little body strapped on their backs in the blazing heat with no water or food. And it’s that guilt that’s these women prey on. According to the feedback reporters received, begging while holding a baby is very lucrative and can earn a woman up to R300 – R400 a day!

Elsabe Coetzee, founder of Siphumelele Childrens Home has been on a one-woman crusade to get these children off the streets to a safe haven and according to Occupational therapist Velda Frankim, who treats the babies and toddlers once they are in Coetzee's care, these “mothers" are deliberately harming these children by giving them alcohol, because when you give alcohol to a child they become compliant and “a child who is drunk will not cry when he is hungry because he is passed out," said Frankim. Not only that some of the children show signs of physical abuse with one little girl having had her toenails have been burnt off. She warned of short term life threatening medical effects and long term social implications.
As far as I see it these women are criminals and a disgrace to the nation on Zimbabwe and to women as a whole. Many people came down hard on me when I lashed out at these women. Many felt they had no other option and their actions are as a result of the fact that going back to Bob and Zimbabwe would be a far worse consequence. In my humble opinion, that is utter B/S! There are a lot of people in Zimbabwe who are struggling and yet would never think of resorting to the lows these women have exposed us to. Information that came from Elsabe’s files also show that these beggar women are recipients of care packages from Siphumelele, that they are given every week in-order to keep them and the children off the street and yet they still go back to the streets taking the children with. For a woman to come to the conclusion that putting their own child in harm’s way is a far better prospect than any other option they face is unacceptable. It screams of unfit parenting and a lazy mind. The same argument could be used for hijackers and murderers, that they too were faced with no options, so they resorted to putting others in harm’s way for financial gain.

I have to wonder if these baby-selling and renting women were back home, firstly, would they have been allowed to entertain that kind of thinking? Would anyone have provided them with that kind of opportunity to offer up your child for rent or sell to someone for muti? Is there something about the innate need to survive that has us acting even less than animals or is there something about being in a foreign land that has us lowering our standards? Is it a trait that is brought about by an environment or is there a criminal in all of us that’s just waiting for the right mix of circumstance to bring it out?

In my world these women would be found, jailed and deported back to Zimbabwe – a move that will have more positives than negatives. Let Bob and his band of merry geriatrics deal with the mess they have created. And once these women are there, they should also do time for the damage they have done to their children.

Am I being harsh, maybe. Am I being judgmental, yes. Do I care, absolutely not.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Battle between those that left and those that stayed behind..

The country imploded, things were starting to get tough and life wasn’t as fun as it used to be. So we all found our passports, dusted them off, caught planes, buses, jumped on the back of bakkies and left.

I have been out of Zimbabwe for nearly ten years but I still have family there so I am back there on a regular basis. My daughter spends two months of the year there so I am not removed from the reality of what’s happening in the country.

What irks me and is becoming more apparent is the resentment that’s shown by those that stayed behind towards those that left. Any talk of returning back home is met with comments about how we now want to come back after they have held it together, and we mustn’t think we will be able to just come back in and take things over. From the sounds of all this it would seem those that stayed have begun to believe they deserve some compensation for not making the choice to leave, like they should somehow be rewarded for being the ones to choose Zimbabwe and not some other far off land. In some instances people make it seem like they did the country a favor by staying.

As I see it we all had the option to stay or go. And whichever choice a person took is neither the right one nor the wrong one. Neither decision makes one anymore Zimbabwean than the other, or gives any one person more rights to what the country has to offer than the other.

Yes, I agree the people that chose to stay in the country played a part in keeping the country afloat but they also contributed to the mess, in a number of instances they were part of the problem – contributing to the corruption and decline of the country. Likewise those that left also had a part to play in keeping it together – the amount of forex that flowed from outside to families in the country allowing for trade and people to eat cannot be overlooked, but they also didn’t help the situation either in the dealings that took advantage of the situation because they had financial advantage.

We all played our parts in the upkeep and degeneration of our country. The way forward is to now play our part in fixing the mess, but we seem to be gearing up to start a fresh squabble based on ones “struggle credentials”. And to be honest I am not sure what we are fighting for. For us to all of a sudden be getting ready to sharpen our knives to fight amongst ourselves over what could very easily be just weeds is ridiculous and extremely worrying in a time when the only hope we have is ourselves. If you start to think you have more right to what OUR country offers than the next person, how different are we from the current government who think they alone have a right to all the wealth of the land.

I am one of those that left, but I will proudly, with as much expectation as someone who stayed, walk back into my country and expect to fairly compete for all I want because I am a Zimbabwean and that’s all I need to qualify me. Everyone has that right, because when it comes down to it there are no victims and there are no martyrs.
Last week our church started the series based on what God would say to a number of celebrities. We started with Oprah. To listen to the podcast go to: www.godfirst.co.za .
I was surprised to hear that Oprah started off very strong in the church and actually used to be teased about her preaching tendencies. Yet somewhere along the way she turned from traditional religion and started following the New Age way of believing. Somewhere along the way Oprah decided that there are many ways to God and the inner truth is inside you. Beliefs that remove Jesus from the equation, for the Bible says He is “the way the truth and the life”.
Oprah’s rise to fame must have been something of a wonder to watch and behold. Nearly overnight she became a worldwide phenomenon, a household name and billionaire. Her influence was so intense USAToday is quoted as saying "a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation.".” She became in herself a movement that professes that, "at the “church of Oprah" there is no sin, no need for salvation, no heaven, no hell - YOU are God”
So what happened? Did the church forget about her, or did the church not keep up with her? Why is it that so many celebrities walk the journey of their lives WITH the church but heavily IN the world? They attempt to find solace in the church but look for answers and some form of healing in the world? Why are Christian celebrities the exception and not the norm?
The cry we hear from many people is that the church has lost relevance and is out of touch with the needs and situations facing celebrities (and singles). This may be true but are we expecting too much from the church or has the church, as a body, hyped itself up to such an extent that people believe it has the answers to all life’s issues? And if it does, why does it lose so many along the way?
As I see it celebs (much like single people) find themselves a little bit out of their element when it comes to traditional churches. Their lives are not the norm, they face different set of circumstances that sometimes people in the church are unable to relate to. This can leave people feeling frustrated and in turn out of place when they realize the very place they have turned to for answers has no idea how to handle them.
Another reason could be the church has been criticized to submission and they are no longer assertive enough in their mission. New Age teachers were constantly on Oprah’s door, filling her with their teachings. Shifting her focus. Changing her mind. Where was the church? Sometimes prayer and love isn’t enough. Do as the Jehovah’s Witness do and knock on that door!
There are many questions stemming from all this and I don’t have the answers as yet but hopefully at the end of this Celeb series I will.
Stay tuned!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eternal Sleep

As night falls, darkness creeps in and makes light a mere memory of the mind. Happy events of the day might well have been a figment of your imagination.

In the corners of your weary mind, dreams and shadows play, in a worthless bid to cover and disguise all the pain and hurt away. Happiness, love and joy are silhouettes on a wall too far and too high for you to reach.

You wake up to the sound of your thoughts, your failures are deafened by the screams of your desires and needs, and your pain and fears cry out to be heard amid the turbulence of your mind and your soul.

The air fills with the smell of your humiliations and call upon burning, searing tears shed in the dead of the night, when silence is too deafening for you to bear, the confusion too thick for your mind to penetrate, and the anguish too strong for your soul to endure. Maybe the darkness will be kind and remain just so, the night conquer the day and grasp you with its talon consume you with its fangs and when its duty through bestow upon you eternal sleep….

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Romance in a time of parenthood

Every so often my daughter says “Mommy I am going to marry Ben tomorrow, because he is boyfriend and he said so”. If only it were that simple.

As a single parent love and dating are such complicated issues. On one hand I am an easy date because of my hassled lifestyle. Anything that doesn’t include me cooking and begging someone to eat, far away from the constant cries of “mommy, mommy” would be my idea of romantic date. So on a bad day, a drive to McDonalds with an adult man, just the two of us would be romantic.

But on the other hand, because I am a single parent, I am the toughest client to please. People always assume that when someone has a child its harder to get back into the dating game. It’s a correct assumption. But the mistake they make is thinking the child is the hindrance to them having a social or a love life - the opposite is true. It’s us, the parents, who get in the way. The child really couldn’t care less...just bring Smarties!

As a single mom I have become even more cautious and critical when approaching the dating game, because I now have a little life and heart I am responsible for. I no longer have the luxury to just “kick it” and see how it goes. People say I am too picky but I have to be! The minute someone shows interest it would be remiss for me as a mother to not gauge how they would be as a parent. It’s too risky getting attached to someone who cannot connect with your child.

Trust is another big issue because unfortunately the world we live in is cruel and dark. Everyone has read those devastating stories of sexual and physical child abuse at the hands of those we loved, trusted and let into our lives. How do you protect your child from that? Can we protect our children from that?

And that’s not all! Logistical factors also come into play. When do you introduce your child to a “suitor?” Do you do it early in the game, before you get attached, so you can test it out but risk your child being introduced to lots of different men should it not work out or do you wait until you are sure, which has its own disadvantages should they not get along and you have already fallen in love.

All these things rush through my head the minute someone asks for my number and it may seem psychotic, but it’s my reality and these fears and issues are real and sometimes too daunting to even face for “dinner and a maybe”.

Which would probably explain why this Valentines I will be having dinner and dancing with the love of my life (read: forcing a 4year old to eat and then jumping around to Boogie Beebies).

But I will sleep happy, content and in love.

An Inspirational Leader

Inspire (v.) to motivate, encourage

When I see the word inspire, those are indeed the words that come to mind. I have visions of great leaders like Barack Obama, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela and even the lady in Murehwa who is feeding 20 orphans on her own salary.

What does NOT come to mind is a birthday party for the 86 year old President of Zimbabwe. I have no idea who he has hired to write his press releases but whoever that is should be fired, I would say shot but the powers that be might just take it literally and I could be charged with something and spend the next couple of months languishing in a small town stokisi. So we will stick to being fired!

So anyway this bright spark Press Liaison wrote “Mugabe’s supporters say his birthday party should be an inspiration for Zimbabwe’s children, who must learn to copy the President...”

So let me try and see what lessons I as a child of Zimbabwe would get from this party;-

a) That it’s okay to spend obscene amounts of money on party while the people starve
b) That ….
c) …..

Okay I give up.

What I can tell you is this.

This party is not a celebration that is inspirational to anyone. This party is a slap in the face to the people of Zimbabwe and the suffering they have endured at the hand of the very person and government that are throwing this bash. I could go on but it’s all been said before.

And what are we supposed to learn from the President, if he could talk to me now, what qualities and traits would be encourage me to emulate? I remember as a kid I used to attend the 21st February Movement. It was an important occasion for me, an exciting time to meet the most influential person in my world. 22 years later the novelty has worn off, the music has stopped and I just want to go home. This can be said not just of the party but of the government.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My racist toddler

When we picked a nursery school for our 4 year old daughter, racial percentages of the kids in the school wasn’t an issue. It was a highly recommended school and close to home, so it made sense for her to go there.

The fact that she is one of 3 black kids in the class also didn’t bother me until one Saturday morning when she woke me up with the statement “Mommy I don’t like brown people except for my family, I only like white people”. Obviously this shook me right out of my reverie of sleeping in and uninterrupted showers. I hesitantly asked “Why don’t you like brown people?” to which she responded “They are boring and they make me upset”. I try to make light of the situation and say “But sweetheart, brown is beautiful and it’s the colour of chocolate. We like chocolate don’t we?” Her response? “No, I like white marshmallows.”

So here I am sitting in my bedroom faced by my little racist toddler at a complete loss as to what to do or say thinking this child needs Jesus, but little things start to make sense e.g. how she wants me to make her hair “like Sally*”, she prefers Barbie to her darker counterparts and how she is always more comfortable around white people than around “brown” people.

I then had the talk with her about the fact that no skin colour is better than any other colour and that brown is beautiful. She eventually said “I like brown people Mommy” but I am not convinced she is convinced. Could it be that being part of the minority has made her hate who she is? Was it something one of the kids said? How does a parent deal with this? .

P.S. In the meantime I am making sure she doesn’t end up with my friend’s son the homophobe.

*names changed to protect the innocent

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Silent Generation

As 30 thirty-something born and raised in Zimbabwe, my generation had it easier than most. We could be termed the first fruits of freedom, the first generation to be raised in an independent Zimbabwe, a liberated land brimming with hope, excitement and possibility. The war for independence in the 70’s was a story we read about in history and Shona literature books. The economic meltdown of the recent decade didn’t affect us much because 80% of us had already packed up and left.

But for all we have been given it would seem that, as I see it, we have turned out to be the most complacent generation. The hope and freedom which was fought for and handed to me as part of the first independent generation of Zimbabweans seems to have fizzled in my hands. My lack of patriotic drive is something observed every time a crisis hits our country. With each catastrophe, I am vocal and opinionated – peruse through Facebook, Twitter and any major social media platform and I am there. I (try to) intelligently debate the issues with my loud, sharp and differing views, but it seems this is as far as it goes.

My apathy may be masked by my vociferous debates but it does not go unnoticed; I have nothing to show for my opinions or for my discussions across restaurant tables. What physical contribution have I made to my nation? What Zimbabwean causes have I championed and followed through? Besides watching my country fall to ruins, what have I done to ensure my generation goes down in the history books with a personal legacy that our children will be proud of? What will they say about me after I am dead and gone?

Being based in South Africa so much as happened here, major incidents that grabbed international headlines and many of those incidents involved our fellow Zimbabweans. Incidents of xenophobic violence in various communities, displacement of foreign nationals (mostly Zimbabweans) and poverty on all levels was the order of the day. With all those incidents, I was shocked, disgusted, saddened, moved...and I did what I do best, I talked about it - to my friends. But to those who had lost homes, been assaulted, and were affected by the senseless violence, I said nothing and the sum of my efforts were a few hours doing a charity drop on a Saturday afternoon. I remained the Silent Generation.

How did I become so impassive? Did I have it so easy that I have become hedonistic and self-serving in my approach to life and others, focusing only on the betterment of my life and the lives of my immediate family? I am supposed to be the voice crying out for justice and calling for or driving change from wherever I am. I am after all the generation that has known the best of Zimbabwe and what it represents and after all I have received, what stops me from speaking out and having a heart for those less fortunate? Surely this is the purpose we should all seek…To take on a cause bigger than ourselves and to make our mark on this world, make a difference in our countries.

It’s not enough to call for change, yelling “out with the old, in with the new”. Who amongst us is worthy to take up the reins and lead our country should the “old” be gone? We have the brains and the desire, but something is missing. And if we don’t work together to find out what it is that has us acting like observers in pertinent matters that concern our fellow countrymen, we will remain the Silent Generation.

P.S. Thanks to Tendai Maidza for co-authoring:)

The Devil Lives in Haiti

The Devil Lives in Haiti?

It would seem the devil himself resides in Haiti. Well that is the opinion of a number of Christians I came across on the social media platform Facebook.

They categorically stated that Pat Robertson was right when he stated that the recent devastation was a result of a pact that the Haitians made with no other than El Diablo himself many years ago that resulted in God nuking them in His wrath Sodom and Gomorrah style. (check out the video on YouTube..makes for fantastic viewing)

Now I believe in God, I do, but something about this statement made my bile rise. Not only because of the blatant judgment on the people of Haiti but for even suggesting that God Himself willed this to happen and to throw it in the face of a people suffering such severe devastation is for me the lowest form of inhumanity. Some of the “enlightened” messages included “people don’t want to accept that all these things happening are written in the bible and it means this is end. It’s a shame about Haiti though, may God be with them” The end is nigh? Is this 2012? I didn’t get that memo. Another gem which came after I stated my confusion “Brendah you need to ask God for wisdom. He will let things like this happen just so people can see the light…everybody sins but that nation was in much confusion, God was definitely going to destroy it” You know what, I would ask Him for wisdom but He seems rather busy. What with causing earthquakes and stuff.

As the people who were having this discussion were Zimbabwean I had to ask. Does this mean that all the mess that we are in is a result of some pact we made with the devil? Have we as a nation sinned so much against God that we are now paying for it through Mugabe and Zanu PF (though it’s easy to see how they can be seen to be devil spawn). Cause if this argument can be used for Haiti, it can be used for every other nation in distress.

Maybe I am theologically na├»ve but As I see it, bad things happen to people regardless of their beliefs and lifestyle. Haiti has had a rough time but so has Somalia, Zimbabwe and any other war torn, politically unstable, poverty stricken country we know. Some crises are man-made, some by the hand of God. But a response that links tragedy to a judgment of people and their lifestyle coupled with all the devil talk is a classic case of Christians being too spiritual for any earthly good and if God really did see it fit to kill over 200 000 people in Haiti for the sake of them seeing the “light” then I am not sure that is a God I am willing to serve.

P.S. Who else has noticed that the majority of aid organizations in Haiti as we speak are non-Christian?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Open Letter to Zimbabwe Unity Government

Dear Zimbabwe Unity Government,

A few months ago you took the time to urge Zimbabweans in the Diaspora (sidebar: I hate that word) to pack up and come back home to rebuild our ailing nation.

You urged the over four million Zimbabweans who have left home to return in droves and help “reconstruct and develop the country so that it could once again be the breadbasket of Africa rather than the "basket case". You said the Unity Government which was "stabilizing" was doing everything it could to provide a positive and welcoming environment for those returning to Zimbabwe, and that it was up to individuals to make use of the new opportunities being created.

At first I thought, this makes sense. The country is in need of building up and surely it’s our generation who has that responsibility to build it up. We are the ones next in line to lead this little pain-in-the-ass country, so surely it stands to reason we must take responsibility for it and make the changes it so desperately needs.

But then time (and boredom and possibly a bit of wine) had me thinking. Hang on, this guy is asking me to walk away from the life, friends and contacts I have built for myself the past 11 years? And for what? A promise of “new opportunities being created?” What does that even mean? I can’t see anything happening except more land grabs and the constant bitching and bickering in the Unity Government, that you dared fix your mouth to say was stabilizing.

I am irritated that you even felt you had a right to ask me to come back. For the past decade you have had no interest in my wellbeing. The most formative years of my life you were not interested in mentoring me or developing me to take over from you. You made it impossible for me to stay. You left me to fend for myself as an immigrant in foreign countries that showed more interest in my development than you ever did. We, the people you swore to serve and protect, have sunk to lows you wouldn’t imagine to survive, in some instances resorting to begging and prostitution just to make ends meet. We are the laughing stock of Africa (and Highveld Stereo) simply because you were too greedy and selfish to stop and think about the future, to think about me.

Now you want to use the information and experience you never bothered to invest in me to fix the royal mess that you made. I don’t think so. The way I see it you need me more than I need you so you better be bringing something a bit more appealing to the table, a bit more tangible than promises of “new opportunities being created” for me to even think about it.

P.S. And don’t even think of using the “patriotism” argument either. That died when you nearly arrested me for taking pictures last Christmas.

Yours-Not-Yet-Booking-A-One-Way-Ticket-Home
Bren