As I pause in thought, I say gosh I am 70, I cannot help but stop to count my blessings. What God did in my seven decades is overwhelming. My Father has been good to me. I shout to world that this mere tiny infant who hails from Harare, now known as Mbare, that despite referring to me as a born born, I am around to give a testimony of this beloved home. I hail Him for the Salvation that He offered me free of charge and time that He has afforded to me.
On this earth, I was blessed with a wife and all my children, My earthly father prepared me for the wilderness of the world, just as Jehovah prepared His Son with baptism in the Jordan before He was tempted in the wilderness. In all this my Father in Heaven would take over when my mother and father could not cope.
My father and mother never told me that they loved us. It is what they did which showed love. I do not what words they could have used to express those feelings in Ndau. Their special smiles were the key.
This is my story of my first decade, 1949 to 1959, was growing up in Harare township.
Growing up anywhere is challenging and in Harare township was something else. Life in Harare township in the late 40s and early 50s was emotionally and psychologically challenging for us and more for our parents who had walked into a totally different environment from that of their formative years. As children we had the advantage of our instinctive ability to adapt and evolve than our parents who were set in their ways. I contend that some adults found it difficult to adapt, giving rise to desire to find comfort in their respective ethnic groupings
Our society then and even up to now was a cauldron of ethnic groups that found their way to Salisbury for work. The issue of the generation gap just like any society, was evident. The elders are always complaining that the young never listen to them. I reminded my father later on in life that had he listened to his own father he would have been locked up in the Gazaland. Dreams are sometimes lost by being the good guy. In his family, he was a trail blazer abandoning the possibility of being a tea picker and a polygamist.
Perhaps I need to put this issue in context as to the probable cause of other peoples’ askance in labelling us maborn born were.There three groups of African urban workers at this time.
The first group and the earliest in terms of numbers and the largest in our township was of immigrants from Northern Rhodesia(Zambia), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Portuguese East Africa ( Mozambique) coming to work in the mines, white-mans’ farms and in the towns. When local migration picked up in the mid 40s, they had established themselves in Harare. I never knew of any indigenous person working for as council police, messengers and office orderlies in the civil, At George Stark school, sekuru Kamwendo was the messenger always sporting his well starched khaki short and shirt, thick khaki-sh socks complemented by brown well polished shoes.
The second group was the rural-urban migrants from the so called Tribal Trust lands around Salisbury such as Chinhamora, Chiweshe, Seke, Musana, Mhondoro, Murehwa to name a few had special characteristics. They sought employment during the post rainy season as the theory went. Their wives remained behind and so did their children. Their nearness to Salisbury gave them opportunity to travel back home during weekends or when they got paid at the end of the month. Some lived in hostels for males such as Matapi, Nenyere and Mbare and others lived with relatives in the Old Bricks and Jo-burg areas but were vulnerable to surprise night inspections to catch out illegal residents. Everyone had to be registered with the council. We neither experienced this phenomenon in our area nor was aware of the consequences for these breaches.Those who brought in their wedded wives lived in the Old Bricks, Jo’burg lines and new married quarters that the City council were building at that time.
The third group was made up of local immigrants from areas far away form Salisbury. After jaunts in the gold mines of South Africa in the 40s returning workers choose to try their luck in Salisbury. The Chipinge Mutare contingent arrived to make their mark so did others from Fort Victoria and its environs. This group could not afford to visit their wives and children due to transport problems. The country had not been designed in such a way as to encourage weekend visits. The most viable option was to bring their wives along. My father fell into this group.
It was through predestination, the will of God that I was to grow up in this township. My parents made a conscious decision to leave his parents in the Chipinge district to sample life in this cosmopolitan environment. After a white wedding on 26 April 1946, he qualified for a house in National.
As children we made our choices according to the providential will. God had plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans that gave us hope and a future. how we negotiated our providence was individual.
Parents played a major role in our choices. the common thread among all parents was for us to get an education.Where education would take us, they did not know but they knew it was a good thing.Coming from the rural areas or other countries, groups endeavoured to to preserve their ethnic identity and culture. we as children we did not have the history to compare with as our visits to the rural areas were as brief as they were infrequent. we did our own thing.
Parental permissiveness was critical. Certain behaviours were prohibited by laws of the country such as stealing. Teachings in the churches and mosques, reinforced issues of morality. Whether our parents agreed or nor not, we learnt that it was wrong to steal, lie or fight. The Highfield Probation centre was a stark reminder to us as youth. This is where young offenders were detained. What actually happened there was unknown to us but the threat of losing our freedom through musikanzwa (naughtiness in a serious sense) was a deterrent.
Each of the groups, were in a completely different environment. The refuge was in searching and engaging those from your area. In a bid to provide insurance for transport and burial costs, burial societies sprung up and the were based on where one came from. Such monthly meetings allowed residents to gather information from home and provided solidarity. In these noble groupings tribalism flourished unnoticed by all.
Those from outside Southern Rhodesia were referred to as Mabrandaya (those from Blantyre Nyasaland) , mabwidi or matevera njanji (implying that they followed the railway line line) which of course was not entirely correct. MaChikunda and MaSena were terms to insult. As maborn born fell into this group.Whatever they called us, we really did not care. What could we do about our situation. Our diet was playing football, visiting Mai Musodzi hall on Saturday morning penny admission bio-scope, Sometimes the Lever Brothers presented daylight cinema where they would advertise their wares such as Pepsodent toothpaste, Surf and sunlight. The Stoddart hall pl. was our centre for play in the 60’s led by the affable Mr Roberts, the few whites who came into contact apart from the principal’s our primary schools and Sister Barbra at the Anglican Church in Runyararo.
Our mealie-meal came in jute bags or decanted into smaller khaki packets, milk from the dairy. In fact our food was easily available form mabaker epaStoddart, Marova, musika and whether milk came from cows or not, whether we could identify indigenous trees were neither here or there. Our trees were peach, mango, mulberry and lemons.
Salisbury town council ran a the social welfare program from which any school child benefited from the penny meal at what we called stew which was situated next to mabaker next to the old Marengenya beer-hall muna Daniel street.
Surely it would be amiss not to salute the opening up of the library on the top floor of Stoddart hall. I had glorious moments where I moved away from my surroundings and disappear into the new worlds that authors provided. In 1956 I bought my first book, Kambairai a sub-standard one reader. I delved into Enid Blyton books about The Five, The Secret Seven then Franklin W Dixon and the Hardy boys. I was then able to use class libraries at school because of the reading habits I had developed. I went through all the Sir Rider Haggard books available such as She, Montezuma’s daughter,Allan Quarterman and King Solomon’s mines and so on.
Fighting, chabuta or kingtera, drinking alcohol, masese of course depended on the level of tolerance or permissiveness of parents. For me all these were a no no, though deep inside he never commented when I was involved in a fight to protect my siblings. I protected them when I fancied the possibility of a win or else I would just collect my siblings muttering under my breath tat perhaps its wiser to go home as usually I was not supposed to be in such situations. I avoided end of term fights either behind the bushes behind George Stark school or grand fights in number 7 ground where the young congregated for fights.
My father’s influence was absolute in an unobtrusive way. his discipline never wavered. However I challenged later in life as to why the other kids from the fourth one had an easier time with him to which he said that with age we mellow, a trait which as parents continue to experience and when we become sekuru and gogo, we do not continuance them touching our precious grand children. Consistent discipline is an attitude that I inherited from my first decade of life. My students all over the world can bear witness. I know most of them came out good except incorrigibles like ha ha ha, I will not mention names lest I get sued.
The establishment of churches in our township did have a lasting impact on my character. For me, the pioneering work by Reverend Elijah T. Mwadira for the formerly American Congregational Church Mission, led to the establishment of a church in Harare. The mission was based at Mount Selinda (Chirinda) and Chikore in the Ndau speaking area. My father was a member of the Methodist church were the language was akin to Ndau. With the establishment of the one that was responsible for his conversion, he had to be back home among his kith and kin. It is through the church that I got connected to my relatives. The ethnic card was at play. Those from Malawi had already established the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in 1912.( Picture) It was in this church building that I started my Sub Standard A in 1956.
Harare township gave me opportunity in Christian teaching, tolerance and a mission to help the youth in navigating the treacherous challenges of urban life. When I qualified as a teacher, I choose to work in urban areas. I consciously decided to forgo the rent free and perks of mission schools. I then dedicated my teaching life in Gweru for a good 36 years.
Ascot Secondary school received me in 1974 as a geography and history teacher. I never looked back.
Thank you Harare suburb despite the trashing that you received. It started off as a location as the colonialist named it, upgrading it to a township. With independence, we still call it such. We need to liberate our minds, we are a suburb now not believe you mean not a ghetto. I have seen ghettos and Mbare is no where near that.