Living in Australia: How Zimbabweans cope 

Source: Living in Australia: How Zimbabweans cope | The Herald December 7, 2019

Bernard Muchemwa in SYDNEY, Australia

AUSTRALIA is home to thousands of Zimbabweans, particularly those born in Zimbabwe and settled down here as adults.

According to census data, Zimbabweans are the second highest migrants from Africa after South Africans.

We had Zimbabweans moving to Australia in drips in the 60s and 70s, but had an avalanche from 2000 onwards. Now it has slowed down.

Now, many Australian major cities are teeming with Zimbabweans.

Australia is a country, the world’s fifth continent and an island. It is located in Oceania between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean.

It is recognised as a continent due to its vastness. Zimbabwe and Australia share the same latitudinal location of being south of the equator.

While Zimbabwe is characterised by a single climatic type — the savannah — with a few exceptional pockets in the Eastern Highlands, Australia is characterised by eight zones, some of high humidity summer, warm winter, some of warm humid summer, mild winter, some of hot dry summer, warm winter, some of hot dry summer, cool winter, warm temperate, temperate, cool temperate and alpine.

This had an initial impact on Zimbabweans settling in different parts of Australia as they battled to acclimatise to the new environment which did not seem to be friendly.

Zimbabweans coming into Australia for the first time faced, among other challenges, food tastes. Their taste buds needed adjustment.

Most of them got to a point of starving themselves because the food made them sick. The food was very hard to appreciate because most of it was genetically modified, grown in a different environment, climate, vegetation, soils and tasted strangely.

Some started missing sadza, their staple food and in the beginning they had to improvise by using semolina, which was distasteful at most.

Most shops started running out of this product though as they had no choice, but to bring themselves closer to home.

Lo and behold, opportunistic business people from India and South Africa started importing maize-meal from South Africa, especially the Iwisa brand. These shops are swamped every weekend by Zimbabweans. They now sell boerewors, chimukuyu, Mazowe, other food stuffs from home, including Castle Lager and Black Label beer.

Farms operated by Zimbabweans have sprouted to cash in on the need for home foods.

The farms supply white mealie cobs as opposed to the yellow cobs found in Australia. They also farm Zimbabwean vegetables like tsunga and muboora to mention just but a few.

The culinary appetite is also supplemented by mazondo, makuru and matumbu sold by Chinese butcheries.

Australians throw away these insides and some like liver, kidneys, lungs etc. They make dog food out of them, but the Chinese and other migrants do not throw them away because there is a huge demand for them from migrants like us.

This makes Zimbabweans feel at home now when it comes to food.

Occasionally, those who visit back home bring the popular Super (Chibuku) beer in six packs, mopani worms and mufushwa to complement local stores.

Coming to Australia changed the family structure radically. Men now do household chores with regularity, especially those chores which are a woman’s in Zimbabwe. They now cook for the family, they feed kids, they bath kids, change nappies and spend time with kids. Men clean dishes, sweep the house, iron and wash clothes.

Women have their powers elevated and are at liberty to call the shots on these home duties.

I myself awoke from a deep slumber the day I landed at Sydney International Airport with my two-year-old son Munya from Zimbabwe for the first time on November 30, 2013.

Now I had to look after the boy 24/7 in all respects. For all his needs, he would approach me as the mother was at work.

Women would go to ladies’ parties and leave the kids with their dads for the nights. More women go for ladies’ nights only, visit clubs and go to musical shows while men tend the kids.

They go on ladies-only holidays, while men stay at home, something unusual in Zimbabwe.

A coterie of men failed to cope with this and returned home in a huff, dejected and depressed never to return to Australia.

Those who adapted have stayed and are free now as most of these kids are now adults, but with a strong bond with their dads who literally suckled them and re-engineered the umbilical cord between them.

Families have grown big, more kids were born in Australia, while initially it was like taboo to bear more children because of the high cost of childcare and more child-minding for the fathers. All the same, the families braved this.

The extended family has grown too, with brother bringing over brother and sister bringing over sister.

Totems and origins in Zimbabwe have curved out relationships. For instance, the WaMambos, the Mhofus conjoining, bringing together bigger families just like in the village back home.

This has also helped to pepper the wounds of being exiled in a foreign country like Australia. Inter-marriages are blossoming and the family continues to grow.

Initially, there was boredom on the social scene, thus lack of entertainment, but as years wore on, we witnessed an activity boom.

Entertainment groups like musicians, the ilk of Thomas Mapfumo, the late Oliver Mtukudzi, Jah Prayzah, Winky D and comedians like Madam Boss, including TV star Mai Chisamba have made Australia a venue.

With this, Zimbabweans feel at home and are less home sick. The gigs are well-attended, making Zimbabweans not lose touch with their motherland.

In-between, the community has produced its own musicians who fill the gap like up-and-coming Jiti and Afro Jazz singer Mabasa “Bazuka” Ziyambi and Chris Gudu to name but a few.

Besides the normal parties and get-togethers, Zimbabweans in Australia have used football to connect, unite, get entertained and release working.

In Sydney, elderly men and their children are involved in a very competitive eight-a-side Masters Football Competition every Summer made up of six teams.

The competition is played from October to March. It has a galore of awards sponsored by Mr Prosper Nyanga’s electrical company Cipol.

Mr Nyanga, a prominent businessman who is into electrical business, deserves special mention for his generosity in financing most of these activities. He has given back to the community consistently. There is also the Battle of the Cities football tourney, a regional NSW tournament for bragging rights which involves teams from Orange, Sydney, Dubbo, Newcastle and Canberra.

Every Easter, the whole community goes to a chosen city to play in a two-day tournament called ZIMPRIDE, pitting all cities of Australia. This is an opportunity to meet people from other centres, mix, mingle, network and showcase Zimbabwe’s rich culture.

Zimbabweans in Australia are hard-working and a recent census data revealed that, of all the migrants in Australia, Zimbabwe-born migrants have the highest incomes and the lowest jobless rate.

This is a testimony to our strong education system and work ethic. Most Zimbabweans who relocated to Australia were professionals, who came with jobs already and they fitted so well into the hard-to-impress Australian job market, and they did not face the English language barrier.

We have nurses, tradies engineers, accountants, doctors and academics who have profoundly contributed to Australia’s economic well-being.

They are good ambassadors to the nation. Viva Zimbabwe!!!!


  • comment-avatar
    spiralx 3 years ago

    A classic example of how Zimbabweans – given right and appropriate conditions – can make things work. So why has ZANU failed so dismally to produce the same productive opportunity scenario, for 40 years now, and still ongoing?

    • comment-avatar

      Because the infrastructure is there-no corruption and no mismanagement. White run country. Show me a country in Africa with the same infrastructure.

  • comment-avatar
    Dubbozimbo 3 years ago

    Pity we all live here and not at home.