Being a white Zimbabwean

During one of my recent travels to an East African country, I met an old white Zimbabwean. His Shona is as fluent as any other non-white Shona-speaking Zimbabwean. He cracked jokes in Shona and had so many stories to tell about Zimbabwe, a country he calls home.

Source: Being a white Zimbabwean – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 5, 2016

Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo

His face was wrinkled and tired. He is old enough to have retired by now. He dreams of the day when there will be peace and stability in Zimbabwe so that he can return and restart his engineering project or just retire.

But for now, he does not know what awaits him in Zimbabwe, so he hangs in there with some consultancy jobs for international organisation.

He fears political persecution and says there are many of them waiting in neighbouring countries to return. He left the country in 2002 after the violent land reform programme and crossed into South Africa to seek refuge.

He was not a farmer, but he ran an engineering company that serviced farmers. The departure of most white commercial farmers and the dissipation of the agriculture industry saw his business going down. That, combined with his race, did not help make him feel secure.

So he escaped to South Africa, where he secured refugee status, which did not allow him to be as productive as he would have wanted to be. And he decided to shelve his engineering company to look for a job elsewhere.

There are many white Zimbabweans in a similar situation, who are waiting for the day when there is change and stability in the country.

The current situation does not guarantee safety to people of the white race as they remain political punch bags for Zanu PF whenever they feel politically threatened.

There are also many of them, who like some black Zimbabweans, have been roaming around African countries looking for business opportunities.

Again, the approach is to while up time, as they wait for political change, so they can come back home to Zimbabwe. It has been 14 years of waiting for everyone except Zanu PF and its long list of beneficiaries.

I met another one recently, who thinks the day the political situation changes, he and most of his business associates are ready to rush to Zimbabwe to invest.

He described Zimbabwe as an unexplored gem. He described how big a resource the skilled labour in Zimbabwe is to the region.

And because of the country’s proximity to South Africa and its centrality to other functioning economies in the region, it makes it a strategic and a convenient production centre for some of the products produced in South Africa.

It is not only that labour is cheaper in Zimbabwe or less politicised compared to South Africa, but it is cheaper to distribute products from Zimbabwe to any other country in the region than it is from South Africa.

I thought to myself, so our poverty is not because of lack of potential, but our system scares anything that scares our poverty.

We are in a poverty manufactured and perpetuated by the system. But I also wondered what the fate of white Zimbabweans is in our current political context?

Zanu PF, as a party, has a well-pronounced dislike for those of British origin and those who speak with an American twang even though their children sound very American.

Not every white Zimbabwean has a connection to the British or the colonial system. Similarly, not every white person benefited from oppressing black people.

There are many who know no other home than Zimbabwe and yet they are persecuted because of their race. They also belong here.

Before the 1891 invasion of Zimbabwe and other countries in the region, there were an estimated 1 500 white people of European origin residing in Zimbabwe.

The number grew to some 150 000 people around 1955, with more people coming from Britain and Ireland, but with a small population from South Africa.

The period between 1945 and 1955 is when most black people were forcibly removed from their farmlands by those, mainly from Britain, to pursue farming.

History shows us that there were some white people who opposed this move.

Nonetheless, the population grew to 270 000 in the late 1960s due to the migration of Europeans fleeing communism.

There were refugees who did not take anyone’s land, but were looking for opportunities and stability that obtained in the country at the time.

The gentleman I met in the East African country has no role in the colonial system, neither did his Irish parents, who fled after the Second World War.

Unfortunately, people like him have no platform to express themselves and their political positions apart from hiding and finding a way to survive until there is new day.

They have no rights and yet they are part of our society. Such is how unfair our system is. It decides to be more political than productive.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa


  • comment-avatar
    Nyoni 5 years ago

    Now what about the other races . As long as ZANUPF remains we are all doomed. Blacks included. As long as you keep your trap shut all is sweet. Make noise and you’re gone. What a croc.

  • comment-avatar

    Let’s face it, zimbabwe is an apartheid state. It’s just that the cowardly lefties in Europe, the States, Oz, New Zealand etc aren’t prepared to stand up for a cause which isn’t “politically correct”. They were prepared to have demonstrations, drop flower bombs on rugby matches, etc etc when they knew there would be zero consequences but now that the exact same oppression is happening (in reverse) they are strangely silent. What revolting cowards they are.

  • comment-avatar

    I’m not going back. There is nothing left to go back to.

  • comment-avatar

    Zimbabwe is really as racist as apartheid South Africa and is the only country I know that has racism built into its constitution.

    Somehow it would not feel so bad if those who “acquired” (i.e stole) farms and businesses had made a success of the stolen farms and businesses – but now the farms grow weeds and the businesses are closing every day.

    • comment-avatar
      spiralx 5 years ago

      Not as bad as apartheid SA (which had separate entrances for “nie blankes” even in the major cities – for example). But yes, playingthe race card to maintain separation and hatred and distrust is part and parcel of the ZANU way. Attacking gay people on the side, yet another example of their divide-and-rule approach.

      Time Zimbabweans recognised their poison for what it is, and chose to transcend it.

  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 5 years ago

    Let’s all pray the toxic rhetoric of Zanu dies with them. The issue really is not Black or White but rather whether as a nation we are prepared and able to harness the skills and knowledge of all people for our collective benefit. If we are able to create a country where everyone who contributes can call a home for themselves and their future generations, who cares what color they are? No man is an island, so it is with countries. Open up and you progress, close in and you rot. Right now we are rotting. Our country is, and should be, for all who work for it, not just those who belong by some accident of nature or the mischief of man.

    • comment-avatar
      Kevin 5 years ago

      It is actually about race. Whether ZANU PF made it about race with the aquiesence of the broad majority of the Black Zimbabweans. What has been done is to alienate White Zimbabweans and drive them out of the country. They have taken their skills and ambition with them as well as such capital as they could get out. Zimbabwe is poorer, fewer people have jobs as a result. Zimbabwe has a lower level of industrial production than it had 20 years ago the same can be said of agricultural production.

      • comment-avatar
        spiralx 5 years ago

        It isn’t – ZANU oppresses black, Coloured and European people with equal alacrity if they feel the need to protect their own interests.

  • comment-avatar
    Tiger Shona 5 years ago

    For sure white people felt the brunt of Mugabe’s policies. And he destroyed their financial lives. But in he process, black people suffered much more. For most of them there was:
    No jobs. No food. No future. No human rights. You oppose the ruling party and the consequences are deadly. The list is long and devastating. If you live here you know how cruel the result of the meltdown was to people.
    And Zanu PF don’t care. They are comfortable, because they are have stolen plenty. Many of the top guys are rich beyond belief.
    And people have to understand one thing. Zanu PF will not be voted out of power. Power will have to be taken away from them.

  • comment-avatar 5 years ago

    Look guys. I am not a Zanu Pf supporter by any means, however we need to look at this from a middle ground. You cant say the farms and industry taken from white farmers are overgrown with grass etc. Its like saying if someone you stole a car from finds you and takes it back and just parks it and chickens start laying in it is failing etc. Its his car so what he does with it is his business. I would rather see Zimbabwe’s natural resources abused and wasted by an indigenous Zimbabwean than see it flourish in the hands of a few white people whose ancestors took by the barrel of a gun. They are killing our sons in their own countries and discriminating us at work and schools abroad so allow us a little comfort and self governance on our own African soil no matter how poor that may be. Some kinds of freedom you cant buy with money. Having said that Mugabe needs to go now.

  • comment-avatar

    Catherinerice47 – you are a hypocrite. Nevertheless, just accept that the new farmers have done nothing with their given land, but DON”T EVER ask any other country for food aid, medicine aid, schools aid/books for Zimbabwe. If you are not prepared to ask ‘what is wrong with Zimbabwe?’, then why do you insist that Mugabe must leave? In your eyes, he has done nothing wrong – or, actually, do you accept that he can’t govern this country. Stupid woman, you are.

  • comment-avatar
    Andrew ramsay 5 years ago

    Catherine I have no idea where your line of thought comes from but you are living on a different planet the take over have left tens of thousands of black zimbabwe and being left homeless hungry and the land being rendered useless.

    • comment-avatar
      Bwedebwese 5 years ago

      Cathrine, if you want to enjoy Zimbabwean poverty, come back from abroad.

  • comment-avatar
    oyester 5 years ago

    how can a white person be poor in africa clearly you hae some level of incompetence. cz the way i see it until 1999 the whole system ensured that you had a good job got contracts etc cz of your linage and skin color since the country only operated for the benefit of white people. so yea africans did go a bit overboard bt come on you had the country as your oyster for so many years

  • comment-avatar

    What a Shame Zim did not stay under British rule, many countries boxed clever, knowing by separating , they would lose the financial backing , including investment & social benefits, Zim would run itself anyway, the difference would be above all Human Rights!!! & NO POVERTY,