Tag Archive: zimbabwe

Beyond colour.


This is my friend Rob Davey who lives in Zimbabwe. i have not seen Rob for something like 10 to 15 years i imagine and yet we recently connected and i asked him if he would write a piece for this blog. i have a saying that ‘Quality Shows’ and with some people you just identify that immediately – Rob is one of these people – reading this piece will give you that impression as well. We would do well to have more Robs in the world… or at least to hear their stories shared more often – please pass this around – it is gold! Lessons for South Africa [and others] to learn from experiences in Zimbabwe:

My wife shops in a flea-market in the middle of a township in a rural town in Zimbabwe, she is tall blonde, slim and undeniably white in complexion despite a tan earned by the many hours we spend outside in the sun. She speaks a bit of the local language here, she understands quite a lot more of it than she can speak so she can hear the comments some of the people make as she walks by.

Comments along the lines of, “change the price quickly she can pay more because she is white”, or , “why is she here?, whites don’t belong here”, or better yet, “ I can get her to sleep with me , watch , these foreign murungus (white people), like what we have”.

I understand a lot more of the language and speak a fair amount of it (having been born here and spent most of my life here) and so when I am with my wife I have a very strong urge to hit someone when I hear things like this. I usually avoid this by greeting everyone I see very loudly in the local language so they know I understand, generally things go better afterwards. Quite often the people who don’t make the stupid comments will throw in a little extra with our shopping, a couple of extra avocadoes or tomatoes or bananas, given with a quiet shy smile and a gentle “have a good day” or “thank you for supporting us”.

When we mix with white people later in the day, we hear similar comments , “stupid muntus (derogatory term for a black person), they don’t know how to do anything right”, or “you cant trust these guys (black people), they just lie to you!”, quite often these people are being generous to my wife and I, sharing a meal or a cup of coffee.

We live in a situation mixed with prejudice and generosity. My wife and I live in the middle of this situation, we have black friends and white friends, we find that black people and white people speak in a similarly derogatory fashion to one another or about one another, based on assumptions made due to popular opinion, or their experience of varying incidents that they feel gives them the authority to make sweeping general statements about an entire people group. It doesn’t necessarily make them bad people , it just makes them seem stupid and ignorant, both black and white (and occasionally coloured) lumped uncomfortably in the same boat, and periodically we also find ourselves in this ship that sails to nowhere.

When we do ourselves the disservice of seeing colour as the thing that primarily defines someone else then we are stating that we too are defined by the same thing, it’s not only insulting to other people but to ourselves as it negates or nullifies the myriad of experiences we have had, from birth up until the present, that have made us who we are. Granted some of those experiences may have been a result of someone else’s perception of our value due to our skin colour, but is not the colour that defines us but rather the experience itself.

To deny someone their personhood by labelling them with a colour as a means of attributing some generalised characteristic to them opens the door for the same thing to happen to you. Don’t you hate being labelled or treated in a particular way because you are white? Or black? Or coloured? Don’t you think its unfair when those rules are applied to you? Those generalisations that seem so justified when you say them seem ludicrous when reversed. When you begin to treat people like people, when you begin to treat people in the same way you would expect to be treated , whether you have done good or bad, something changes.

During a particularly unsettled time in our country’s recent past we broke down on the side of the road in an area renowned for politically motivated racial violence. It was a public holiday and there were severe fuel shortages and so traffic was sparse and we had to spend the night on the side of the road. We had water but no food to speak of and were wondering what to do about this when a man walked up out of the darkness and greeted us politely, as custom demands here he waited to be invited into our circle before he addressed us further. He was carrying a small pot of scrambled eggs, some bread and he had another pot containing hot sweet tea, (it was a cold night). He had seen us break down and when he realised that we were staying for the night he set about making us a meal.

There are a few remarkable things about this situation, it would have been politically expedient for him to ignore us or subject us to some kind of abuse, in fact by helping us he opened himself up to being abused by others. He emptied his house of food to feed complete strangers, I know this because I went back to his hut to help him carry his belongings. We were all white and he was black.

Now on the reverse side of this, during the time of violent farm invasions a farmer friend of mine found that over the Christmas period some of the people that had violently invaded his property were stuck out there with no food, he mobilised a bunch of people and bought food and supplies and slaughtered a cow for them and delivered it all to them so that they would have food over Christmas. By doing this he opened himself up to abuse and isolation from his peers undergoing similar trials, it would have benefitted him to make sure the people invading his property had no food so that they would leave. He gave to them when he was experiencing need himself. They were all black and he was white. These are not isolated incidents, this is humanity at its best, and it happens all the time.

Remarkable things happen when we see people beyond their colour, when we see people with hopes and dreams and faults and fears before we see them as black or white or coloured. What we see is humanity as it should be. Whenever we think of colour first as a means of describing anything but the person’s appearance we all lose, immediately. I am living in Zimbabwe, it has ugliness, it has racism in abundance in every direction. It has a great deal of hardship and poverty, and I am grateful beyond measure because when we experience need we can empathise with others who do so too.

We are not called to ignore injustice, racial oppression, or any other of the violations that seem to frequent this beautiful continent. We need to address these things, but we address them simply as people, not as people of any race except that of the human race. We cannot expect people to change if we are not prepared to change ourselves, the responsibility is ours first before it is someone else’s.

[For more posts that look to rally hope for South Africa, click here]


Every important thing has been said particularly by Tsholofelo Mpuru! You nailed it girl. I don’t even know why I am writing but Brett asked and I said yes.

This is my pet hate. A lot of white people may not be guilty of this. I hope.

I mentioned to a Zimbabwean friend of mine this month just how much I absolutely detest being asked whether I am Zimbabwean by a white South African or former ‘Rhodesian’ who meets me for the first time. It is often the second sentence after a greeting.

I look nothing like a Zimbabwean even on my best or worst day. I know that there are tons of Zimbabweans in South Africa but come on! This has only happened in Cape Town though often in an all white environment. It will often be one odd white person who meets you for the first time who will ask that silly question. It does not happen all the time but it happens. It often makes me mad because for crying out loud I am in South Africa. I have never set foot in Zimbabwe even if I had this is South Africa, a land full of many different kinds of blacks who actually belong here. I suppose it is hard to believe that if you are a white Capetonian.

My Zimbabwean friends will confirm that I am not xenophobic. The issue at hand is that even where I live in East London I was speaking to an Afrikaans white friend who was telling me about her domestic help. One of her friends has only employed Zimbabweans in her business, and she was telling me about how a certain Zimbabwean fixed washing machines and sends them to Zimbabwe. She was very impressed by how industrious he was. She said it with a tone that said: “not like these blacks.” Only that she did say it, she said; “you know Zimbabweans are different, they are not like these people here.” While she was elevating Zimbabweans as the better blacks she finished her sentence and remembered that I was black. I was boiling but what constructive words can come out of a furious person. I was furious not because of just her but of the general white South African attitude which in my books fuels xenophobia with these negative attitudes and perceptions towards local black South Africans.

The first time I ever came across this was a decade ago. Another Zimbabwean friend of mine was telling us of the despicable racism they experienced as a group of blacks by a white South African couple. She also said that the white racist couple treated them better than the black South Africans because they were told that they were the ‘better blacks’. Imagine that.

Needless to say, in Cape Town I have encountered many whites who have echoed this debasement of South African blacks as they elevate the non-South African black as the better black who must be protected from these hostile black South Africans. What I have also learnt is that some of the non-South African blacks hectically disapprove of the same white people. In fact a Malawian thought a Mugabe style of leadership was what we needed to get rid of the very white people that love them. I was shocked because I knew that the white people bent over backwards to protect the poor Malawians from these terrible black South Africans.

I have heard the same thing from South African whites who have been to America. I have heard complaints at times that the African Americans are not like us. Can we get a break?

What is this, a search for the most acceptable black? Why can’t a black person be accepted period?

Granted that human beings are slaves of comparison regardless of race, however other times it is more insensitive and hurtful than other times. In this case it is very destructive. I do wish that more people were sensitive to this.

The point is that if we are going to live together in unity in this country something has got to give. There is a reason that the black people in this country are the way they are. Some of it has to do with our difficult history. God placed us here. I know that is hard to believe but He thought this is exactly where He wants to place us. I understand that our past is quite involved and difficult but we actually do need to face one another and not wish for another breed of people that are more acceptable to you or me. This is it. Look close. We are not that bad in fact we are actually very beautiful people. The moment we connect with each other’s beauty we will not be able to see where one ends or the other begins. We have a great future as a rainbow nation but the walls of hostility and demonising one another must go away so that we can unite as one people.

You can read more of what Siki has to say by taking a look at her blog – madamemadiba.wordpress.com

[For the next amazing post in this series by Tshego Motiang, click here]

i imagine most people in south africa know someone who is from or in zim and so the zim situation probly connects deeply with a lot of us and usually carries a despondent or powerless ‘what can i do?’ attachment…

well i got this email in my inbox this week and this is a way for the church to get involved and just exciting to know what is happening in the heart of zimbabwe as well – so i challenge you to get involved and actively put this day aside to pray for zim – then i challenge you to chat to your church leaders and see if they can have a time during the service on sunday to mention these pray pointers and to stand alongside the church in zim and pray for restoration and freedom and for the continued growth of the church

it is way past time…

Momentum is Growing in Zimbabwe

From all accounts the momentum is building for an incredible climax on 26th September in Zimbabwe. Plans are under way to gather people in 10 city venues and a whopping 100 rural venues on the 26th to call the Church to God, one another and the nation. Angus Buchan, a well-known evangelist in southern Africa, has agreed to speak at a gathering of Christians in Harare on Saturday 25th and to make an address at the main Harare venue on 26th.

Please pray…

* for the call to grow louder both within Zimbabwe and across the world
* for God’s Spirit to be moving to orchestrate breakthrough in an unprecedented way in Zimbabwe
* for the planning and logistics of all the planned gathering in Zimbabwe and around the world
* for the eyes of the world to be turned to Zimbabwe in order for them to see God bringing solution to a nation where everything else has failed and for His glory to be seen
* for Zimbabwe to be a catalyst nation for revival and restoration to sweep across Africa


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