The plane that flies directly from Durban to Harare has 50 chairs, 6 are occupied. My seat is numbered A1. “Zimbabwe is not very popular these days.” says a big white Afrikaans flight attendant standing in the aile, he talks tomuch. Informing me that Zim is falling apart, there is already for 5 years no Zim $ anymore. The value was so low that everyone in Zimbabwe was a millionair, but with that million you can only buy a bread. Now the US $ is the official currency but you can also pay with the South African Rand and the Pula from Botswana. The goverment privatized the diamond mines recently, and “guess where that money goes?”
I haven’t been in Zimbabwe for more than 20 years. In the nineties my childeren grew up in Harare. After my divorce, my ex-wife, married ‘Rob’ who worked for the Dutch Embassy in Harare and to my horror they decided to live in Zimbabwe with the childeren. It was a time when I flew up and down to see my kids and they flew down and up in the holidays to see me in Amsterdam. Zimbabwe was in those days an example of how after a succesful revolution a country could blossom. Mandela and his goverment were looking with admiration to what comrade Mugabe created.
A group of mid-career theatre directors have invited me to come to Zimbabwe to facillitate a workshop on directing/writing for stage. I am looking forward to the work.
My children gave me the assignment to find the house where they lived 20 years ago and make some pictures, they never went back, better to pamper the romantic memories from those days, my son tells me.
After a week of work with a group of highly talented directors/writers who have the most amazing personal stories to tell, I have to conclude; The people of Zimbabwe that I meet are still the same, the Shona language sounds so beautiful. They are open, friendly and eager to grow. You can’t say that from the city. Although there are some new buildings in the city centre, most of the suburbs are falling apart. On the last day I have time to find the house where my childeren lived so long ago and where I spend a lot of time with them, my ex-wife and her husband Rob, who became one of my good friends.
The house is located in a small suburb, Borrowdale. To my surprise the houses in this part of town are well mentained. Diplomats, captains of the industry and succesfull bussiness man live here. One of my Zimbabwean friends explains: “ This area is not effected. You might say that the people who live here are the reason that the rest of the country is effected the way it is. Also Mugabe has a villa in this area. It is fascinating how revolutionaries after a few years being in power become corrupt. The Mugabe goverment privatized the diamond mines and sells the germs to China.” he tells me.”And those Chinese Yuans will all go in the pockets of some politicians.”
Hanging over the gate of the house, taking care that I don’t touch the electric fence wires, I take some pictures of the garden and the house. I think Mandela once said “When you go back to a place and see everything is the same, you realise who much you changed yourself”
The next day I fly out, back to Durban back to my small cozy house and my wife. In the plane, that is almost full, coincidental I meet the same flight attendant he repeats more or less the same lines he delivered a week ago. But he adds the news of the day: “From today in Zimbabwe you can pay officially with the ChineseYuan.” He shows me the news paper, because I think he is making a good joke. It is true from that day the Chinese Yuan is officially added to the “multi-currency basket” of Zimbabwe.