2016: What I Learnt From My Setbacks.

2016: What a year it has been! As we come close to the end of the year, I have taken some time to reflect on how it all panned out for me. I must say, I went through so many ups and downs.

The year started on a good note for me, my career gained so much momentum. I was in the driving seat for crucial aspects of the projects I was engaged in. At the big bank I was working for, my professional growth was meteoric. I was also privileged to have managed to attract loved ones around me in the same time period 🙂

Unfortunately, I lost so much of that in the space of a day. I was jobless with many bills to pay and no regular income. At the same time I had also commenced a very costly project for my personal advancement. Everything was on the verge of collapse and I just didn’t have the financial muscle anymore.

As if this was not enough, I lost a large portion of my savings to poor investments. The worst heartbreak was when my laptop got stolen at the airport; it was a huge blow as this was one of the last few things that were keeping my sanity intact. My data, memories, freelance projects were all gone (yes I know, I should have backed it all up).

I dealt with this heartbreak and embarked on a recovery path. Of course, this was not done the perfect way. There were many casualties along the way, notably my mental wellness. I was mentally wrecked, obliviously. I thought I was fine, but in essence I was not. I damaged so much and many dear relationships along the way.  I was imploding, depression is a slippery slope!

One thing though, I didn’t lose hope. I owned up my mistakes and with lots of grace from those I damaged, I was granted forgiveness and a fresh chance to start over. Professionally, I also didn’t throw in the towel, I kept on improving myself. I took the sabbatical as a chance to study and push myself to be the best I could be for my next professional assignment. It was when I was in the abyss that I managed to build an e-commerce platform for a firm that is now reaping massive profits from utilising that platform. I find so much satisfaction in this achievement. Talk about celebrating small victories 😉

As you can see, it really wasn’t an ideal year. It was full of so many challenges, heartbreaks and surprises. I did not, however, see all this as failure, but as total gain. I managed to discover new strengths that drove me forward.

Embrace your challenges and reach within yourself, you will find the strength to take you forward!

Want to get in touch with Clive, the author of this post? Hit him up on Twitter and give him a follow. Share your 2016 stories, good or bad, with The Lens Blur by typing or recording them, and e-mailing them to us at thelensblur@gmail.com & we’ll do the rest!

Day to Day Zimbabwe Chapter 2: Mai Chido.

Read the first chapter of Day to Day Zimbabwe by clicking here

The sun burning her back, she bends down to rearrange her piles of tomatoes. She has sold 4 piles today, not bad. As she gets back onto her makeshift seat, she sees her son walking towards her holding a lunchbox. He managed to get them lunch. “Maswerasei mhamha”, he greets her. “Ndaswera kana waswerawo”, she greets back. Continue reading

Grains & Gold: Rural Zimbabwe’s Story.

 

*Disclaimer: there is no single Zimbabwean narrative. My lived reality is not similar to yours.

I just don’t know where to start. Where do I even start? How do I begin to explain what life is like… what my lived reality is… to someone who does not know such a world exists? I live in a “service area”. That’s the only fancy name I can call it, to be honest. It is surrounded by a hub of mines and farms. It’s a small semi-rural place that only recently earned “town” status, but there is not even a single bank there – just Ecocash, Telecash & what-what booths. At least there is a country club and a resort close by (i.e 11km away). We have not met our town board, neither have we met our councillors any other time besides during elections. After that… life goes on as usual.

Anyway, please take a seat, I need to talk to you…

Do you know who owned that farm close to the place I call home? They called him “Nicco”. I don’t even know him, I never saw him. But mbiri yake yakatekeshera nenyika! He was a renowned grain farmer who filled those silos at the local GMB with little or no help from other farmers close by. He relocated to Zambia – yes, we begged for grain from him that other year! Now the farm is owned by she-who-shall-not-be-named. It is heavily guarded, and you cannot even jog past without having to flash your national ID. Half the labourers were sacked, but they have nowhere else to go. They were born there, they grew up there. Their whole world is there. So they offer up their labour so they can keep their lodgings. The few who managed to stay employed “earn” grain. One guy is our “supplier”. When he has worked long enough to make a full sack of grain he sells it to us at $6 per bucket. If it’s not maize its soya beans. Rarely cash. Sometimes they sell grain to health workers so they can visit the local clinic (which used to be free until the local council complained) until their “grain money” has lapsed.

I took a walk in the township today. Are all places like this? Raw sewage flowing out of people’s houses. Is the council not getting paid to fix this? That plumber is rude by the way! Sometimes he does not even come! At this rate cholera is going to hit our small “town” again. At least they are painting the shops. The state of the local clinics? Understaffed. Thank heavens ANC and maternity services are free now at the clinic. It’s $30 at the hospital. But where do I get that if I earn grain? I also need to come with my own candles or fuel for the generator and at least 20 litres of water in case the clinic reservoirs are empty. Might as well rely on Mbuya Nyamukuta (the Village health worker). She helped Ma’ Shupi deliver in the “safety” of her home… but wait… what about PMTCT?

Have you heard anything about residential stands? I think they will give us closer to elections! For now we will keep paying what the council asks for us to remain on the waiting list. For now, save enough to get at least even the medium density ones… (picture below: my sister, heavily pregnant… got a “ride” from sympathetic young boys who were selling a whole scotch-cart of firewood for $10 to cross over to the other side to see her small patch of land which is her residential stand that was allocated to her in 2013 after paying for it since the Zim Dollar era… See those Silos! Nicco used to fill them!) Most of the people who got the stands are new in the area and never had to wait since 2006. See what having enough money can do for you? You just show up and voila! You have a stand…

Audrey1

Have you heard? “Kune maricho kwaChihera, hanzi $1 pa 7 lines” (Have you heard, Chihera is offering a dollar for every 7 lines that you weed). A dollar. 7 lines. Do you know how long a single line will be?! But I need the cooking oil, my children need their school fees (usually around $30-45). If I pay fees for them they will pass! They are my ticket out of poverty! So I’ll send just Tariro to school today. S/he’s bright that one! The other 4 will go with me kwaChihera so we can raise more money… they are just missing one day… zuva rimwe hariwodze nyama! Tariro will teach them! Tariro! My hope! Where will I get warm clothes for them? My next batch of grain, I’ll exchange it with clothes and shoes at the township when the nurses, teachers and policemen get paid! Ndoovane mari ka…. Meanwhile… Tariro walks about 5km to the nearest school that offers “better” education than the barn at the farm where even the teachers do not prepare for lessons… Armed with his incomplete uniform and worn out shoes and almost no stationery… s/he is, after all, his family’s only hope for change… When Tariro gets to school s/he has to share an old tattered textbook that was probably donated by well-wishers with 4 other pupils who live far away from him. Sharing resources is problematic. Who gets to go home with the book when you have homework? You can’t meet up because your places of residence are far apart. You also have to walk back home. When you get there you have to walk to fetch water to wash what you call your uniform… it has to dry overnight… “if it doesn’t I’ll just have to wear what I can. The teachers are tired of punishing me for it anyway… now they just let me… as long as I am clothed and well covered, they said…”

I don’t know what else to do to supplement my “income”. I should probably try my hand at kukorokoza (illegal gold panning). “It’s not a woman’s thing,” they said… but I need the money. People are coming from far and wide and leaving this place with kilograms upon kilograms of gold… they say women are not allowed to do it but I’m desperate. The spirits of the land can be mad at me all they want but at least I know they will understand I am a mother trying to make sure my children have a better life than the one I had. Tariro! Tariro will study abroad because of my hard work. I will not borrow or beg. I will work… Zvikanetsa tobika doro! (if things go wrong we will brew beer to appease the spirits of the land) [pic, yes. Me. Don’t ask.]

Audrey2

Did you hear what happened to the twins? Tendai was raped by her uncle! Such a young child! Police?! Why embarrass the family?! He will pay a fine when she gets married and admit his crime in the presence of the elders and Tendai’s husband. By then all will be forgotten… Zeria eloped yesterday. She is 13 and expecting… she is the second wife kwaMadzibaba Adam vaye vakambofa vakamuka. Yes, people still go kusowe ravo… madzibaba vakatadza panyama, kwete pamweya… uye chipari hachirambidzwe kusowe ravo…

I remember tweeting my hopes that the #ThisFlag movement reached the rural areas. My ordeal is probably a sugar-coated one or a “better experience” kind… Spend a day with someone who was born and bred at a farm of a traditional small village. You will understand my plight. I understand it’s not a political movement but one that I hope will conscientize people and make them realize that their lived reality is nothing but a violation of their human rights.Has the government let me down? Is this what our liberation struggle heroes fought for? For us to get excited when we get freebies in the form of a sack of grain and fertilizer? From that sack I should get maize meal to feed my family as well as seed for the next farming season… I am tired of being hopeless… Right now all I need is hope. (or someone to feed me hope with a large spoon)… Hope that life will be nothing but better and different in the rural areas…

Thank you for stopping by. I heard they will be giving away 50kg of maize to widows and the elderly and orphans today. I should go now. The queue will be very long… If I get there late… If I don’t get that grain…

If you would like to discuss Audrey’s eye-opening contribution with her directly, you can follow her on Twitter, here: @NdiDrey

#ThisFlag: Chasing Rainbows.

On the 13th of July 2016 I bought a Zim flag and headed to Rotten Row court to stand in solidarity with Pastor Evan Mawarire. Away from what his work with the #ThisFlag movement Pastor E holds a special place in my heart as he was my Youth Pastor at Celebration Church before he left to start his own church. Pastor E’s Charisma, ability to connect and relate to an age group that he was not exactly a part of was never in question. His success as a Pastor and now the face of a movement comes as no surprise to anyone that knows the man or has had any interaction with him.

Needless to say I am a big supporter of #ThisFlag. But what is #ThisFlag and what is it hoping to achieve? When we say #ThisFlag has been successful, what exactly would have occurred? Note that we are operating in the anti-violence framework as Pastor Evan has repeatedly advocated for. Pastor Evan on the 7th put out a video with a list of demands for government

  1. Deal with Corruption. The movement has called for the government to deal with corrupt government officials. This would be a practical request if there was a single government minister who was not corrupt. In Zimbabwe when you are sworn in as a minister I am almost certain the president whispers “Listen the salary isn’t great but feel free to use your influence to make a couple of extra millions”. Expecting His Excellency to say “Undenge you are going to prison for taking a bribe from Intratek” is therefore far-fetched because he will probably respond “But Chef you have a 20 million dollar loan from RBZ and we all know you have no intention of paying saka lets go together.”
  2. Deal with Injustice (roadblocks and Civil servants timeous pay). To be fair, I do think there’s merit to this demand. The only problem with the demand is that the first part asks the government not to fund-raise and the second part expects the government to have money. We all know why we do not have an active industry in Zimbabwe (Sanctions and the west LOL) but the government finds itself needing to fund-raise in other ways to pay salaries. Its unlikely there is a more fitting place for the expression “Stuck between a rock and a hard place”.
  3. Deal with Poverty (No to bond notes and No to import ban). This was quite a fascinating request for me because it did not make sense (to me). Someone will need to explain to me how not implementing either of those things would make even the slightest dent to the poverty level. We have beeeeeeen poor, and neither of those things were in place. I suppose the argument could be that they would elevate the level of poverty but whichever way one looks at it; it is not leading to poverty being dealt with in ‘Babwe.

Now, I realize this comes across as undermining the whole movement – please note that this is not the intention at all. This is as united as Zimbabweans have been in my conscious memory. Never in my short life do I remember “timid” Zimbabwe’s being so fearless, if you don’t believe me go on twitter and read through Hon. Psycho Maziwisa’s mentions. Zimbabweans have been pushed to a limit of sorts and ironically, the hunger has energized us. In many ways the violent incidents have been proof of the old adage “Nobody is as dangerous as a man with nothing to lose” but I digress. The point is, this is a fatally flawed movement with its merits. and unless we can find a way around the following flaws we are wasting each other’s time and should probably go back to work,

What are these flaws?

  1. Let us remember that the movement’s sole success has been having Pastor Evan released from police custody (yes I am taking credit for that). Other than that, besides getting people talking  #ThisFlag has achieved nothing… AT ALL. If we are being completely honest, the success of the stay away probably had more to do with the civil servant strikes. The Tajamuka protests in days leading to the stay away and WhatsApp messages that circulated threatening violence on individuals, who opened for business, were an indisputable factor. There was genuine support for the stay away but had there not been an element of fear it would not have been nearly as successful.
  2. The movement is more emotional than tactical. #ThisFlag, at least in private, needs to start owning the fact that it is not apolitical. The movement is political because it relates to the government and public affairs of the country. Once you delve into the world of politics you can no longer afford to be emotional. Pragmatism, prudence and strategy become the name of the game. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is 90%. This means that 90% of the country is either not making a living or making a living in the informal sector. This means 90% of Zimbabweans only earn when they work. When they miss a day of work a fraction of their “salary” is taken away. Expecting a vendor or small business owner to close down two days a week until the government deals with corruption (never) is being sadly idealistic. With no end in sight the average Zimbabwean would almost always prioritize paying school fees over taking a stand. You can argue whether this is the right approach or not but this is the fact and it needs to be faced and factored into the movements strategy. Once the first stay away had been successful it should have been used as a bargaining chip for weeks or months to come but the fact of the matter is now the regime is fully aware that stay away threats will not be a successful or effective as they have already been.
  3. Naïvety. I may be wrong but it seems the decision making behind #ThisFlag has not bothered to study the history of the regimes operations. I am reliably informed *He said in his best pseudo journalist voice* that vendors at several City of Harare owned designated spots were told that if they did not show up they should never show up again. This was also communicated to majority of civil servants. While #ThisFlag is not a party it may want to embrace that it is an opposition; we are opposition. It is naïve to not learn from opposition parties that had a much bigger following, higher levels of funding and more organized structures at urban and grassroots levels. The MDC has marched and stayed away and the same reasons why it did not work then are the same reasons it will not work now.

#ThisFlag will go down as an interesting attempt by the Zimbabwean people to break free of the tyranny. Unless there is some information I am not privy to however, it’s a rainbow-chasing expedition that the oppressor may very well allow because it poses no real threat to them. We may see a more semi successful stay-aways, more marches.  Maybe we’ll see more coverage on BBC and CNN. Maybe even on MTV Base and Supersport blitz but the reality is this isn’t really going to catalyze the change we are hoping to see. While #ThisFlag trended on Twitter, Zanu PF just organized a march against it that made the whole movement seem like a support group. As Hon. Psycho said Zanu PF will not be tweeted out of power. He is ghoulish and sadistic but truer really cannot be said. If I was a betting man, I would put money on #ThisFlag turning out to be an awareness campaign, a dream sold and basically are participative version of Baba Jukwa.

Follow me on Twitter: @_denn1s.

Ashton’s Thoughts: #ThisFlag.

Liberal thinkers have always posed a threat to systems that survive on manipulation and false truths. This is true for Martin Luther, who is hailed as the father of the breakaway movement from the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther King Jr. and his calls for social justice in the United States of America and Jesus Christ who challenged the hegemony of the Pharisees. Zimbabwe, too, has been in the quagmires of hurt, pain, corruption, bad governance and horrible politics and in this wahala, hope was hiding in plain sight, #ThisFlag.

I will not dwell much on Pastor Evan Mawarire who has come to be synonymous with the movement but I will liken him to the liberal thinkers identified above. The movement that is #ThisFlag is a voice that everyone has fought for so long to identify and use. It is a romance affair, the nation has fallen in love and the magic unfolds before us.

Ultimately, the cliché is true – simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  We all had to be reminded of what a flag represents for us to awaken a desire to uproot some of the serious cancers society faces. The only violence that was used is that we fought as we battled in our minds trying to comprehend why we had allowed the miscarriage of hope to carry on for so long under the guise of concessions and false hope peddled by political parties. Our fate lies in our own hands and the moment we realized that, we took back our power and in all the years that I have had a political framing and understanding, there was a shaking in all the bases.

The shaking echoed throughout the entire system. The oppressors of our liberties were never prepared for what came from next and the entire body went into overdrive and panic mode. Dictators and the cycle of power are always similar, like clockwork. Irrational panic is followed by indiscriminate bars to basics, and ultimately oversimplifications and then cheap politics. In a moment, there was a frenzy of riot police deployed everywhere to quench any fire, any murmur of a social gathering. Could they then arrest anyone wearing a flag without insulting the foundations upon which their tyranny succeeds – a thin veil of democracy? Brute force proved childish and a ban on social media was floated around. It was ridiculed because it defeats liberties provided in a constitution partially upheld. False screenshots meant to discredit Evan were floated and then conspiracy theories that were as ludicrous as they were numerous floated… In all this they could never take down the flag, which is what people invested hope in, not a person.

Hope is a funny thing. It is illogical, difficult to understand. In a split second, a life can turn around and priorities shift from the protection of self to the preservation of an ideal. It is difficult to explain to someone how you have the audacity to hope when everything around you demands otherwise but it is only those that feel it who can know. Personally, my hope has been re-ignited by #ThisFlag as I see for the first time, a non-political, non-tribal, non-partisan movement that is rising and gripping the government right by the nuts. The emotions are raw, unfiltered and everyone looks at a national flag, something we have had since 1980, with a renewed appreciation and firm resolve.

The road yet to be travelled is long. The adversities we are yet to overcome are many. The stereotypes we are yet to prove wrong are daunting but victory is certain. No system can afford to ignore a generation, no power can afford to ignore a voice that screams so loudly and so consistently. That is the power of  #ThisFlag.

You can follow Ashton on Twitter: @Ndiashton

A Few Thoughts on #ThisFlag.

This flag?

It is being ambitiously dubbed the long-awaited breeze of change on the Zimbabwean politics terrain. I agree, wind direction can only be manipulated by Mother Nature herself. Does this make Evan Mawarire Mother Nature?

I asked myself this question the day he was arrested and not much was known by his supporters other than showing up to the court-room. From a well-informed stand point, a revolution is an all-encompassing agenda. Although some of the core agendas are being addressed by the one man show (corruption, etcetera), some which affect the millennial more have resounding silences for responses. Where do queer bodies stand with the piously oriented movement? Are they going to get dragged along and quickly be erased from new Zimbabwe’s narratives? There are a lot of these. This is also the part I came to a realisation – this may not be a complete three-hundred and sixty degrees movement.

Evan Mawarire explicitly separates politics from religion by claiming he does not have political motives. A conundrum if you ask me, what is he going to do with all the political power gained, why not contrive a structure which will implement change more precisely? I understand a lot are fantasising about this collective effort, calling it a de-centralisation of power, as if to say the movement has achieved its plethora of ambiguous goals. One thing we can all agree on is the need for precision, now. It is relatively easy to derail a movement which appears to be indecisive, dependent on one person for all plan of action, even more so when the one piece is taken off the chess board.

Evan Mawarire cannot afford to be sloppy against an establishment that has been effective in its selfish ways since 1980, whilst his bravery is admirable, it is not enough without a team of technocrats on stand-by to see the movement through. They may be there, behind the scenes, but they need to reveal themselves in whatever safe way possible so they can answer all the itchy questions a lot have regarding the movement and its objectives.

A topic this emotive begs debate, and comment. While we wouldn’t mind comments on here, we do feel the discussion deserves to be on a wider forum, such as Twitter or Facebook. Who knows, maybe Leeroy will get his answers, helping a wide array of people sharing his questions? Follow him on Twitter and get chatting.

Hold The Door: A Review By T1mbles.

It goes without saying, this article contains spoilers. Read at your own peril.

 

“Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?” Jaqen H’ghar

 

The words of Arya’s mentor should have served as a warning. But how could we have known that the death of such a minor character would bring such an emotional reaction out of us? Hodor had given us plenty of comic relief throughout the series, but the revelation of how he came to be the way that he was left us both shocked and hurt. This was no fool with a speech impairment. Hodor was a hero, who gave up his life to save Bran. In “holding the door” he fulfilled his life’s purpose. Kind of poetic and beautiful when you think about it.

 

Eulogy to Hodor done, (I imagine he may return as a White Walker anyway), Game of Thrones s6 e5 was probably one of the best episodes in the entire series. There were so many revelations, especially north of the Wall, the biggest being that it’s the Children of the Forest who created the White Walkers to use as a weapon against the First Men. Just like how Frankenstein’s monster turned on his creator however, the Children and White Walkers have grown to become enemies. (Note to anyone reading, creating zombies never ends well. Ever.)

 

Fans of the “R + L = J” theory would have been quick to notice that Meera Reed (Jon Snow’s alleged twin sister) killed a White Walker. It remains to be seen whether this is because of her heritage or because she got lucky and threw a dragonstone spear. We also noted a curious time loop, events in the future are what caused Hodor’s limited vocabulary in the past. Does this mean Bran can influence the past? Or that Bran’s meddling in the future perhaps has caused certain events in the past to happen? It gets confusing the more that you think about it, so let’s leave that one alone.

 

In events to the south, Sansa finally seems to be growing up. She stood up to Littlefinger and he seemed a little taken aback by it. I think that he still plans to side with the Starks in the war with the Boltons (remember in season 5, Cersei Lannister promised Lord Baelish that he would become Warden of the North if he takes out the Boltons). I’d love to see how that will play out.

 

Across the narrow sea, Arya is still getting her ass kicked by the Waif. But she gets an opportunity to prove herself to the Faceless men. Does Arya truly believe that she is “No one”? I don’t think so, especially after seeing the portrayal of her father’s beheading. Given how much screen time Arya has been getting, something tells me she is going to do something badass before the season ends (perhaps a dramatic reunion with the Hound over some chicken?)

 

Reek (okay fine, Theon) and his sister are fleeing their newly crowned uncle, Euron Greyjoy. His plan to have the Iron Islands become the official transport logisitics company of Daenerys and her armies seems optimistic at best. Especially when he mentions seducing her. As usual, I expect that this shall not end well for the Iron Born. I wonder where Theon and Yara shall flee to? I can’t think of where they could go and be safe. “What is dead may never die”. Whatever that means.

 

Finally, in events across the Narrow Sea. Ser Jorah cemented his place as the poster boy of the friendzone. He declared his undying love for Daenarys and in response was told to find a cure so that he wouldn’t die. The dragon queen equivalent of blue ticks. Harsh. In Mereen, we found another hot, red head high priestess with popping cleavage. She is the first person that I have seen leave Varys genuinely speechless. It was fascinating to watch. She will be going around with her minions spreading propaganda about how Ms Targaryan is the “One that was promised”. Now, where have I heard that one before?

 

Thanks for reading my first Game of Thrones review. I value all feedback, hit me up on my twitter @T1mbles.