Invest in your villages

TODAY I want to talk to the fellaz, varume vemuno muZimbabwe. Living in the English village is seen as a sign of status in the United Kingdom.

Many would buy a small flat in London and go back to the village every Friday to be with their family.

They call it the English countryside, something that many of my generation have disconnected with in Zimbabwe.

We come from a culture where the village home is always in the custody of the men not women. The logic is very simple, the woman gets married and goes off to live at her husband’s homestead.

So in our culture, the measure of someone’s responsibility or lack thereof was based on how someone’s homestead was maintained.

This, however, faded and changed with the metropolitan culture that we embraced in the 1980s.

Many of my father’s generation would ask why they had to be buried in the city as if they didn’t have an ancestral home.

“Ndovigwa mutaundi kuti handina musha here inini,” they would rhetorically ask.

This example is best captured with the death of Chenjerai Hunzvi who led a fast life in Harare, but when he died and was declared a national hero.

As is tradition, all national heroes are taken to their village home before being buried in Harare.

Hunzvi’s home was a disgrace, as the helicopter landed, the chopper blades were swinging the little hut’s door, it was surreal but not exceptional.

Many of us find ourselves in this difficult and yet unavoidable situation. Zimbabweans moved to cities and started new lives there with no concern of the village anymore.

Many go back to the village to visit their parents or grandparents, but are not emotionally or economically invested in village life anymore.

I was like that too until my two brothers who lived in England passed on. This left me as the only male in the family and the responsibility of the village plot was firmly thrust on my shoulders.

The goodness or the badness of everything to do with my ancestral home fell on my lap.

I had never lived in the village because my father was a senior civil servant so we lived in semi-metropolitan centres as my dad did his work.

When he retired, I chose not to go to the village but to my sister’s home in Harare and eventually I left the country after college.

So I had no emotional ties to the village, I just saw it as a place, where we all get buried one day when we pass on to the next world.

My parents had built a good home there before they died but it lay derelict for 12 years until I was faced with the responsibility of being the only mukomana asara (boy left).

My brother had passed on in England in 2014 and I had only one choice, to bury him in the village.

My parents would turn in their graves if any one of us were buried in the city, we grew up being told that.

I thought about the state of the village homestead and said to my sisters that it would be so embarrassing for all my friends who usually come to my big home in Harare to suddenly see my ancestral home in such a state, Hunzvi’s situation came to mind. Thankfully it had not deteriorated to such a level.

When someone dies in the UK, it takes anything from five to 10 days processing the paperwork, so I used that time to fix the place.

I would drive out every morning to supervise the work and was fortunate because one of my old friends had given me a truck to use.

I brought in a team of builders to radically sort out the home building structure and also a fencing company to put up a diamond fence covering one area.
A painter joined them because the place was dying for a fresh look.

The chaps did a wonderful job and when my brother’s body arrived from the UK, I was comfortable welcoming friends and family to this home that I had never stepped into in 12 years.

 

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