Hope for Zimbabwe: A Student's View

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Editor's Note: The following essay by a sixteen-year-old Zimbabwean student won the 2003 Commonwealth Essay Competition. She studies at Arundel School in Harare and hopes to go to University to read law and diplomacy. Her interests include public speaking and debating, taking part in sporting events at school and provincial level, and working in the community. She is involved with the Harare Junior City Council and has been selected to become their Public Relations Officer. The Competition is organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society and attracts over 5,000 entries from more than 1,000 schools in 54 countries and territories throughout the Commonwealth. She says: 'I took part in the Competition because I had had enough of hearing the same old misconceptions about my country, It pains me to see my country in the state it is now and I hoped that by writing an essay I would be taking some sort of action, however small, towards bringing about a difference'. We are grateful to the Royal Commonwealth Society for bringing this essay to our attention.

'I see only hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it'.

These powerful words were written by human rights activist Alan Paton in his widely acclaimed, Cry the Beloved Country. The country that he wrote of was his homeland South Africa during the Apartheid Era. The country that I write of now is my homeland Zimbabwe, during the troubled and uncertain time that she is experiencing.

Zimbabwe was born on the eighteenth of April 1980, the day she officially gained her independence. It was a day when she finally tasted the freedom that had been withheld from her for so long. A day that supposedly marked a change in the undertaking of internal affairs. Yet even with her new-found freedom things were not rosy in the country. There remained various issues that lay beneath the smiles of the newly named Zimbabweans, unsettled problems that were left to fester deep in the hearts of many in the country. Few could forget the pain and segregation that they had undergone and although on the surface the hatred and racism seemed to have dissipated there still lay an undealt with anguish in the lives of the majority.

However, over the years, as Zimbabwe developed from infancy into childhood and then later into adolescence, the wounds of the past faded almost into obscurity and the smiles on the faces of Zimbabweans, both black and white became more genuine. My country began to prosper. She became one of the biggest high-quality tobacco exporters in the world and a large number of more developed countries began to depend on her for various natural resources of which they themselves had very little. Multi-national companies realised that the small country in the southern part of Africa had much potential and they cleverly began to maximise on this. Things were looking very good for Zimbabwe and there seemed to be no stopping the ride of success that she was enjoying.

At this stage, I do not think that many people, if any at all, realised that the ride that we were on was in fact careering out of control and that we were about to suffer a terrible crash. You see, the various parts that had kept the ride running were in fact beginning to disagree with each other. Black and white which had once worked together as partners to keep the engine running were now pulling away from each other. Whatever development that had taken place over the years was unravelling at an alarming rate.

The memories of things from so long ago came flooding back. Memories of days when elderly black men had to bow down to young white boys with respect that should have instead been directed to them, and greet these children as 'Boss'. Bitter memories of a time when being black was considered a great punishment and one was deemed inferior because of the colour of one's skin. …