Growing up in Bulawayo: Chronicles of a colourful childhood

Growing up in Bulawayo: Chronicles of a colourful childhood
Published: 15 June 2019 (237 Views)
Bulawayo celebrated 125 years of existence as a city last week. That should be put out there because there are those who believe that the authorities misfired since King Lobengula established it some years before that.

I will not get into an argument over what should be feted about but I think the city fathers were clear about what the shindig was all about. It was about structure and not form. No one disagrees with the fact that Bulawayo was established as a white settler town in 1894. It might be the quintessential colonial edifice, but if it's worth toasting to then why not?

 There are plenty of opportunities to recognise King Lobengula's KoBulawayo that he established in 1870 at the site of the current state house in Sauerstown. The same settlement that was burnt down by the pioneers when they overwhelmed the Ndebele in 1881.

But that is not the subject of my column lest I be dragged into an unending debate about the history. I recognise my links with the city of my birth in the same month of June, the bitter cold being a stark reminder of the harsh weather that blighted Bulawayo when I entered this world screaming and kicking.

The elders still talk about the harsh winter of 1964. It was the same year that both ZAPU and ZANU were banned by the Rhodesian authorities, right after the latter had split from the former political party. My parents firmly belonged to a new and growing urban middle class, housed in Mpopoma that had the first ‘home ownership' and rented ownership accommodation in the 1960s.

My father, fresh from Cape Town in South Africa, where he grew up and was educated, had met and married my mother, a trained nurse and daughter of a police sergeant. Mpilo Central Hospital was the only hospital, and that is where she was trained and gave birth to me.

My father was a pioneer of sorts, a few of a select number of salesmen whose business acumen and entrepreneurial skills set them apart. There were others like him, and for them the sky was the limit. He was soon renting a shop koThikili in Mpopoma while working as a manager of a furniture shop in the CBD.

But for them Mpopoma was very restrictive and not representative of his status. You see, the country was in the throes of colour bar, Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front leading the northern assault of South Africa's apartheid policies. So their options were limited, but they were determined to push the boundaries all the same.

Soon they had moved to the new cooperative scheme housing of Mhlahlandlela located in Tshabalala to the west of the city. Here, businessmen, teachers, nurses and salesmen grouped together to build better housing for themselves and their families using a more modern cluster model.

I was enrolled at the nearby Masuku Primary School as were other children of this class of izimpatsha as we were called then. It was later elevated to izikhulu, a more dignified term that represented the position that our parents had elevated themselves to. Being the more enlightened in society, the white rulers tended to listen to them with a mixture of trepidation and envy.

They became the community leaders that were sought after in the absence of stifled political activity. Anyone who showed political leaning was instantly detained by the white authorities. Even when the violent protests of iZhii were ruthlessly put down in the mid 1960s, the middle class was able to make inroads in getting the few concessions that the stingy white administration would dole out.

These included the right to own and run businesses in the African townships and conduct community social activities like sports, recreation and the arts. My father's involvement in soccer this early in my life was a result of this thrust. Some of his colleagues worked for the city council and the big companies of the day such as Rhodesia Breweries, Rhodesia Railways and Dunlop. It was those deep pockets that financed these community initiatives, with them obviously at the helm. They were afforded an opportunity to exercise their business acumen and to organise activities that kept the African occupied.

Little did the white authorities know that that these same people were actually the perfect cover for the political activities they were so determined to stifle. Occasionally the Special Branch would penetrate and disrupt the intricate networks they had created to support the underground activities of the likes of the late Joshua Nkomo, John Landa Nkomo, Joseph Msika and others.

My father would later share how the political icons of the time would use his offices in the CBD to plan their activities under the guise of selling them household furnishings. I remember the likes of the late Lazarus Dlakama and Sidney Malunga staying at our house in Mhlahlandlela soon after their release from detention.

They felt safer there than in their own homes that were constantly monitored. They eventually made their way to Zambia through the support of that intricate network.

- The Chronicle

 0

You May Like These Videos

Comments

There are no comments.

Latest stories

PHOTOS: Job Sikhala becomes an instant internet joke

by Social media | 03 October 2019 | 215 Views

America says it is worried about Zimbabwe

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 234 Views

Madinda Ndlovu to be discharged tomorrow

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 167 Views

What are behavioral disorders and how can they be managed?

by Temba Munsaka | 03 October 2019 | 164 Views

Government speaks on Robert Mugabe's body parts

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 262 Views

Zacc recovers $100m property from looters

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 162 Views

WATCH: Mnangagwa apologises for destroying Zimbabwe satire

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 158 Views

Mphoko's application for release of passport dismissed

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 129 Views

Zanu-PF restructuring exercise begins

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 128 Views

Petrotrade declares $1.5 million dividend

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 108 Views

MSU, Zupco seal bus deal

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 188 Views

Mnangagwa to open ZMF conference

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 136 Views

High Court sets EcoCash hearing date

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 137 Views

Mphoko barred from leaving Zimbabwe

by ZimLive | 03 October 2019 | 134 Views

CIO agents monitor Jonathan Moyo in Kenya

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 352 Views

Acie Lumumba targets criminals around Mnangagwa

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 306 Views

$100 limit for cash-out transactions

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 227 Views

ANC starts anti-sanctions campaign

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 155 Views

ZESN calls for political parties regulation

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 137 Views

We've no forced labour evidence on Zimbabwe diamonds, says US Embassy

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 149 Views

Ex-ZPC board chairman freed on bail

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 160 Views

Cyber Bill seeks to safeguard citizens

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 118 Views

Cassava launches Vaya tractor services

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 153 Views

MDC Alliance boycott slammed

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 89 Views

10-man Bulawayo Chiefs stun Harare City

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 123 Views

Zimbabwe has a reputational problem, says US

by newzimbabwe | 03 October 2019 | 134 Views

MDC Alliance walk of shame

by Nduduzo Tshuma | 03 October 2019 | 171 Views

MDC councillors want suspension of Cowdray Park projects

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 122 Views

RBZ floats $300m additional TBs

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 116 Views

Teenagers rob soldier

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 131 Views

Duo rape corpse, get death sentence

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 140 Views

Mnangagwa to fly out for the zenith times

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 116 Views

Chamisa's MPs approach court to reverse 5 months allowance garnish

by newzimbabwe | 03 October 2019 | 72 Views

Zimra official forges Customs papers

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 57 Views

Zifa courts two nations for Warriors' friendlies

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 45 Views