Weekend trips included visits to places such as Lake McIlwaine, where there was a great Game Reserve, and Mazoe where there were citrus orchards. Visits to friends often meant travelling to the outskirts of the city, and many an afternoon would be spent around the swimming pool.
My job for many years was with the Singer Sewing Machine company and it took me into the townships around the city where I made many friends as I travelled about. One particular memory which I often recall is of the times spent eating lunch in the van in the company of fellow employee and friend Geoffrey Chapurinyemba, and he and I would often while away the lunch hour discussing the situation that existed in the country at that time.
Whenever I think of the years that I spent in that country then it is the people that I met and made friends with who are foremost in my mind. The overall friendliness of people everywhere is something that would be hard to beat. I recall occasions when in the township marketplace when I would be given a gift of an egg for my little boy or an orange for myself, the gifts being given by someone who gave willingly yet had so little. I coined the phrase 'Poverty with Dignity' as a result of my dealings with these folk, and they certainly managed to leave an indelible impression on me. Many people in the Western world could benefit from learning the lesson as so often they are truculent through wealth and the expectations of being given something for nothing simply because they feel that they have a right to it.
Leaving the people behind when I returned to the UK was the hardest thing of all, but Mugabe's reign was already well advanced and the country was already in the early stages of destruction and melt-down by the time that I left. Knowing the people and recognising the suffering that Mugabe has inflicted on them is one of the great burdens of my life, one which brings much sadness with it. How easy it would be to allow the smiles of the people and their wonderful friendship so freely offered to colour the images of the dreadful things that occur today on a daily basis.
I often think about friends from those days and wonder what they are doing now, or even if they are doing now. I think of Matambo Gunde who worked for me for several years both in my supermarket and on the land at home. When the time came for me to leave he shed many tears at my departing, for he had been with me for several years since he was about sixteen years old. Then there are friends like Paul Mangate with whom I worked when I was employed by Singer. He and I were great friends, and we spent many a time putting the world to right. So many others come to mind, each one bringing pleasant memories forged by our friendship. How easily I recall Emmerson Ganza who worked with me when I ran a printing company. He had a love of fashion, and would usually be seen on shoes with huge heels!
Several years ago a Zimbabwean dance group came to perform at the theatre in Brecon, the nearest town to where I was then living, and I went to the performance which was not only enjoyable but also stirred many memories in me of these friends from the past. In fact, so strongly were they stirred that I wrote the following poem:
Recollections of African friendships
Last night I sat in the half-dark of the theatre
watching and listening to Black Umfolosi;
seeing the ghosts of yesterday
moving silently in the shadows.
Moyo, Mangate, Takawira, Msikavanhu;
so close I could almost touch them
- almost hear their breathing.
I heard the voices calling from the stage
echoing louder than the distance of time;
bringing past and present together
in one loud dreaming moment.
Matambo, Ganza, Bepete, Chapurinyemba;
all ghosts from the distant past
- fleshed out by the men of today.
Colin Gordon-Farleigh © 2000