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The river between

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The river between


By Dumisani Kufaruwenga

A wide fast flowing river demarcates two African countries. Zimbabwe is north of it, South Africa lies south of it 

And Limpopo is the river between.

It is not the same river that was envisioned by Ngugi Wa’Thiong in his famous book, “The River Between.” But the concept is the same. Its about division and antagonism and conflict among the same people.

The river Limpopo is dangerous. It is infested with crocodiles. And it is patrolled by boarder control police on top of it. Crossing it illegally is tempting fate, crossing it is testing the Gods.

   “Do not tempt the Lord

   thy God”

Good fortune and calamity exist on the river Limpopo’s Southern side, both in equal measure.

But Zimbabweans cross it anyway. Even illegally.

The scio-political and economic hardships in their country far outweigh the calamities associated with Mzansi and the dangers posed by illegally crossing The River Between.

But the two countries share a common history.

A Zulu leader of ancient times called Shaka caused mayhem in the tether ends of the country which is now called South Africa, and the African people who inhabited it fled from his reign. Some of those that fled from Shaka’s reign remained in the boarders of modern day South Africa, and others settled in modern day Zimbabwe.

An adaptation of the song by a South African singer called Lucky Dube says;

   “Different countries, 

   one people

   Different countries, one


A British colonialist called Cecil John Rhodes started his fortune seeking adventures in the southern tip of the African continent in the country now known as South Africa, and when his South African treasure hunting adventures failed to satisfy his ego, he  recruited like minded whites and trekked up north into modern day Zimbabwe by leading what was later called; “The Pioneer Column”

The exploits of Rhodes had far reaching ramifications for both modern day Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Both Zimbabwe and South Africa were colonized by white capital. Both countries fought white colonial rule and won independence.

The common history notwithstanding, the people of the two countries live diametrically different lives.

Decadent lives in Zimbabwe. On this one other day he had a meagre breakfast of boiled egg and black tea and asked his son to drive him to the airport. He was going to South Africa on business.

Decadent and his son navigated the treacherous roads of Harare which are full of potholes en route to the airport. They are used to the dilapidation and decay that sorrounds them.

The country that was named after the Great Zimbabwe Ruins which are situate in Masvingo, is itself in ruins.

The Zimbabwean airport was without electricity when Decadent was dropped off by his son. Airport officials and travellers used their cellphones to light their way through the immigration formalities. They laughed and joked about their country’s circumstance;

   “A church called 

   Wapusa Wapusa once


   It’s worship is done in

   darkness with no 

   clothes on.

   And the Airport is now

   a Wapusa Wapusa 


   Ha ha ha ha!”

Laughter in the face of adversity..

Decadent’s plane took off at the crack of dawn. He peeped out through the window and he could make out Seke road snaking towards the human settlement of Chitungwiza where raw sewage flows freely in St Mary’s township.

He could see across Seke Road, the gaping unrehabilitated pits yawning at his plane, where pit sand for building is extracted illegally by unlicensed trucks and transportted around Harare under cover of darkness.

He could see the slums of the settlements of Retreat and Mahalapye where residents use pit latrines and drink water from unprotected wells.

The aircraft rose into the clouds and Decadent could no longer see the earth surface. Guiltily glad that he could no longer see the dilapidation of his country, Decadent reclined his seat and slept.

He was awakened by the air hostess announcing their arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The plane descended and the city of Joburg came into view.

In total contrast to what he left behind in Harare, Decadent was greeted with a pleasing view of clean human settlements and smooth neat roads glittering under the glare of the sun.

The O.R. Tambo resembled a colony of ants. It was overcrowded with the bustle of brisk travellers who were being attended to in a businesslike manner by efficient airport staff.

Signs of a working economy were everywhere evident.

The bathrooms were sparkling and sweet scented. Decadent could not help contrast them with the public convinience rooms back home, most of which reek with the stench of human excreta because there’s no running water to clean it away.

Decadent’s hotel room was small but cosy.

His South African business counterparts were cordial when Decadent held conference with them, but they were not in a hurry to get the business of the day done.

They are not hungry, Decadent concluded.

The food was plentiful and pleasurable and affordable.

The roads were neat and smooth and well signposted.

The buildings were opulent and solid.

This is the place to be.

But when Decadent met his relatives who live beyond The River Between, his heart sank.

All of them, without exception, expressed the following feelings;

   “The people here hate

   us. They hold a grudge

   against us solely

   because we come from

   the north of the river

   Limpopo. Our future

   here is uncertain. 

   Please sort our politics,

   we want to come back

   home “

Decadent could feel the bitterness arising from the homesickness of his countrymen;

   “For how shall we sing

   The Lord’s Song, in a 

   foreign land?”

But when Decadent landed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on his way back from South Africa, he felt happy to be home.

His wife was waiting to pick him up.

Decadent craved a beer. 

He asked his wife to drive through a nearby bar where he bought take away beers.

The roads were still deplorable, the toilets were still dirty, but everyone sang with joy;

   “Now that we’ve found

   love what are we going

   to do, with it?

Happiness in adversity.

While the River Between flows furiously, preventing joy and material comfort to co-exist.

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