Please forgive Bryan Adams for starting apartheid in Zimbabwe

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Some of you recognise the name Bryan Adams but cannot really put a face or a song to the name. The Canadian singer, who is on tour and recently performed a concert in Harare, is famous for songs like  “Summer of ’69” and “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”. Believe it or not, the concert brought up some discussions about race in Zimbabwe, including reports in national newspapers. What started this racial debate? The first report that I saw was in the Sunday Mail in an article titled “Full House at Bryan Adams’ show” which alleged that the concert tickets “went on sale almost clandestinely”. The second newspaper article that I came across was “Keep your Bryan Adams and we will keep our Warriors” which focussed on the fact that the concert had a “99,9 percent” white attendance, with only 2 black people attending out of total of about 3,500 concert-goers.

Ridiculousness?

While The Sheepish Shulamite is still on the topic of race etc., I thought it was out of place  ridiculous silly  appropriate (along with the articles mentioned above) to put impute a political motive to what was just a fun night out for most of the party goers. Who knew that as Bryan Adams strummed the guitar, he was strumming the pain of black people with his fingers? Or that “Please Forgive Me” are the words that black people have been waiting to hear from a white man’s lips? Who would have thought that this was yet another “us against them” spy operation which was calculated to deprive black people of 1980’s rock music blaring through the speakers. Amaiwee!

All ridiculousness and jokes aside, this scenario does bring up some important racial issues that are relevant for most southern African countries. Regarding the fact that the show was attended by and advertised mostly (or exclusively) to white people, a friend on Facebook argued that it is hypocritical that we do not seem to have as much of a problem with the fact that concerts by black artists such as Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi are attended mostly by black people. But this misses the point. Bryan Adams posted a picture of his audience on Twitter and when I saw it, my first reaction was shock. To be honest, I was shocked to see such a huge number of white people, I did not even know that there were so many white people in Zimbabwe! It was a weird picture because there was not one dark brown hand raised in that crowd, in a country where the majority of people are dark brown.

Contextualising the problem::

Allow me to make my point clear:

i) in a context where the majority of people are black, it is unusual and problematic to have spaces where only white people are. The inverse is not as unusual because the majority of people are black and it makes statistical sense that they will dominate most spaces, simply because of their numbers.

ii) in a context where there has been a history of segregation of races (colours), the creation of “white spaces” that result in the separation of races is problematic, regardless of the motives of the people involved in creating these spaces.

We need to understand our present and historical context, even a concert is not independent of it. We need to stop defending images that are clearly problematic and start addressing the issues behind them. We need to address the issue that people feel marginalised – both white and black people, and we need to stop asking questions like: Why can’t we all just love each other? The real questions we need to ask are: Why are so many black people still angry with white people, decades after independence? and How can people living in the same context (black and white) see the same issue so differently?

Ignorance is bliss::

The reality is that we do not live in the same context, black/white and rich/poor. I am a black Zimbabwean who has a privileged background and I have never existed within the same context as my white contemporaries. We spent most of our days together at school but it very rarely went beyond that. The white girls had parties and holiday getaways that the black girls were never invited to and vice versa. We had our boyfriends, they had theirs. Separate and sort of equal. By the time l was in high school, Zimbabwe had already gone through a lot of changes, private schools were racially integrated and the controversial land reform programme was in full force.

Things had changed but they were still the same. In spite of the fact that my high school was made up of a majority of black pupils, the school leadership was still made up of mostly white people. The school board was mostly white, the prefects and sports captains were a majority of white people and the head girls were white. In 2007, a year before my last year of high school, my friends and I drew up a guess list of who we thought would be elected into the school leadership in our final year. The votes of the pupils would count but we knew that, ultimately, the decision would be made by the higher powers that be. Our list went something like this:

Head girl : obviously, a white girl.

Deputy head girl: token black girl / black girl who should have been head girl.

Senior prefect: one white girl, one black/ indian girl.

Games captain: Ah, white girl (what black girl can swim?).

Cultural captain: Can go either way.

And so on… Every year the prefects were announced on Speech Day and there was always a sense of anticipation in the air. In the entire history of our school, we had only had two black head girls and the last one was ten years before our year. On the 10th of October 2007, the tension was palpable. My journal entry from that day tells me that I broke into a cold sweat just before the head girl’s name was announced and I was still in shock and overwhelmed by the hugs, screams and kisses ten minutes later. The name they had announced was mine.

Lest we forget ::

“Never say never” 

were are the words that I wrote on that day when I came home, still on a once in a lifetime high. People say that we cannot change anything in one day but I am telling you, my life was changed on that day. It was my very own ‘Nelson Mandela inauguration’ moment, my 17 year old heart shifted, I saw something historical on that day. I was the first in what has been a string of gifted, capable and promising young black women who have occupied the position of head girl at my high school.

Make tea not war, by @shooeygooey

Make tea not war, by @shooeygooey

Over 5 years later, that day is forgotten to many people, but it will never be forgotten by me, never by me. Because of that day, I believe.

I believe that there will come a day when white people understand where black people are coming from and understand the generational effect of things like colonisation and apartheid. And take some responsibility for it, even if it is not their fault. I believe that we will see black people embrace their blackness and choose forgiveness and reconciliation. And take ownership of their own destiny. I believe that one day the voices that will be heard in the public square are the ones that speak out on behalf of justice for all and not just the majority or minority. As crazy as it sounds, I believe in the kingdom of God coming to earth.

He said that unless we become like children we will never enter this kingdom. So I guess I’m always going to be a few months short of 18 ’til I die.

Thanks for reading.

Shula.

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5 thoughts on “Please forgive Bryan Adams for starting apartheid in Zimbabwe

  1. Tom

    I truly appreciate both Shula personally and her articles, but this one looks sub-standard to me, starting from the unbearable current title “Please forgive Bryan Adams for starting apartheid in Zimbabwe” (unless it’s sarcastic perhaps?)… Dear Shula, are you serious? You know, “apartheid” is a big word for a cruel system of forced racial segregation in all areas of life, which caused real and universal suffering to those subjected to it. Certainly too big and serious a word for a music event which for various reasons happened to attract a mostly white audience…

    Please forgive Shula for overlooking the State Media propaganda aspect at the core of this story, where the race card was played at its worst in an undisguised attempt to create national hatred against white Zimbabweans…

    Shula wrote:
    “The second newspaper article that I came across was “Keep your Bryan Adams and we will keep our Warriors” which focussed on the fact that the concert had a “99,9 percent” white attendance…”
    Oh really? You almost make that Herald article look like a dictionary entry, focused on facts…
    I recommend reading that article again, here:
    http://www.herald.co.zw/keep-your-bryan-adams-we-keep-our-warriors/
    Make sure you don’t miss a line of what is said, and how it is said, lines and between the lines.
    Lines like this:

    “They [white Zimbabweans] have their own shopping malls, bars and clubs where they do what they want including homosexuality. They flee the black man like he has leprosy.”

    Hear, hear! Homosexuality! The evil buzz word, also prominently featuring in Zimbabwean presidential speeches at any unbefitting occasion including even the last presidential inauguration 2013 (alas, not in the published text, but at the end of the actual speech as delivered: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXrWktDJXUY, at 2hrs12mins14secs)… Need I say more? Otherwise, try Harare City Sports Bar for an interracial reality check and correction of the “leprosy” idea…

    Back to the Herald article, the key to understanding the real message is this line:

    “One commentator believes that if a bomb had detonated at the HICC [Harare International Conference Centre, the location of the concert] we would have lost about all of our white species in Zimbabwe. That would have been such a pity, wouldn’t it?”

    So there’s an editor of the biggest State newspaper, The Herald, suggesting with a sarcastic grin that blowing up white Zimbabweans (and other international visitors) at a peaceful concert with a bomb wouldn’t be so bad after all; in fact we Zimbos would just take it with a grin and say “Oh, what a pity!”. That’s inciting racial hatred in public and should be prosecuted as a criminal offence if there was justice in Zim. Imagine the uproar if a white Zimbabwean said such a thing… Fortunately, as seen in many of the 103 comments still present on the herald article, we Zimbabweans do no longer condone such venom of racism against whichever skin color. We just want to get on with our lives and rebuild the motherland that we love; white brothers, too, btw, check out their comments. For example, verenga shoko remurungu achiti “…we miss Zimbabwe very much……Pamberi ne Zimbabwe” (#comment-1227366740)… Vanoda Zimbabwe nevanhu vayo…

    Dear Shula, here’s a challenge to you in the month of boost! After re-reading the Herald article, read all of the 103 comments, too, for more first-hand views on this particular (non-)event, and some interesting insights into Zimbabwean souls of different color talking color. Then, imagine yourself and some of us in Europe, say Germany, and seeing an announcement of Tuku coming on stage in Berlin. Guess who’d be rushing into that concert, and who not? A whole crowd of Zimbos, and perhaps a lonely white man’s soul or two if they have been to Zimbabwe before. Only that you wouldn’t find the racial venom in big newspapers the next day. Perhaps the average German probably couldn’t care less about Tuku, as they wouldn’t even know him (although they might come anyway as I’ve met many with an open interest into other cultures…). Just like the average black Zimbabwean might not care about Bryan Adams.

    So yes, some Whites from Zimbabwe and elsewhere were faster to buy their tickets, number of tickets was limited, and most of us were not even interested. Or perhaps some of us wanted to go but didn’t have the money. Which is a completely different worldwide story about the rich and the poor, not about color as such. Think ruling party bigwigs, or somebody getting his eyes treated in Singapore, whilst my friends and family in Zimbabwe are suffering as they can’t even afford the consultation fees of US$10, much less the actual costs of treatment in a public hospital, with erratic electricity and without running water… Even PSMAS medical aid covers are no longer accepted because Cuthbert Dube, former PSMAS CEO, happily served himself and friends with million dollar salaries instead of serving customers/patients, while the society is in multi million debts and no longer serving patients’ hospital bills… No Whites involved… except those who are still keeping the basics of our health system alive with donations of all sorts…

    Sure, our history including those national and personal experiences of racial injustice, like yours at school, must be remembered and appreciated. However, we can’t look forward if we keep looking backwards. I don’t see so many Zimbabweans still being angry with white people as you claim. Decades after independence, people are now angry asking what’s the point of independence when white oppression has just been replaced with black oppression, and white colonialism replaced with a predatory (one-party) state capitalism and ruthless Chinese neocolonialism. I’ve witnessed fully qualified young Zimbabweans approaching white men for jobs whereever they spot them, both in the CBD of HRE and kumusha, their eyes gleaming with hope for a job and desparation over the status quo of a non-existent economy in a failed State, where even the “Sunshine city” has turned into a big dusty network of potholes, litter and broken everything, not to mention the untold suffering of the people struggling to survive under a geriatric government who couldn’t care less unless it’s about their personal strive for power and stolen wealth. I know of a young white man from abroad who apologized to a black Zimbabwean under tears for some of the atrocities committed by white Rhodesians during the war of Independence, although he personally wasn’t even born at the time nor related to them in any way, and blacks were no less cruel. Think of Ghukurahundi where 20.000 Ndbele were killed right after independence, mostly innocent civilians, only for the ruling party to consolidate their exclusive grip on power. Babys ripped out from their mothers wombs alive by knife. Almost 3 decades later, still the same kind of violence on behalf of the one-party State, e.g. 2008: Short sleeves or long sleeves, mutilations, fear and killings at election time…

    At least there’s hope, looking at young people like Zola aka Shula who have learned to talk about things and open up to the world with a sense of reason and compassion. Who honor God and love their fellow men, guided by faith, hope and love. Creative and with a self-critical sense of humor. Indeed, the promised land, the kingdom of God starts right here, too, on blogs like Zola’s as we are seeking for truth and meaning in mutual respect and appreciation. Keep it up!

    Honey love 😉

    Tom

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