Bulawayo @ 120
As the sun rises in the morning, I can feel the morning breeze blowing on my face. I have had barely three hours of sleep and I am up again, headed for work. Since realizing that the salary I got from my main job was not enough to take care of me and my dependents, I was left with no option but to take up a second job to try and increase my earnings. As I step out of the house, I see the city is already busy at 4am. Everyone looks to be on the hunt, optimism written all over their faces, hope the fuel that carries them through. This is the life in my city, the city of Bulawayo.
As Bulawayo has taken time to celebrate its 120 years of firm existence, this is not just a celebration of numbers but there is more to it. A good starting point would be to understand who or what is Bulawayo? From my history books I remember there was a Bulawayo is Zulu land if I am not mistaken. And when Mzilikazi ran away from Tshaka and he came into the top parts of the country, and the first major that they decided to settle down was named kwaBulawayo and it was the stronghold of the Ndebele nation. So this was a symbol of freedom, a celebration that they had managed to escape from Tshaka and his warriors. They had to fight for their independence. So to me Bulawayo means freedom. Its mean we can do all that we can to make sure that we are free as a people.
Bulawayo is referred to as the city of kings and queens, meaning that it is a separate people that have different cultural and social back grounds who actually come together to ensure that there is a purpose of unity in developing the city. To check if my definition of Bulawayo was true, I had the privilege to catch up with the Bulawayo Junior Mayor, His Worship Mbonisi Ngubeni and asked him about Bulawayo. He responded, and i quote, "Bulawayo is an exception as it is. Basically as the Junior City Council we believe that we will strive to take the ideas of the people out there in building Bulawayo. So at the end of the day we are saying that, Bulawayo is that one city, which a Bulawayo citizen would look at and say that those are my thoughts and views of a Bulawayo i want. And that is what we and the senior council want for this beautiful city."
So is Bulawayo for you. The city of kings and queens, which is driven by its own ideas and views. In as much is this city and its citizens have gone through a lot, the citizens wake up every morning and they have this belief that we are the chosen city, regardless of what they are going through and to me that is also what defines Bulawayo. It is people.
So many people have said that Bulawayo is the city of knives and the hub of crime. As a Bulawayo citizen it has been hard to deny this as it is also backed by statistical evidence. One might then start to wonder and say from the definitions given above where does this side of Bulawayo come in? At one of the Bulawayo @ 120 young leaders discussions held recently in the city, the Director of Dot youth, which is a child led organisation in Bulawayo, said , "I think Bulawayo was born out of violence. Think about it, Mzilikazi and his sons came from down there in Zulu land and the only way they got here was by violence. They had to take everything by force. So we have always had that culture. The issue then becomes how we have used that violence. We are no longer using that violence to fight for economic issues or to take care of our families and to make sure that people don’t take away opportunities from us. We have now started to use that violence to steal, murder, rape and do all sorts of criminal acts." Asked on whether he was endorsing violence is the city, he quickly replied that, "My bible says the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent shall take it by force. So if we want to make Bulawayo move we have to be violent in our mindset in terms of not settling for anything less that we deserve."
The violence in Bulawayo has mainly been a result of the frustration that has continuously mounted up. Issues like unemployment, opportunities that we are not getting, break up of family units because of the economic situation have all contributed to this frustration. Alot of young people are angry. You find that the rises of teenage drinking, parties, hooliganism are all results of this frustration in the city, not only to the youths but also the fathers and mothers of the city. The problem is that this frustration is been taken out on the wrong people, most of the time its women and children. But what I think is let’s not take it out on the wrong people. We are fighting the wrong war. The war that we are meant to be fighting is an economic battle. We must use that frustration to create vibrant ideas and use that same frustration to be stubborn enough to follow those ideas and see them through and make sure we develop our city at all costs.
As Bulawayo turns 120, many people including Bulawayo citizens might then ask themselves and say, what are we then celebrating at 120 as a city? Basically we are saying that these 120 years have been a period of exceptional prosperity. Bulawayo has developed from back in the day. We are celebrating the unity that has kept us together and going as a city. We look at the father Zimbabwe statue and the effect it has on people. We look at the other commemorations that we have had in the city and how we have manage to keep our values as a city. On this day we do not turn a blind eye to the problems faced in the city but we are saying this day marks a beginning of great things to happen in the city. This is also a day were we celebrate the survival of Bulawayo. Having been burnt to the ground at one point in time, Bulawayo remains one of the few cities that has managed to rebuild itself and stand strong even today.
I also took time to interview a few youths in the city to get their views on the five places that they think defined Bulawayo. Why I done this was because most people have failed to appreciate the beauty in Bulawayo because they do not know Bulawayo and have never visited places. After a long day of walking in the city, I got to compile the five must visit places in Bulawayo that the youth recommended to a visitor.
1. Babourfields stadium- home stadium of Bulawayo giants Highlanders football club
2. Egodini terminus
3. City hall
4. Centenary park
5. Joshua Nkomo statue
As young people it is also important that on this day we also put forward viable solutions for Bulawayo, solutions that we as young people can implement. The biggest of our problems in Bulawayo has been our mindset. Our elders have given up on Bulawayo and view it as a sinking ship, which is not the problem because they have experienced it and come to that conclusion. The problem is when we as young people now also adopt this view. Our job is to change our language and speak to Bulawayo as the hub of progress, the next thing. Our second problem is unemployment. The things that have money are the so called messy things that we as young people do not like. This includes farming and cattle raring. Look at the people at the market place; those are the people actually making money in the city and keeping the city alive. So as young people we must invest in such sectors of the economy on a small scale for starters. This will see us create our own jobs and not depend on seeking jobs.
Education is also another aspect that we must work on in the city. Education is key and it should be approached with right perspective. Our approach to the education as a city has been wrong whereby young people have depended much on the teacher and on the formal route to follow. This has seen Bulawayo youths fall short when it comes to issues to-do with entrepreneurship and the creation of jobs.
Bulawayo is a city filled with potential and I think it is high time we as young people take the lead in unleashing this potential.
Compiled by Collin Banda