“Tough times never end”
In the vast and arid landscapes of Zimbabwe, the year 2008 marked a period of profound hardship and despair. The country found itself beleaguered by a crippling drought that left its people struggling to eke out a meager existence, while political turmoil further exacerbated their suffering. Among the countless individuals profoundly affected by these dire circumstances were two steadfast friends, Tendai and Simba, who embarked on a perilous journey in search of hope and sustenance.
Tendai and Simba resided in a modest village nestled in the Honde Valley region. They bore witness to their once fertile lands transforming into desolate wastelands, casualties of the relentless drought. The rivers had slowly withered away, leaving scarce or no water for their wells. Crops withered, and livestock perished under the merciless sun. It was a harrowing period, where the food aid from the World Food Program, typically reserved for arid regions, proved woefully insufficient to sustain the nation. The dire consequences of the drought were further amplified by the government’s mismanagement and corruption, pushing the nation further into chaos.
With their families teetering on the brink of starvation, Tendai and Simba realized they had to take matters into their own hands. One day, Tendai paid a visit to Simba around noon, uttering gravely, “My dear friend, if we do not devise a plan now, our families will surely perish.”
Simba responded with urgency, “I’ve been pondering a journey to Mozambique.”
Tendai was taken aback, exclaiming, “Are you out of your mind?” The duo had never ventured beyond the confines of Honde Valley, except for one trip to Mutare, the nearest city. Yet, as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures, and this was undoubtedly one of them. “Une mari ipapo?” Tendai inquired, questioning Simba about his financial resources.
Simba replied, “I only have a mere hundred bucks.” Tendai contemplated and affirmed, “It might suffice for basic provisions. Let us proceed.”
They made the audacious decision to embark on a perilous journey to Mozambique, where rumors of food and provisions beckoned like a siren’s call to desperate villagers. This journey would test their resilience and push them to the very limits of their endurance.
Setting forth before dawn, Tendai and Simba traversed the unforgiving terrain with only a few possessions strapped to their backs. Every step became a battle against exhaustion and despair. Along the way, they encountered fellow Zimbabweans, all sharing in the same desperation and determination to secure a future for their loved ones. Some were even contemplating settling in Mozambique permanently, so they meticulously rationed their limited funds and food, permitting themselves only a single meal each day.
As days stretched into weeks, they navigated dusty roads and crossed treacherous rivers. Hunger gnawed at their stomachs, but their determination remained steadfast. Eventually, they reached the border of Mozambique, where they faced a new set of challenges. The skyrocketing prices of goods, driven by high demand, rendered even the most basic necessities unaffordable. In a moment of anxiety, Simba asked, “My brother, what do we do now?”
Tendai, after a moment of contemplation, suggested, “Can we make it out of here alive, my brother?” Tendai had heard of illegal diamond mining in Chiadzwa, and the idea of venturing there to acquire precious jewels and exchange them for sustenance crossed his mind. At this juncture, the actual value of the diamonds was inconsequential, with feeding their families taking precedence.
Desperation propelled Tendai and Simba toward unconventional means of survival as they embarked on a hazardous journey to Chiadzwa. With no other recourse, they cautiously joined a group of miners, descending into the depths of the earth in search of valuable stones.
Days turned into weeks once again as they toiled in the dark, cramped mines, the work being grueling and danger lurking at every corner. Digging deep and sifting through sand for diamonds proved to be an arduous task, but the promise of sustenance for their families kept them going. Their hearts oscillated between fear and hope as they unearthed diamonds that held the potential to change their lives forever.
However, their dreams proved to be short-lived. The illegal nature of their activities soon drew the attention of local authorities, resulting in a raid and subsequent arrest for Tendai and Simba. Their quest for survival had led them down a treacherous path that initially seemed to offer a glimmer of hope but ultimately left them empty-handed.
In the confines of a cramped cell, their spirits crushed and their bodies weakened, Tendai and Simba could often be heard singing church hymns on lonely nights. They prayed for divine intervention and wondered if their families were coping. Simba once approached Tendai and remarked, “They might believe we are no more, Tendai. It has been months.” Tendai contemplated writing a letter to inform his family of his whereabouts and their current predicament in a prison cell, although whether the letter reached its intended destination remained uncertain.
News of a political breakthrough eventually reached their ears. Negotiations between opposing political parties in Zimbabwe had culminated in a power-sharing agreement. This glimmer of hope for a brighter future persisted even during their darkest hours.
Months later, upon their release from prison, Tendai and Simba returned to their village to find signs of change. The sight of the two men back in Honde Valley astonished the community. Simba’s wife wept upon seeing her husband, believing he had perished. His son struggled to recognize him. The arduous expedition had taken a toll on Simba’s body, and he lacked the strength to recount his experiences. Tendai, though attempting to remain resolute, bore the weight of his failure and disappointment. He had embarked on a mission to secure food for his family and ensure they wouldn’t starve, yet he returned empty-handed.
The drought still raged, but a renewed sense of unity pervaded the community. The political landscape was shifting, promising a more stable and prosperous future.
25 October, 2023