What being ‘British’ means to most Zimbabweans

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“THE colonised is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.” – (Frantz Fanon Black Skin, White Masks).
Although written more than half a century ago when most of Africa was under colonial rule, Frantz Fanon was spot on.
The phrases ‘tave maBritish’; ‘ndiri MuBhrinyonyo’; ‘I am now British’ are now quite common among Zimbabweans in the UK, most who have become naturalised British citizens in the past few years.
For many people, to be British is a remarkable achievement, the ultimate goal. It also comes with it the adoption of some ‘alien’ cultures that many people are ‘grabbing’ to demonstrate their integration.
Kutyei, because tave maBritish!
I met a 67-year-old Zimbabwean (now British) woman last week who said she would never return to Zimbabwe to live there permanently because she is now British.
When I told her of my intentions to return to Zimbabwe, I got a surprise of a response.
“Ini handimboita,” she said.
“Ndakapihwa mapaper naBlair.
“I am now British.
“I will die and be buried here.
“Kuenda kuZimbabwe kunobatei, hapana nyika isina rinda!”
She says she would rather be in a nursing home than go back home and enjoy the sunshine and the rest that many people would need especially after working as labourers for many years in the UK.
And she is not the only one who shares these views.
But when my mother visited me in 2008, she couldn’t last five months in this country because she found it very boring and missed her friends, goats and chickens.
She was so miserable that in the end I bought her another ticket to return to Zimbabwe because I could not change her travel dates.
My mother’s worry was what would become of her should she die unexpectedly in the UK!
So what does being British really mean to many Africans?
Below are some of the comments I got from people I spoke to.
I have used their initials because they did not want to be identified.
PT (Coventry): “It is a real shame to those who think being British is an achievement.
“Ini ndinotonzwa kunyara kuzviti muBritish despite having that little red passport.
“I have never called myself a British.
“Yes, I am one on paper, but that is as far as it can go.
“So it means nothing to me.
“For a Zimbabwean or African, being British means adapting to an environment which our President recently said haina musoro in his interview with the BBC.
“I don’t know if you listened to it, but he said he feels sorry for the Queen to be the head of vanhu vasina musoro.
“I don’t know what these lost folks see in this country.
“Last week there was an article in the Daily Mail which said the British education system was ranked the worst in Europe.
“So tell me, what is then special about being a British when you are raising your children in a country where children do not respect their parents, their teachers, and ultimately do you think they will respect their employers or their Prime Minister?
“My take is that you will never be a British as long as you are a black person.
“Some would say having a British passport allows them to globe-trot.
“Look at those Jamaicans varikufamba vachikamhina nearthritis vari muno. “They have British passports, but where else have they been with those passports?
“Vanongotenderera muno!
“Saka ini ndinoti hapana chinoshamisira pakuva nepassport yeuranda.
“Each time you fill in an application form you have to specify your ethnicity, kureva kuti hausi wemuno and you will never belong here”.
MM (New Castle): “I guess there is nothing wrong with feeling British because after all that is where we live.
“But ambuya avo vanoti havachadi kuenda kumba, ava vakapanduka zvamuchose.
“Anyway, I think most of us we just feel British on paper.
“In practical life you are always reminded that you do not belong here.
“I applied for a job a few months ago and I was told (by the employer) that even though I was British, he preferred someone born in this country.
“So at the end of the day huBritish hwezita.
“We will never be accepted.”
MM (Nottingham): “I think maZimbabweans tarasika.
“Many Nigerians and Somalis keep their values, but Zimbabweans, no.
“Even Indians (Sikh) wear their turbans everywhere including at work.
“Have you seen a Sikh policeman?
“He would never wear that police cap, but will wear his turban.
“They don’t remove their turban for an employer.
“Most Indians speak their native languages and use English only when its necessary, but maZimbabwean families, most don’t want their children to speak Shona anymore.
“MaNdebele zviri nani.
“But maShona umm!!
“Pane basa.
“I have got a friend whose wife is waiting for a visa in Zimbabwe for more than a year now, and we said to him, why don’t you go and make her pregnant to speed up the process because that way they will know it’s not a sham marriage.
“He said he is now British and doesn’t want his child to be born in Zimbabwe. “Imagine.
“Dai huBritish hwacho hwaperera pamapepa chete, but their behaviour has changed too.
“Mapoto arikuchaiwa zvakaoma.
“Varume varikudanana pachavo.
“Vakadzi same same.
“Women are fighting for ‘girlfriends’ at parties.
“Kana kutombonyara.”
AM (Leicester): “British on paper, yes.
“In your heart and mind you are a Zimbabwean.
“On paper you are British.
“But my life is here.
“I have been here for 12 years now; 12 years sitting on the fence, one leg in Britain and another in Zimbabwe.
“I think I should just consider that my life is here, so is my children’s.
“Chekudzokerera kumba hapana.
“My culture remains Shona, but my children have adopted a British culture.
“But even though I make the decision to live here permanently, I don’t really feel British because one day I answered a phone at work and the caller asked me if I could give the phone to someone who spoke English.
“I told her I was talking to her in English, and she kept asking for someone who spoke English to come on the phone.
“In the end she became irritated and hung up.
“This shows that I would never be able to fit in, my accent, colour and everything.
“I also think that those equal opportunities forms we fill when we apply for jobs are very discriminating.”
MG (Ipswich): “HuBritish hweikowo futi?
“Ini nemhuri yangu we have kept our Zimbabwean passports even though we could have naturalised five years ago.
“We never saw the need to denounce our nationality and become British.
“We go home and come back at will.
“We are planning to go in October for about a year.
“Kana tikadzingwa muno dzokono toshaiwa kwekuenda here?
“We are happy and proud to be Zimbabweans, same as our children.
“Our daughter opted out of going to a British university and instead she is planning to go to Mutare Teacher’s College because she wants to be a teacher and to live in Zimbabwe.
“Hameno havo vakarasika.”

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