City’s Uber drivers from Zim can finally see light at end of tunnel
HOW long have you been an Uber driver?
What was your previous job? Do you like what you do?
What’s the longest time you’ve spent behind the wheel?
What’s the worst thing drunk passengers have done on the backseat?
This is usually my line of questioning when meeting a new Uber driver. It’s fascinating how much I’ve learnt about them during my trips, which can last anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour.
As usual most of my drivers this week answered “Zimbabwe” to my question “Where do you come from?” Needless to say I strayed from my usual script, forgetting tales of fumbling drunks, focusing instead on fallen dictators.
November 14, 2017, Army seizes control. Tanks spotted.
Driver One: The Hopeful
“I’m not sure what is happening. I just know that something is happening.”
Visibly excited, the young man taps on the steering wheel as he talks. He doesn’t know much and the little he does know is based on hearsay and WhatsApp footage from Harare. It’s being passed around among Zimbabweans with many expats residing in South Africa. It sounds more like a game of broken telephone. The message gets passed on from one source to the next. Details get lost along the way. He mentions that South Africans are spoilt for choice when it comes to access to information.
“I’m driving you to your radio job and I know there are a couple of other stations close by. You can say what you think. You can talk about the news and say bad things about your politicians. In Zimbabwe it doesn’t work like this. You hear what they want you to hear. You see what they want you to see.”
Still, he remains hopeful. As we stop he turns his head to face me: “They say this could be the end of Mugabe and that the army is taking over control. Change could be coming.”
November 15, 2017, Mugabe is under house arrest.
November 16, 2017, Mugabe refuses to step down.
Driver Two: The Loyalist
“His excellency, President Robert Mugabe is and will be the president of Zimbabwe till he decides not to be president anymore. You don’t know what you are talking about my sister. The president liberated us from the white rule. We must always be grateful and never forget.”
That was the end of a very brief conversation. November 17, 2017, Mugabe attends university graduation.
November 18, 2017, thousands of Zimbabweans call for his resignation.
Driver Three: The Idealist
“I am very happy! Everything will be better now! Now that
Mugabe is almost out we will have jobs again. Soon I will go home and find a good Zimbabwean woman to marry.”
November 19, 2017, Zanu-PF expels Mugabe as head of party.
November 21, 2017, he resigns as president of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.
Driver Four: The Realist A 40-year-old former clerk who left Zimbabwe in 2004 “because the economy was crumbling” celebrates with caution.
“Yes, Mugabe is gone and this is good news. But Mugabe did not rule alone. Mugabe is one man. Mugabe the person is gone, but now my people of Zimbabwe need to fight Mugabe the system, the ideology he leaves behind.”
It’s because of this system that this man left behind a wife and three daughters. “I can’t just go back home. December is peak time for Uber drivers. Telephone calls is all we have right now.”
He plans to see his family early in the new year. His hopes for his offspring are simple: “A good education and stable jobs. Maybe their children, my grandchildren, will be able to dream.”
The nameless men in these vignettes represent the millions of men and women whose lives and livelihoods will once again be affected by political change.
Let’s hope the children of Zimbabwe will one day soon be able to dream again.