City’s Uber driv­ers from Zim can fi­nally see light at end of tun­nel

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION - Sher­lin Barends

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.

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