Following a few recent donations, I have decided to publish both chapters 4 and 5 together. There is still a lot more of this story to come…Pauline tells me it will be a no-holds-barred tale of a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, both the good and the bad. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t wait to find out more!
OUTSIDE ZIM BORDERS
WRITTEN BY PAULINE MACHENGO
“Vabereki tava kusvika paborder saka gadzirirai ma passport enyu (we are no arriving at the border please prepare your passports). I was awakened by the sound of the microphone when the bus assistant was informing us.
I yawned, stretching my hands wide hitting uncle’s face in the process. I did not apologize, and he just smiled at me. I took my passport out and held it firmly in my hands. I didn’t want to lose it especially this time we were approaching the border.
We arrived at Beitbridge border post at exactly 12 midnight. There were buses everywhere. Some where in a line facing the direction where we were coming from and some facing where we were going.
The bus came to a halt in front of this big building that I assumed was for Zimbabwe immigration association. The bus assistant instructed people to go and have their passports stamped as fast as they could.
“If you delayed out there you’re going to miss the bus.” Roared the assistant. Everyone hurried off the bus as if scared to ‘miss the bus’.
I got off and there were a lot of people around. Some were in a line, and I couldn’t tell which people were from my bus. l was now confused. It seemed as if people were mixed up from different buses. I stood there trying to figure out which line to join. I was now looking for uncle but he was nowhere to be seen.
I wanted to ask but my pride wouldn’t let me. I was a teacher in Zimbabwe and I used to figure out things on my own so I was going to figure out this.
I saw some other people coming out of the building and ran to make another line near our bus. I looked at those people boom there was uncle. He saw me and came straight to me.
“Did you manage to get your passport stamped out?” He asked checking my passport.
“No I answered trying to pull it from his hands. He hold it tightly and we just starred at each other.
He took my hand and pulled me towards the entrance. We skipped the line process and he left me near the counter where passports were stamped.
The lady who was stamping passports were just looking at your face and stamp the passport. They were very fast as if saying ‘you decided to leave the county so go’😄. I heard some people in the line complaining but I didn’t care uncle had everything under control. From there I vowed to follow him as his lap dog.
The whole area was so clear. There were a lot of lights illuminating the whole area. One could lost the needle and found it without any trouble.
The process was very long and tiresome given that we were standing in a line showing our passports to soldiers who where fully equipped with weapons.
We could go from this group of soldiers showing our particulars to another again. After that we waited for our bus which seemed to follow the same procedure as ours.
I checked the time it was now 2:00 am. I was now sleepy. I complained that I was tired to no one in particular.
” you’re tired? We are yet to do another process longer and more tiresome than this at the South African side” said another lady who was sitting not far from me.
The bus came and we got inside showing our passports again to the soldiers who were standing by the door.
As we were moving towards the South African side, I checked my phone for network it was gone. I was warned by uncle that the Zimbabwean network will be gone so I had to call my loved ones if I wanted to, so I did that. I called my mommy and my young sister. I tried to call Chris and he only said ‘Tashy I told you not to bother me’. Such a rude person.
My mind was so away that I missed the famous Limpopo river which divides Zimbabwe from South Africa. I cursed myself for that. I was really looking forward to see it but it didn’t happen.
We arrived at South African side and as usual the assistant barked his threatening instructions. This time he was among us. I was with uncle and everything was okay with me. I could see people giving me those nasty looks. They actually envied me. I was walking with a bodyguard. A well built one.
The process seemed to be taking long and one of the bus assistant which I came to know as Mike took our passports and got them stamped in right away.
“Now we are going to wait by the bus” said uncle taking my small bag from my hands.
The bus assistant had insisted that people should carry all their bags because the bus was going to be searched.
“So we are now getting into the bus?” I asked uncle.
“Not yet, we are going to have a boring process now” he said walking a little bit fast.
“What process?” I asked trying to keep the pace with him.
“They’re going to scan our bags, after that we are good to go. Let me buy you airtime do u have a South African sim card yet?”
“No” I answered in a rude way. Guys I was tired. I wanted to sleep. It was now 4am. I had never stayed this late before.
The scanning process was not that hard once u got inside. I watched my bag passing the machine and the person who was scanning was dozing. I took my bag and that lady snapped out of it. She looked at me and waved me off. I was happy because some people were asked to open their bags. I waited at the bus.
Uncle came and showed were the toilets were although I had not asked him. This guy!
The heat from the blazing sun woke me up. My eyes were very sore inside their sockets. My neck was painful since I was leaning by the window. I had slept like that. I fully opened my eyes checking everywhere. I looked outside the window and it seemed as if I had missed again the tunnel just after Musina. I cursed myself for that. I checked uncle he was wide awake. That surprised me because the whole bus seemed to be sleeping.
“Where are we now?” I asked him whilst removing my jacket. I think I had passed out when we were at Musina. Uncle was telling his story about his first time in South Africa.
He was showing people the forests he walked dodging the border because he was a boder jumper. He had no papers.
“They slashed my hand with a Machete but kept on running whilst bleeding” he had said that when he was telling his story. Those Guma guma (who attack people who are border jumpers) were really terrible. I felt pity for him. I felt pity for those border jumpers. I had a better beginning than other people. I was privileged.
“Parents our first recess will be in Polokwani. Get ready we are only going to stop there for ten minutes. Those who want to buy food please do that because we are only going to give you food in Jo’burg. Thank you.”
This was Mike. Another assistant, at least this one was friendly. I took my toiletries just like other ladies were doing. I wasn’t confident with myself. I needed that half body bath.
We made our way to a nearest garage and it was long queue. The toilets were very nice and clean. I remember another lady asking me if I was the last on that queue in a language that only came to know later as Zulu. I panicked guys. I didn’t know that language barrier was going to be a problem like that.
I remember starring at that lady like a maniac. Another Zimbabwean lady came to my rescue. She answered that lady. God don’t tell me that I’m going to have this panics in Capetown. I finished my business and when I was passing by the grocery area I heard the till operators speaking in their language and I didn’t bother to buy anything. I was going to starve until we reach Jo’burg.
When I was approaching the bus from the garage I saw that nervous guy sitting by the door with nothing. He didn’t buy anything. Maybe he didn’t have the money or he was scared just like me. I was wondering. The way he was sitting reminded me of those students at school who could sit outside the class after the teacher chased them away because they didn’t have an exercise book.
I always feel pity for such kinda kids. Usually I would approach them and talk to them. Sometimes give them the books or money, but not always. I approached the guy with a smile. I was curious I wanted to hear his story.
“Nice weather huh?” I said with a smile
“Yeah, nice weather. I want to stretch my legs they’re now painful”. He complained.
” Oh yeah, you should walk around the bus 5 times or jog” I joked. “Hahaha that will be crazy” He laughed exposing his fine teeth that could have been a killer to ladies if brushed.
“I’m Tashy” I said that extending my hand for a handshake.
“Tinashe” he took my hand and hold it longer than a normal handshake.
” nice meeting you” I said that pulling my hand. “Sure” he said that looking a little bit embarrassed.
Uncle came. He was holding a yoghurt, juice and pies. People filed back into the bus and we waited for the driver. He gave me the food. I was happy. I told I couldn’t buy because I was scared of the language.
He laughed saying that I should brace myself for people in Capetown. “Xhosa’s loves their language “he said that sipping his juice.
That got me worried. I comforted myself and started enjoying my meal. The bus were now going and I realised that Tinashe was really not eating anything.
I whispered to uncle and he said I should give him if I want. I told him I wasn’t gonna embarrass myself like that if he happen to turn down my offer. Uncle took a pie and the juice he was drinking and gave Tinashe. Surprisingly he didn’t decline the offer, he was actually happy.
My phone rang. I checked the caller it was my sister’s number. The one in Capetown. I had called her with my new number when we were still at the border.
“Hello” I answered the call. “Hey mainini (aunty) it’s me Audrey where are you now?” That was my niece. My sister’s first born. She was 7 years by then. A very clever girl.
“Hi Audrey I’m still far my sweet. We will arrive tomorrow morning” I informed her. “Oh okay. Tell me did you buy MacDonalds or KFC? You should try Macdonald burgers they are great. Dad brought them last night.”
“Audrey! What are you doing with my phone !” My sister’s voice said that in the background and I hanged up. I laughed! This girl had landed herself in trouble by trying to reach out for me. I couldn’t wait to meet them all. All three of them. I smiled thinking what they were going to do when they meet me.
We arrived in Jo’burg at exactly 3 pm on the dot. We got out of the bus and we were given food. People had yo choose between pap (maize staple food – sadza in Zim) and chicken or pap and beef. I chose beef. I ate my food in silence. I was overwhelmed by the way Jo’burg was built. The infrastructure were so breathtaking. When we were approaching this stop almost everyone’s eyes were wondering outside the bus. I believed that those who were newbies to South Africa just like me were amazed.
We saw hundreds of trains parked parallel to each other. I couldn’t wait to board one. I had lastly boarded a train when I was only five years old. Me and my mother were going to Shurugwi. We tool the train from Harare to Gweru. My Mom was still carrying me on her back. I don’t have much memory about boarding a train so this time I was going to experience it.
We departed from Jo’burg after an hour and we started another long journey to Capetown. I noticed that some people left in Jo’burg. The bus was no longer full.
We only traveled for an hour and we had a breakdown. I was so disappointed and scared. People were saying a lot of things. Some were saying we might get robbed others were saying we will wait for another bus from Capetown. The robbing part got me scared to death. I had heard stories of people getting hijacked whilst travelling to Zimbabwe. The idea of being robbed alone was enough to get me puzzled.
We were now in Kroonstad not far from Bloemfontein when that breakdown happened. I had felt some vibration coming under the bus. There was also a loud clunking noise whenever the driver tries to accelerate. That was a common symptom of a failing drive shaft. I knew these things. I once owned a car that I sold day before my departure. My father had taught me a lot about those cars. I had never slept outside because of a breakdown. I would always find a way to fix the problem if its minor. But this problem of our bus seemed to be a major one. The propeller shaft had been broken.
Uncle helped the bus mechanic to remove the propeller shaft. They carried it to the nearest farm and we left by the bus scaring each other. The N1 road is so busy that all the time the cars will be passing by. N1 is a road that stretches from Beitbridge to Capetown. Part of the once-planned Cape to Cairo route. It is a four lane road going in each direction. Its a very beautiful road.
We resumed our journey at 8 pm. Everyone was now tired and sleepy. I couldn’t sleep. Anxiety was killing me because was it still making those nocking sounds. I was now gripping the seats with both my hands in fear of having an accident.
I was imagining falling down from such height of the bus to the group. Few people or no one was going to survive that. Uncle was sleeping but when he woke up he saw me holding the seat so tight and he asked me if I was alright. I told him my fears and he laughed so hard.
One thing about uncle he was a good laugher. Every time he talks he could laugh like he has nothing to worry about. “If the accident is going to happen it will happen whether you’re holding the seat or not. If I were you I would sleep it off.” He said that and went back to sleep.
Many thanks to Pauline for allowing Friends of Pakati to publish her story here on the blog. I know already that she has more stories to tell, so keep looking out as we publish more from her as she forwards her tales to me.
Update on the prvious blog post
As followers of this blog already know, we are collaborating with VaTonatsa Foundation, to provide support to exam students at 5 schools in the area around Pakati, known as Ward 14 of Murewa District. The next blog will have updates on the progress of the initiative, as the Heads have sent material to VaTonatsa for them to edit into packs for those students. An exciting time to be involved with Friends of Pakati!