I was born on the 3rd of January, 1939. I was born in Guruve, in my mother’s village. The village was called Mushongahande. When I was born, I stayed with my mother and her parents for a year. Then we moved to my father’s home, and we stayed there until I was a young boy. My father was staying on a commercial farm in Guruve. By the year when my brother was born, we were staying with him on the farm. That was 1943. And we stayed there for quite a long time.
The owner of the farm was named Morton, and he was a French guy. People gave him the name Mangende. All the farmers have sort of a bell they use to wake people up. So the foreman has to wake up at four o’clock in the morning to go and hit the bell. Maybe that’s where the name Mangende came from, because when two pieces of metal clink against each other, that’s mangende. And his wife was called Kapoipoi, or blinking too much, and talking too much. That’s why they called her Kapoipoi, because oh yeah, she was crazy, a crazy woman.
My father was working in the kitchen, as a chef. My father was a very good cook. He was doing everything in the kitchen, all the cooking, baking bread, even making jam. They used to go in the forest to collect the fruits which we call nhunguru, and use them to make jam. Very, very good jam. And they used to cook bread themselves, because some farmers are very far away from the shops. You can’t drive every day to go and look for bread, so they were baking it themselves. They could even bake cakes by themselves, and my father used to do that.
Those people working in the farms were taken as the best cooks, because when you work on a farm, you know how to cook every kind of food. The farmers taught them how to cook. My father was taught by the first farmer who settled near our home. I forget his name, but they used to call him Muponda. And that’s where my father learned to cook, on that farm. And from there, he went to look for a job.
Every day on the farm, my father was working more than the other farm workers, because he had to get to the kitchen very early. Around six in the morning, he must be there to cook breakfast, and then he has to do other things the rest of the day. At ten he has to prepare tea to take to the field if the master is there. And he also make lunch, and four o’clock tea, and then dinner at night. So he used to finish around nine. Even on Sundays, he has to work for a half-day. And if there is a special party, he had to go again, and work extra hours.
Every morning, I used to go to the kitchen to go and give the dogs mealie meal and dog biscuits. And some days, I used to stay at the kitchen and play with the children of my father’s master. He had two children, and their names were Ian and Brian. So I was the same age as Ian, and we used to play there together. I was allowed to play outside with the kids. You know, we were not allowed to play in the house. The mother of those guys used to chase us out “Hey, go outside, go outside.” And we would play outside.
It was funny playing together with them because they had their little toys. One was a toy car, a metal car, and when you sit, it goes down and up, down and up, down and up. One day, I sat on it, and the seat had a crack. They were pushing me, and then the two sides pinched my back, and I cried. It was hurting me too much. And when I cried, well, the young boys didn’t know what to do, and none of us knew what to do.
So the elders heard the noise and they came, my father and the madam, the wife of the owner of the farm. They thought we were fighting, and yet I was hurt. So they came to assist me. Then they they pushed it down, and then it opened, and they pulled me out. They said “Oh, will you do it again?” I said, “Yeah, I will.” Because, you know, I loved the toy, and we all loved the toy. And that day, we were both laughing because it was funny pushing that toy.
Most of the farm workers were not Zimbabweans. We had different people from Malawi, from Zambia, and from Mozambique. And it can be so many people there working on the farm – one farm can hold at least a hundred workers. And they were told to build their homes in one place, so they make a compound there, and the compound will be very, very big. The Zimbabweans did casual work. You know, they work, and then when it is time for the rainy season, they go back to their homes. But those from outside, like Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, they stay there, because they have nowhere to go. They don’t own homes in Zimbabwe.
The money they were paid was very little. The highest paid person received three pounds every month. The tractor driver, the lorry driver, the head, and the cook, those were the highest paid few. But the rest were paid one pound ten shillings, or two pounds.
Every Monday the farmer has to pay people their food ration, as they were saying. Every Monday, there is a certain amount of mealie meal and salt that he gives to the people – it depends how many children you have. No cooking oil, no sugar – those you have to buy. And also meat – he used to kill a cow after a fortnight, after every two weeks, and give one piece to each and everyone.
And that’s how we were living with white people here. And you know, that’s why I said we were staying as servants, but in our own country.