I AM a dreamer. In fact I have always been a dreamer. At times I have some small dreams but sometimes I do also have some big dreams. Yes, very big dreams! Maybe that is exactly who I am! A dreamer! I was born to do just that. Dream dreams.
Ever since I was a child, I have always had these dreams about the future; some very interesting dreams that foretold of a better tomorrow. It was always dreams that showed a better tomorrow not just for me but also for those around me. My, family, community, my people, my nation, my continent, my world at large!
Ever since I was a child I always knew that I was a visionary. When people talked to me about the future, I would suddenly come alive. I was always at my comfortable best when there was any discussion about how the future could eventually shape up.
I grew up in a coal mining town called Hwange, about hundred kilometres from the Victoria Falls in the western part of Zimbabwe. It was mostly a migrant town. Virtually all my childhood friends had migrant parentage in one way or the other. Some had parents whose families had originated from Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania to mention but just a few.
It is no wonder that the language I spoke most as a child was Nyanja, a local lingua franca that was derived from some dialects originally spoken in Zambia and Malawi.
As a child, it was so easy for me to limit the dreams of my future to the colliery. This was the most natural option actually. The company that owned the coal mine used to boast that it could take care of anyone from the cradle to the grave. So every child who was born in the coal mining town had a guaranteed future.
There was already a clear plan in place that could last several generations; assuming the coal reserves would stand the test of time. And so for a lot of children in my town, there was really no need to dare dream of another future.
But as a child, I allowed myself to think beyond the colliery. Indeed, I accepted that I was born in Hwange but I never really accepted that my future was limited to Hwange.
I always imagined that one day I would most certainly spread my wings far and wide. I always believed that there was a great future lying in wait for me beyond the Baobab hill, the famous local landscape that always welcomed the morning sun into the town every day.
Make no mistake about it; I do not despise my town of birth at all. In fact I remain so proud that I was born in Hwange and will always feel that way for the rest of my life. But one thing is for sure, I always knew that the dreams about my future where far more bigger than what my beloved town could ever offer me. It was a reality I always had to contend with throughout my childhood.
And so it happened that after my primary school years in Hwange, I moved further north to Bulawayo, then Gweru and then eventually attended university in Harare at the University of Zimbabwe.
When I arrived in Harare in March 1995; little did I know that this was the city of my destiny. Things happened so fast in my life and before I knew it, I started having political dreams. In fact, some very big political dreams!
It so happened that in July of that year, in my fourth month at the university, I was ushered into the world of student politics. I was nominated to stand as a candidate in the next Student Representatives Council elections that were due to be held in August of that year.
It was such a big challenge for a first year student and I would have been forgiven for turning the opportunity away. But being the dreamer that I was, I decided to seize the opportunity. I accepted my nomination as a candidate.
Fortunately for me, the elections were postponed to November due to various reasons. And it so happened that my appointment with destiny was sealed on November 3 when I was declared the run-away winner of the campus elections. I was elected as the Secretary General of the union in only my seventh month at the university, before I had even wrote my first ever exam at the Law School!
I contested two further elections that enabled me to climb higher to the positions of Vice President in October 1996 and then President in April 1998.
As fate would have it, in July 1996 I was presented the opportunity to travel to Cape Town where I was a delegate at an international students’ conference hosted by the University of the Western Cape.
It was in Cape Town where I started dreaming about reviving the then moribund Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU). I was the Acting President at that time and so when I returned to Harare, I started the process of reviving ZINASU that culminated in the successful re-launch meeting in September 1996.
I got more that what I had bargained for during my first ever visit to the Mother City. You see, Cape Town appealed to me in a much more personal way. This is the place where one of the most famous dreamers ever once lived.
In the late 19th century, the Mother City had the honour and privilege of hosting one Cecil John Rhodes. He was a British migrant who had moved to Africa largely due to medical reasons. But when he came to South Africa, he soon benefitted from the diamond rush in Kimberly to become one of the richest persons of his generation.
In the process, he was also instrumental in the setting up of one of the world’s most famous mining corporations, the De Beers Mining Company.
Most people know Rhodes as an astute businessman, some as a politician or even worse, as a colonialist and imperialist. But I have always appreciated Rhodes in a very different way. I had learnt about him at school and grown to admire a specific trait about him. You see, Rhodes may have been anything to everyone else but to me, I saw one thing important we had in common. Rhodes, just like me, was a very big dreamer!
Rhodes had this ability to see easily into the future and plan things well ahead of his times. Rhodes was one of the greatest visionaries the world has ever known.
Today, well over a century after his untimely death in 1902, thousands of people, if not millions, continue to benefit both directly and indirectly from his visionary legacy. Today, many continue to benefit from his various trusts that he set up that have stood the test of time. This is so especially in the field of education where we still have the Rhodes Scholarship Trust and the Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape. In this regard, he also donated land for what is now known as the Upper campus of the University of Cape Town.
Rhodes also donated part of his estate to the people of South Africa and the land which is below the Table Mountain is now known as the Kisternbotsch National Botanical Gardens.
But it was through what many regard as his greatest dream that Rhodes bequeathed us with a much more lasting legacy. Whilst in Cape Town, Rhodes developed this very ambitious capitalist dream of building a great railway and telegraph line from the Cape to Cairo in Egypt. This railway line would become the lifeblood of a British empire across the African continent.
It started in Cape Town, passed through Kimberly, Mafikeng, Lobatse, Francistown, Bulawayo, Hwange, Victoria Falls, Livingstone, right through to the Copperbelt region in the northern parts of Zambia. The railway line was meant to be built further up through Malawi, Kenya, Somalia and the Sudan till it reached the Mediterranean Sea shores in Cairo.
It was through the realisation of this dream; that Rhodes eventually helped to set up the new colonies of Southern and Northern Rhodesia now known as Zimbabwe and Zambia respectively.
But perhaps more importantly to me, it was through this railway line that my great grandfather Matamelo Molokele started my family line from the Barolong nation. The story goes that he got a job as a cook in the buffet part of the train as it passed through his hometown of Mafikeng. It was through his job experiences that he eventually started a family of his own at the Nyamandlovu train station area outside Bulawayo.
It was how grandfather Samuel Babane was born in Nyamandlovu in 1903. It was also how my father Godfrey Majahana was born in Nyamandlovu in 1942. My father then got a job along the same railway line at the coal mining town of Hwange in 1966. Even more, it was how I was born in Hwange in 1975. In other words, it was how I became an indirect by-product of one of Rhodes’ personal legacies, the Cape to Cairo railway line dream.