Tuesday, July 14, 2009


We caught a taxi -a metered one like in the states- from downtown CT towards home. It was a stout, friendly man who was to drive us home, happy to have a fare after an otherwise no-work day. Especially a fare out into the suburbs. He was from Zimbabwe it turned out and Mick started talking Zimbabwe with the guy, who was more than happy to talk back. Many disparaging things were said about Mugabe: about how he goes about his robberies, about the complete & total short-sightedness of his efforts to secure more money, about the paying of soldiers before everyone else, about how the whole thing is slowly (?) crumbling as even the soldiers aren't getting paid...

I recall, when I was first researching SA in anticipation of coming, running across a few investigative reports on Zimbabwe, made mostly by South African journalists. What struck me most was how 'developed' looking the areas looked: malls, gas stations, box stores, asphalt & streetlights, cars. But none of the cars were moving. None of the stations had petrol anymore. The shelves in the box stores were all empty. A wheelbarrow full of cash couldn't buy a meal.

After some time, during a lag in the conversation, I ventured to ask how difficult it had been to cross the border. I don't think I would have asked a latino in the states this, nor even if they are legal or not - but for some reason I felt it was okay in this situation. He went on at length about the difficulties of crossing. He himself had been a tour guide for foreigners before things went worse and so he had a passport, but his family had to be smuggled across. We all agreed that it was good that at least they are here with him.

A few months before we came there were a series of attacks on foreign refugees, mostly Zimbabweans & Somalis, though a few of the darker skinned locals were caught up in it by mistake. So many are the poor here and so thorough the poverty that somehow it happened - the rage about jobs taken, or perceived to have been taken, by foreign refugees exploding into mob beatings. The taximan was saddened by this. "Even our black brothers!" he lamented, referring to the fact that most of the attacks had been done by local blacks - themselves previously displaced from their traditional homelands in the Eastern Cape and City Bowl. He himself hadn't been caught up in it, living as he does in an actual house in the city.

He had unexpected, for me, views on the inhumanness of Chinese people. The Chinese are almost the only ones dealing with Zimbabwe at this point and over all what he said about them reminded me remarkably of what people used to say (sometimes still do) about blacks here and back in the states. "They're animals. Not human. You can't leave a baby with them!"

All in all he was a friendly enough taximan - certainly the most talkative & informative thus far.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, there is a lot of xenophobia, or specific types of phobic responses in the world. White gay men, for example, turn their noses up at other races of gay men, and insult other gays who date or even befriend non-whites.

    White gay men many times have no friends outside the occasional straight white female that are not other white gay males.

    Isolationism, like anything of this type, is based usually on perceptions like your Taxi Driver's. He distrusts Chinese because their government props up a brutal regime. If the government of America was propping up some brutal dictator in your country, you might view all Americans as evil.


    Not that he's right. But the government of China is populated by folks who'd rather make money and wield power than to ever 'do the right thing.'

    That is evil. Their decisions to support folks the rest of the world find anathema.

    But I don't generalize and say everyone who is in power in China is a bad person. Or that all Chinese are evil. But if you had lived (as this man had lived) in a country that had been destroyed with the sole support of China, you might feel that way too.