Tomorrow Mountain today
There were debts to be paid. I knew that. I hope that I’ve made a small repayment in The Tin Heart Gold Mine.
When I was a girl of 16 I lived with my mother and stepfather one day’s walk from Tomorrow Mountain. It stood out against the sky, a long shape humped at both ends like a sleeping lion with its head between its paws facing away from the Sabi Valley.
In the ChiShona language of Zimbabwe the mountain was called Wedza – the place you could get to tomorrow at dawn. I loved Wedza and the farm with all the passion of a romantic teenager.
My stepfather’s farm was called Eldoret – the little place of Gold. It was a small farm and its golden tobacco leaves did not make his fortune.
There were only 80 arable acres and my stepfather owed the Land Bank a huge sum of money. He wouldn’t be able to pay it off tomorrow or ever.
There were 2 roads to the farm from the nearby town, Marondera. One was the long high road along the watershed. The second shorter route crossed two river valleys that flooded when it rained.
Winston Field‘s farm was before the first river. Winston Field would soon become Prime Minister of Rhodesia and the man who succeeded him, Ian Smith, would take the country into a long and bloody war against its own people.
Progressive and regressive politics
It was a strange anomaly that our farming district across the river, but closer to tomorrow’s mountain and further from the town, was more liberal and progressive than Winston Field’s district. It is a relative judgement, but I was sustained and entertained, encouraged and depressed by the open political discussions that took place when the white farmers drank at the clubhouse bar.
I would sit on the bar counter with a glass of Mazoe orange juice and listen to both racist rants and rational economic predictions about the future of my country. The calm, teetotal African barman never spoke. He washed and polished glasses while a Dutch farmer, forced out of Malaysia, talked of beating his labourers with a hosepipe.
The most progressive of the farmers, Norman Travers of , organised a political meeting at his home. The arguments were impassioned.
Unexpectedly, a car drove up and four ZANU African activists asked politely if they could join the all-white meeting. Norman invited them in to join the discussion and offered them tea. If I remember correctly, Africans were not allowed by law to drink the same alcoholic drinks as white people.
University education and debt
Days later my mother and stepfather had a visit from the African schoolteacher at Wedza. He brought his wife and all of his six children. They sat in our lounge in a line on the settee.
“Please can you help me pay for my children’s education,” he asked. My stepfather said that he wasn’t able to do that.
I felt really bad about his refusal. I knew my stepfather really struggled to put petrol in the car and run the farm, but how could we not help people who were worse off than us?
I was about to go to university in South Africa. I had studied very hard at school and won a scholarship as well as been given a loan. I also had a grant from the giant companies who mined copper in what was soon to be Zambia. I was white, so these benefits were offered to me while few Africans ever got to sit for their A Level exams or go to university.
There were debts to be paid. I knew that. Not only my stepfather’s Land Bank debts but those we whites owed to the people of Africa. Tomorrow I would write the stories that needed to be told and today I acknowledge some of that debt. I hope that is what I’ve done in The Tin Heart Gold Mine.