My top ten fears
10 My garden in Zimbabwe. I planted an acre and a half of African trees; to see them grow and to think, what are they going to look like in 40 years’ time, is actually a process of putting down roots. Today I get reports from friends. It’s a very bittersweet pleasure. I do worry I may never see it again.
9 Injections. I am a thrill-seeker, I like the adrenaline rush of being scared. But injections make me break out in a cold sweat.
8 Misunderstanding Africa. When I first came to Zimbabwe as a reporter, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand Africa, that I would misrepresent something.
7 Being misunderstood. I was afraid that I would be viewed as another white oppressor. And I’m happy to say that even when I was public enemy No 1 in Zimbabwe and excoriated in the state media, I felt supported. Black Zimbabweans would come up and shake my hand saying: keep it up, you’re telling our truth.
6 Torture. I did have a fear of physical abuse. Not only for me—I interviewed people who had survived torture, and I knew that it was a possibility for me. But the greatest fear was that it would be inflicted on people around me. There was a fear that I would fail in my responsibility, which was to report everything and not to run away in fear. That’s a fear I overcame, by staying.
5 Abuse of my dogs. One of my nightmare scenarios was: what if Mugabe’s warlords come—we can scale the wall, but what about our dogs? That was a real fear. When they invaded people’s farms, the first thing they did was shoot their dogs.
4 Failure. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, I had the typical western fear that I was not going to succeed. The security of this small, affluent town made other places like Cleveland, the big metropolis, an exciting but also a scary place. One of the reasons I chose Zimbabwe and stayed there was that it was less competitive. I found Harare to be a bigger small town, and I was comfortable there. I found it frightening to think about leaving.
3 Crime in South Africa. I now live in South Africa, where there is a frightening level of violent crime. My fear is that something might happen to anyone I know that I would somehow be responsible for.
2 Losing Zimbabwe as my home. I was in Zimbabwe for 23 years and my fear is whether I will ever be able to call it home again. Will Zimbabwe ever be the kind of benign place we would want to live in?
1 The future of Zimbabwe. My greatest fear is that things will not come right in Zimbabwe soon. If Zimbabwe cannot achieve a sustainable multi-party democracy and prosperity, then I think there is very little hope for any other African country, including South Africa. And because of my involvement, this fear looms large, on the personal level but also in a historical context.
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