Born on the Continent – Ubuntu

by Getrude Matshe
16 May 2014

Getrude Matshe, from Zimbabwe in southern Africa fights her way out of poverty despite racial discrimination. She achieves this through hard work, creativity, a very strong mind and, importantly, through help she received from kind people around the world. Having achieved a stronger position for herself, she continues to work on creating an Africa with equal opportunities for everyone.

Her book emphasises the importance of education in this process. She was lucky to have parents who made education a priority in difficult times. As the only black child in her school, Getrude Matshe experiences racism first hand. She perseveres, being thirsty for knowledge and very aware of the sacrifices her parents made for their children’s education. After Zimbabwe became independent from the United Kingdom in 1980 and established an elected black government lead by Robert Mugabe many social reforms were introduced including access to education for all black children. Getrude Matshe enthusiastically embraces the new opportunities and in particular follows her interests in English literature, theatre and acting. She later trains and works as a computer programmer, adding to her impressive varied skill set which includes designing African fabrics and clothing, sales, acting and storytelling.

However, in the 1990s Zimbabwe started to struggle economically and politically as Mugabe cemented his dictatorship with increasing violence against political opponents and white landowners and provoked sanctions from the international community. Severe food shortages and break down of the health care system followed. Seeing through Getrude Matshe’s eyes, the reader also learns about the horrific impact HIV/AIDS had on almost every Zimbabwean family.

With immense creativity and opportunistic spirit she draws on her skills as needed to support her family and raise funds for her university studies and eventually to establish a new basis for the family overseas after they make the difficult decision to leave Zimbabwe. Her story highlights what difference a little outside help can make: be it a theatre production in Norway, access to the sales network of a clothing store in the US or a furniture donation from her new neighbours in Wellington, to list a few. Basic but crucial help to help herself – and Getrude Matshe makes the most of each of these opportunities.

People are people through other people – Getrude Matshe encountered the southern African philosophy of Ubuntu that articulates basic respect and compassion for others not only in Africa, but all over the world. She is determined to spread it further to help make true equality a reality for all Africans.

Diana Mittag

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