Alice Chigumera

Born: 15th May 1965

Harare, Zimbabwe

Date of interview: 31st May 2006

Map showing where Alice Chigumera came from

Can you tell me where and when you were born?

I was born in Zimbabwe, but then it was called Rhodesia in a township called Mpopoma in Bulawayo on the 15th of May 1965 in a family of four boys and I am the only girl.

I have lived in Bolawao since childhood growing up where my father used to work for the national railways of Zimbabwe, it was called Rhodesia Railways, he was a messenger there. My mother was not a full housewife, who used to do most of the domestic work and make our clothes to sell and make extra money.

In our family we used to live in a place called Matshobane which was more or less a place for employees of the railways and that's where we grew up and I went to a school, called Campu Primary School from Grade 1 up to Grade 7.

My childhood was mainly dominated by male because I was the only female and my mum only and with four boys in there and I was the last born of the family. My father originally came from northern Rhodesia, what was then called Zambia and my mother originally comes from a place called Zvimba which most people might identify as where the President of Zimbabwe comes from and she speaks the language called Shona. Growing up we both learnt Ndebele and Shona together as our main language. We grew up with all the values of the Bula people and the Shona people and Bulawayo has an integrated society where it was dominated mainly by the Ndebele people.

I grew up in a family whereby I could not say we were very, very poor, we could sustain ourselves because mother used to do anything just to make sure that we could get a meal on our table and sell anything that was good to make extra money. Being a girl I was more or less daunted by everything that a girl could get from the family and I think it made me grow up with the spirit and a powerful kind of body and everything physically and mentally.

I became a Prefect at school in the primary school when I was in grade six and I used to do very well at school and I used to do long distance running, play netball and up til now I lost one of my teeth, which I don't have up to now playing netball all over the country when I was still in primary school. From there I passed my grade seven and went to what we call a high school here, that is called secondary school in Zimbabwe, called Mzilikazi High School which was one of the best schools in the locations in Zimbabwe.

By then my father retired from the railways he managed to buy a house where we lived for some time with my brothers, who had already finished their school, me and myself and my mum. It was quite a difficult time then because my dad was not working, so we probably relied mainly on my mum who was very, very clever. I think she has been a mentor in my life, who could go to Botswana, order clothes and come and sell and make sure that we went to good schools and had a uniform and everything, to make us sustaining everyway.

After going to High School for four years I kept on active with my running, I wasn't playing all that much netball, but I was very good in my English, like what they call composition and acting and drama and all that and I kept me going until I finished seeing hard times, whereby by that time the political up risings in Zimbabwe started. Also when I was in my form two in Zimbabwe there was the, a thing called the 'hit head', that most political people are aware about where many people were killed, and schools were stopped and the infrastructures in Zimbabwe were destroyed because it was more or less a civil war. It was really, really bad because there was so many people who died and I remember one time when I came from school, was sitting in our house and all of a sudden people came and started stoning the house and it was totally ruined and I don't know how we survived. With my mum, who was quite a big person, we managed to crawl out and go through the back yard and stay with neighbours. Later on we were called, by what they call the youths at that time to come and see a peasant being bashed to death by stoning. That's one of my first experience of seeing somebody killed by stone and we were supposed to look until the entire ordeal was done. It was quite traumatic for me because I think by that time I was almost about fourteen, fifteen years and looking at the ruins of our house, you couldn't know what was going to happen.

Because my father and mother were not politically active or in any way inclined to in group, so we had well wishes from the church and other people, who managed to re-build the place that we had and got somewhere to stay for the time being.

We were helped by a businessman called Vera, who used to own a lot of butcheries and shops in Zimbabwe, and they are a great family in Zimbabwe who managed to help us go through our school and build up the house, and I continued with my education.

I left High School and due to things of financial constraint, I couldn't go any further with my education and my mum all the same tried to sort of help me through and I managed to go to a private college to do what we call a Secretarial Diploma, which I did for three years. I did very well and from there I got my first job with the Government, with the National Archives of Zimbabwe where we store historic things and files and everything concerning codes, procedures and all the other things. I then left that job and went to join the Minister of Public Construction and Housing and also was a Secretary for some time and during all this period, now that I was managing to sort of get a little bit of my money, I managed to be doing a few other courses, extra courses to enhance myself and trying also to sustain my mum and dad because it was quite difficult for them to sustain in any way. The pension system, that was then in place wouldn't sustain them in anyway, they used to buy the house and pay for the fees for us.

I stayed with my parents for quite some time and then later on I found a job internally within the Government that they wanted people to work in the Diplomatic Services and they needed women to come and join, those they thought were single and were able to go out in the country and work and I thought it was quite a good challenge for me and applied for the job and I moved from Bulawayo