Sue Nyathi: The Gold Diggers

May 31, 2020

2008 vs 2020 would you agree that the reasons behind people leaving the Motherland (Zimbabwe) in search for greener pastures are still more or less the same and valid?

I totally agree that the reasons for the people leaving the motherland have not changed and remain valid. People have a right to seek better working and living conditions. We often underestimate the quality of living. I reluctantly left Zimbabwe in 2008 in search of economic opportunities. I believe people continue to migrate for the same reasons in 2020.  History has an uncanny way of repeating itself. I remember before I left we had the same issue of unavailability of passports. This was the same issue in 2019.

In 2008 there was no food on the shelves but in 2020 the shelves are well stocked but people can’t afford the food. So it’s ironical to see these issues at play again. I don’t believe much has changed in Zimbabwe since I left. Apart from the leadership change, things have remained the same or deteriorated in some instances.  In talking about Zimbabwe one can’t also have a holistic view because of the inequality. I also refer to this in #theGoldDiggers, that Zimbabwe is a tale of two classes, depending on your social status and privilege, your experience of Zimbabwe may be insulated. It took the death of Zororo Makamba to highlight the conditions of public hospitals in Zimbabwe. Had it not been for COVID-19 pandemic, someone of his ilk would never have been exposed to the public health system. That is how the hoi polloi live.

Patriarchy seems to again find a niche in The Gold Diggers. Do you think that Patriarchy is a mindset that can be changed eventually even if it takes time and a substantial amount of transformative activity?

Patriarchy is more than just a mindset; it is an institution which has been entrenched over many years. I don’t think it is a mindset that will ever be changed simply because men are the primary beneficiaries of a patriarchal system. If they change the system they will lose the benefits and the power that comes with it. What we see now, this war on women is the fight to hold onto patriarchy. But women are also the biggest agents of patriarchy which is also another reason why it will be hard to dismantle. A lot of women are invested in patriarchy and have been fondly nicknamed “Patriarchy Princesses”. They gain marginal benefits from their proximity to the system and because of this feel entitled to uphold it. So you see what we are up against?

Based on your characters in the book, are these your views on Patriarchy?

So my books mirror the society we live in. I am not writing magical realism or about a utopian society. I am writing about society as I see it and experience it. As much as my books are fiction, they are rooted in a lot of fact. I believe in authenticity in storytelling.

That said, those views reflected in my book may not necessarily be my personal views on patriarchy but how I view patriarchy in play in the world around me. I was raised on patriarchy. Spoon fed on it. It is only when I was much older, I started to question it. Leaving Zimbabwe also gave me leverage to question without a largely patriarchal society breathing down my back. We become products of our environment.

With your keen interest on social questions and issues and giving voice to the voiceless, which character in your book do you resonate with most and why?

I often get asked this question and I respond in the same way. Characters in a book are my creation. The way you respond to a character as a reader is different to my thought process in crafting them. I resonate with all the characters in my book because each of them has an integral role to play in telling the story. In any given point of writing the book I become one of those characters. It’s almost like acting but that is what gives the character genuineness.

Lindani from the Polygamist features in this novel too. Is it an extension of her character into this book, an evolving character or both?

The reason why Lindani was imported from #ThePolygamist into #TheGoldDiggers is largely because of her popularity as opposed to her evolution. For reasons which I don’t understand, many of my readers love her. Even now, there are calls to bring her into a sequel. So her presence was really a concession to my readers who have come up with me from the Polygamist. I think at the time I also never envisaged I would write a sequel to the Polygamist which I am now doing. So who knows, maybe Lindani might survive prison and feature again!

The idea of choosing to ‘go for and live the dream’; in your opinion is the risk worth the promising rewards? Even if one understands the reality of what they are leaving behind to go for the gold?

Leaving what you are familiar with is never an easy decision. This is why people remain in toxic relationships. You have heard the saying, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. However, there is a point of desperation where the comfort zone can also become a bed of thorns prompting you to uproot and move.  In the Gold Diggers I highlight how dangerous that flight can be into the unknown. How uncertain and sometimes deadly that journey is for the illegal migrants. I am not trying to sugar coat anything which is why the book is raw and painful. So the thing is that the majority of people don’t get to live the Egoli dream which is why I wrote the #TheGoldDiggers. It is to debunk the myth that the migrant life is a bed of roses, it isn’t.  It was also important for me to show what people have risked in order to have a semblance of a “normal” life because it never is. It is a risk leaving behind what is known in exchange of the unknown. Sometimes the risk pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. It really is that, fumbling in the dark until you find the switch.

However even the “success stories” are not as rosy as they appear. There is always the emotional tug war of straddling two identities and never fitting into either.

What is your take on the rate of illegal migration and illegal immigrants as a migrant yourself and author of a book written around it?

Illegal migration has become a global phenomen. I remember I once tweeted that African migration has become a European headache, with all these stories of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean whilst in search of greener pastures. Which is why I debunk the narrative of Africa rising because it is actually sinking its citizens. Borders are tightening globally, even African borders.  There is now a return to fierce nationalism. I live in SA and everyday you see and hear the sentiments against foreigners. Nobody is talking about embrace your African brother or sister, it’s “go back to where you came from”.

So with that sentiment you can understand why illegal immigration will continue to increase as people try to jump the legal hurdles. So the rate of illegal migration will continue to increase because recipient countries are not relaxing migration laws, they are tightening them. It’s only a few like some provinces in Canada who are short of labour that are calling for migrants and even then you still have to have certain qualifications or skills, so what happens to those who don’t meet the quotas? They will need to resort to illegal loopholes and so it continues. So the onus is now on the leaders of every country to improve conditions, both economic and social to make those countries livable. To curb the rampant need to move. Look; people have always migrated but not the extent we see today which speaks to a failure of sorts.

The GoldDiggers is available on Amazon and Kobo platforms as an eBook. It is also available at most book retailers in South Africa (Bargain Books, Book Capital, CNA, Exclusive Books) Unfortunately  it is not in distribution in Zimbabwe.

By: Tendai Jangano

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