Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
The young people’s ship is docked at Robert Gabriel Mugabe Square in Harare to celebrate the National Youth Day commemorated each year since 2018 in honour of the late national hero, first Prime Minister and President of independent Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
The day also celebrates young people’s contribution to the political and socio-economic development of the nation, dating back from the days of the liberation struggle.
Before the sun sets, the liner will depart, leaving a swirl of shared dreams in its wake.
Revamped and refuelled, the ship will leave the dock with wiser and hopeful youths, keen on making their mark on the socio-economic landscape of their country; courtesy of the wisdom, vision and impartation from President Mnangagwa.
As more than 30 000 youths from across the country’s 10 provinces converged on the aptly named square, one could sense euphoria so deep it soothes the heart.
It is electric, exuberant, as it is wont to, when young people meet to mix in the din of voices and music.
From their songs, one can feel hope issuing in clouds so thick that they can only anticipate a heavy downpour.
Christ! There is hope in the gathering clouds above, so much hope in the positivity of shared expectations in a future where drugs and poverty are eradicated.
With the proceedings heading to a climax, more numbers get swallowed into more numbers as young people put their feet down to make an impact on the present and the future, which, in all earnest, belongs to them.
Aboard this huge ship, oozing youthful anticipation, is a 40-year-old drug abuse survivor, Tabeth Mwayera, who has been hooked on substances since 1998 at the age of 16.
Three years sober now, Tabeth’s story is a harrowing, yet captivatingly hopeful one. It is a story of toil, pain and sorrow laced with hope.
Touched by her story, in which she implores others still under the harness of drugs and other substances to brave it and call it quits, the President, a listening servant leader, gives the teary Tabeth another chance at life.
He tasks Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Professor Paul Mavima, to find an opening for her, so that she would sustain herself and her daughter.
In addition, her daughter’s tuition fees will be catered for.
Although her mind is liberated and clearer now, having defeated the demons of addiction in 2019 after 21 years of drug-induced stupor, Tabeth has been yearning for a chance to change her storyline, along with that of her 23-year-old daughter, Vanessa.
The first born in a family of three siblings, Tabeth, a Form 2 dropout, always yearned for a new narrative in which she is not forever the bird of prey, the vanquished, but the heroine of her own epic.
That is why she is here, to share her story, and probably impact on a life or two, seeing scores of youths, a key demographic, have fallen into the juggernaut threatening to shred the nation’s social fabric.
“I have been through it all,” she says. “From an early age, I have hopped from one base to another in pursuit of that all numbing intoxication in the hope of escaping from the burdens of life.”
Having lost her parents, her father when she was barely 10, and mother at 13, Tabeth, along with her two brothers, found herself under the wing of her paternal uncle.
Seemingly destined for only the bad, life took a turbulent twist for the teenage girl, which saw her fleeing home in Mbare for Dzivaresekwa to live with friends, much older friends, used to the hard punches of life. By then she was 16 and pregnant.
“Life was tough. I can say, there was never a time when all was okay. When my parents died, it even got worse, since I had to move in with my uncle, who was not particularly keen on my welfare,” she reveals.
“To compound matters, I got pregnant and the man responsible denied paternity, prompting me to flee home to live with friends in Dzivaresekwa, as it was increasingly becoming unhomely.”
Acquainted to the hard knocks, the friends introduced her to drugs and prostitution. Thus, setting in motion a 21-year ride in the rough terrain, where the weak are almost always thrown overboard.
“Because I was young and desperate, they used me to satiate their quest for drugs and other intoxicating substances. Hence, prostitution became my trade,” she tells The Herald.
Limited on options, Tabeth raised her child from the proceeds of her illicit trade, frowned at by society.
With society growling at her and the law in hot pursuit, she sought solace in permanent inertia, which only drugs could provide. She would sometimes get arrested by the police and spend time behind bars.
“I have seen the transition in drugs for over 21 years. I have used them all, depending on what was in vogue – from marijuana, BronCleer to guka makafela (mutoriro), among others,” she says.
Tabeth’s friends are late now, having capitulated to the hard blows they exposed themselves to. Yet, she persisted along the much trodden path to doom, until the light shone on her in 2019.
“I realised that I was headed nowhere”, she says.
Through the help of Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network, Tabeth was rehabilitated. However, surviving drugs is one thing, and sustaining a livelihood is another.
That is why she is eternally grateful to the opportunity the President afforded her to take aim at the good life one more time.
With a clearer mind and new determination off the red-light district, Tabeth says she intends to take her daughter, Vanessa, who dropped out at Form One owing to lack of tuition fees, back to school, so that she fulfils her dream of one day becoming a nurse.
“It is only by God’s grace that this has happened to me. It has been a long wait, but I thank President Mnangagwa for giving my daughter and me a new lease of life,” she says.
Indeed, as they say, life begins at 40.