The New York Times video made it seem so easy. You just go to the Zimbabwean border, where people casually and constantly stream across; you interview them, get a few great soundbites and photos, maybe a riveting in-depth. Well, the New York Times guy must’ve been camped out there for a month. We had approximately 5 hours. And if I were a border jumper, I’d hightail it to another city, not stop and chat with student journalists. As it happened, we didn’t see any border crossers, only the remnants of their clothes strung up on one of the two razor fences, or the barbwire fence between them.
The citrus farms along the border are heavily gated and barbwired as well, but we ventured into one to interview a few of the Zimbabwean workers. Then we had to cross the language barrier and the “walls” the people put up out of fear. Two of the people I tried to talk to kept turning away, looking down, and laughing nervously at even the most inocuous questions. But one man was very willing to talk. He’d crossed the crocodile- and hippo-infested Limpopo River (just on the other side of the road) and now lives in a compound with about 300 other ZImbabweans who work on the farms. He goes back every few months to Victoria Falls to give his family money and supplies. This is a theme running through a lot of the stories we heard: divided families. I asked many of the people if they have hope for things to improve in Zimbabwe, hope to move back there someday and for their children to find work. Some do have hope, some do not. All of them are doing everything they can to support themselves and their families. And taking each day at a time.