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Inside/Out with Catherine Makoni, Zimbabwean civil society activist and writer
November 01, 2006

Describe yourself in five words?
Strong, black woman with an immense amount of love and fun.

Whatís the best piece of advice youíve ever received?
My earliest memory of my mother giving me advice is of her encouraging me to get an education and work, and then l would be able to give myself anything l wanted. Looking back it wasnít the words, but the values underlying those words. I grew up with a belief that education was important. I never doubted that l could be an achiever in that regard. I believed that being self-sufficient and economically independent was a natural part of my destiny. Because she would always say, "just wait until you start working", I never thought l needed someone to take care of me. That has stood me in good stead.

Whatís the most ridiculous thing youíve ever done?
In 2002, l accepted a consultancy assignment which required travel to Kariba. No problem there except that l was nine months pregnant! Needless to say, l travelled the 365 km to Kariba, checked into the hotel on the evening of the 26th. Checked out two hours later. Checked into the local hospital and delivered a strong, opinionated baby girl at 7.20am on the 27th! When the workshop participants came to visit me later that morning, their facilitator was engaged in a different role! l was out of hospital by lunchtime. Letís just say, l fulfilled an assignment of a different nature.

What is your most treasured possession?
Faith. It is the assurance of things hoped for. The conviction of things not seen.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loss of hope /resignation. Hope feeds our dreams and our aspirations. It is the stuff that makes us wake up every day, day after day and go out to face a difficult world.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
I am not sureÖ What would qualify as strange? Is an affinity for light fluffy, meaningless romance novels strange?

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
It has to be my weightÖ itís a losing battle (no pun intended).

What is your greatest extravagance?
Custom made teak furniture. I will scrimp and save for it, but l reckon it is worth it. And because l cannot leave my daughter a trust fund, this is the next best thing!

What have you got in your fridge?
Come on, do you need to ask? This is Zimbabwe, the land of hyperinflation and power cuts. If l kept any perishables, they would perish from the incessant power cuts. But then again perhaps thatís just as well, coz the hyperinflation has taken away my capacity to "stock up" on anything. So in a word? Water and some vegetables that look like they are mutating into a living life form!

What is your greatest fear?
Failure and not necessarily in material terms, but as a human being.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
My handbag (which is my pocket) has a novel, facial tissues, Vaseline, lipstick and face powder, work-related reading material, cellphone, flash disk and money. I figure this is enough for any emergency!

What is your favourite journey?
Travelling to the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe. Absolutely nothing beats those majestic views and the fresh clean breeze, except maybe Cape Town.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My mother. What she has survived and defeated would leave most people insane. I wish l had half her courage and determination. My father - for going against societal norms and believing in his girls.

When and where were you happiest?
Would it be a cliché, if l said when l fell in love? Honestly, what can beat the canít eat - canít sleep - does he - doesnít he - butterflies in your stomach sensation you get in those heady days?

Whatís your biggest vice?
Sweet things, with sleep/laziness a close second

What were you like at school?
I was a different person at different stages in my school life. In primary school l was seemingly effortlessly brilliant (even if l do say so myself!) In high school, l applied myself in the subjects l liked, so l did brilliantly in them. I wanted to study law and no one could convince me that l needed Mathematics to do so. Bunking Math class earned me a couple of counselling sessions with my school principal and class advisor! But l was beyond redemption. The result? For my GCE ĎOí level, 6 As, 1B and a dismal U in Maths. ĎAí level saw me frantically studying. Some people convinced my friends and l that getting into law school was tough so we had to really excel. Boy did we burn the midnight oil studying! I swear if exams were written in December instead of Oct/Nov, we would have had serious breakdowns! I have always theorized that this has to be the reason why when l got into law school, l immediately went into my lazy phase. I guess somewhere in my subconscious was the thought that all l needed was to get to law school and now that l had, l had it made. I did enough to pass my exams and scrape through university, but that was it. My most fervent prayer was uttered round about exam time and results time. It went something like this " Dear God, please make me pass and l promise that next year, l will start studying at the beginning of the semester and not wait for exam time to cram. Amen." But l donít like being average so come post-grad, l was back to being distinction material!!

What are you doing next?
Hopefully a PhD. My father has always wanted a doctor and Iím determined to give that to him, albeit not exactly the kind of doctor he had in mind. But a doctor is a doctor right?

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