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Inside/Out with Dr Alex Magaisa, writer and political commentator
August 29, 2006

Dr Alex MagaisaDescribe yourself in five words?
Free-thinking, opinionated, ambitious, listener, fair-minded

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I have had a lot of great advice from many people over my 31 years so it is hard to choose. My "A" Level History teacher, Mr Mushangwe always used to say, "whatever you do, make sure you do it very well" - I have found these words very useful in my life and career. When I was young my mother told me to be a good boy and to be fair to other people. Then my favourite book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo says that when you really want something, the entire universe will conspire to make it happen for you. Collectively, it-s the best advice from those three sources, which informs my approach to life and other fellow human beings.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done?
I am sure I did a lot of ridiculous things during my days at university, which should never see the light of day! Let it be told by others but not me! Suffice to say, when I was a young boy in primary school I hung around some naughty mates - on one occasion we nicked girls- clothes from their dressing room at the swimming pool. But at that age there is always the eagerness to claim a "success" among the other boys and so it is always you get caught after "an adventure" as we called them then. We were given a very good lesson by the authorities, details of which I will leave to your imagination.

What is your most treasured possession?
When I was a small boy material things had a high priority on my list but now I am more than content to list my knowledge as a treasured possession. And this is not just academic knowledge; I am also referring to what the late Kempton Makamure (may his soul rest in peace), called "life skills". I first heard those words from him in my First Year at Law school in 1994 and throughout the years I have observed with great interest that by far the bulk of the people with life skills get by even with very little academic knowledge. I like to think I have both, which enables me to do pretty much anything within the limits of that knowledge, in any place in the world. Knowledge is a passport, Visa, permit all rolled into one!

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I am reluctant to measure misery - measuring misery might imply that some misery is better than other forms of misery. To me misery in any degree stinks as bad. However, if pushed I would say that it is bad when material deprivation causes human beings to behave pretty much like animals in the wild - when the value system has totally broken down and taking unfair advantage of the weak and vulnerable becomes accepted as normal.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
I don-t know if it-s strange enough but I quite like to pick grammatical and spelling errors in newspapers and submit them to the editor. It-s much easier now that there is email, which is faster for communication purposes.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I am content with who I am except the part that has become "genetically modified" on account of consuming too many GM (genetically modified) foods during my stay in Europe! It pains me when people who see me now after a long time making the passing comment "inga ugere" (you are doing very well) without realizing that they may be celebrating my contribution to the obesity statistics! I could do with more sadza and pumpkin leaves in peanut butter sauce.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Carrying too much trust in people. I was brought up to believe that every person has a core of good and I always start from the point of presuming that every individual is good unless he proves otherwise. I know it-s the height of naivety but in my experience giving trust and believing in people has been my greatest extravagance because it has cost me, both materially and by way of testing my belief and patience in relation to the human being. Just when I think I have mastered the courage to be more skeptical and trust less, it happens again!

What is your greatest fear?
The thought of fear itself. I try not to think of fear and so naturally I guess my greatest fear is the thought of fear. I try not to let fear get in my way of doing things.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
My work ID card, automobile keys, mobile phone and credit cards. All separate, I have never had faith in the wallet (chikwama). Frankly, I don-t know why people carry them, they are just too bulky. But I can-t imagine their use in Zimbabwe now, even in the absence of embarrassing zeroes.

What is your favourite journey?
Down memory lane. The present and future have to be faced, I like to take comfort in the glories of the past for inspiration! I am a very nostalgic person and I like history anyway. But there is also the innocence of youth. People like to think that life is better now with all the super technology but frankly I have fond memories of the simple life I lived in the village - especially the human touch, which is sorely missing today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
The ordinary men and women in the villages. They do not have much in material terms but you have to see them wake up and get on with life each day to believe in the resourcefulness and resilience of the human being. My roots are in the village and there I saw men and women who were selfless, hard-working and would go out of their way to make one feel better. True, the value-system is becoming corrupted but the human spirit in the villages is truly amazing. People may call them names, mistake their openness and trust for being gullible, but they face their challenges and move on in their world. I truly admire their spirit. They are my heroes.

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