I don’t know how many times I’ve started one of my fourteen years worth of letters with the words: ‘Unbelievable things are happening in Zimbabwe,’ but I unashamedly repeat that phrase today.
‘Watch out! Riot police in full gear in town this morning; no tear gas… yet!’ That was the text message we were sending our children, friends and colleagues in my home town again this week. Never as a parent do you expect to be warning your children to watch out for riots and tear gas as they travel to school or work and it sends chills down your spine. It doesn’t take long for the word to spread that yet another round of Zanu PF infighting has erupted and we are a country wide-eyed and open mouthed at the huge splits tearing open the party that’s been in power for 34 years.
At the beginning of the week the press were calling it a ‘bloodbath in Zanu PF,’ with at least 100 MP’s and 10 Ministers facing the ‘political wilderness’ and every day since then more big names have been sucked in and spat out. The final tally is not yet known; the Zanu PF congress opens in Harare next week and a few days later the die will be cast. After that there seems no doubt that nothing will ever be the same again in Zimbabwe.
And while our leaders accuse, argue, fight and fall out of favour, they aren’t getting any sympathy from ordinary people who know what they’ve been up to all these years in office. We’ve watched them amass huge personal fortunes, fleets of luxury vehicles and numerous opulent properties and now we wonder where will they hide once they too become ordinary citizens. We wonder if they will be held to account for some of the things they have done while they were in power? We wonder if they have any idea at all what life is like for ordinary people in Zimbabwe.
Do they know what it’s like for the unemployed, desperate young man in his early thirties, rummaging through overflowing dustbins outside the front of a big supermarket, his filthy trousers hanging around his knees? Do they know what’s it like for the elderly woman in her seventies, who goes from car to car trying to sell her hand embroidered food nets. ‘Just buy one,’ she pleads with me, her eyes shining, her mouth empty of teeth; ‘please, just one, so I can buy bread for the little ones at home.’ Like hundreds of thousands of other elderly men and women, her children have died of AIDS and she is left rearing her grandchildren with no help at all from the State.
Copyright © Cathy Buckle. www.cathybuckle.com