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River of many hippos and the bronze statue

Oh Zimbabwe, where are your priorities?
Millions spent on a monument while hundreds of cyclone victims continue to live in tents more than two years on. Image: Shutterstock

Winter arrived with thunder, lightning, and rain in Zimbabwe last week. Thunder and lightning in June are unheard of and sent us running for cover and pulling out plugs.

One day later the cold arrived and as I write this letter the forecast is 4°C rising to a maximum of 16°C at midday in Marondera and 2°C rising to a maximum of 12°C in Chimanimani. Why Chimanimani you ask, read on!

On the banks of the beautiful Umvumvumvu River north of Chimanimani a Sausage tree dripping with long brown pendulous fruit provides a perfect stopping place.

The name of the river literally repeats the word hippo three times and means river of many hippos (mvu, mvu, mvu).

The name of the river is at first hard to get your tongue around but once you know the meaning, it’s a river you’ll never forget.

But it’s not just the name of the river that’s memorable now, it’s also the new bridge here and over so many more rivers along the road to Chimanimani.

The sturdy new bridge over the Umvumvumvu River with a pretty stone picnic site at the lay-by near the riverside has a plaque identifying that the Beit Trust contributed towards the reconstruction of this bridge after Cyclone Idai tore away huge chunks of the bridge and carried them down the river in March 2019.

The dramatic photographs of the Umvumvumvu River bridge then and now are testament to the huge heart and generosity of local and international supporters who helped put it all back together.

How then can it be that people are still living in tents up the road in Chimanimani?

In the icy wind, I couldn’t stop thinking about people with just a thin sheet of weathered canvas to protect them from the 2°C cold.

How is it possible that two years and two months after Cyclone Idai devastated Chimanimani so many people could still be living in tents?

On the second anniversary of the cyclone recently, one survivor told a NewZimbabwe.com journalist: “Most people are still living in tents. Imagine staying in a tent every day for the past two years. We are really getting worried that this will be our life forever.”

“What we thought would have happened and the promises we had been given, have not been fulfilled and we have lost hope.”

Take a trip along the winding roads, steep curves and fantastic new bridges to Chimanimani: this is the place where spectacular beauty and raw pain stand side by side; the place where ordinary Zimbabweans in their thousands reached out to help with tons and tons of food, clothes and supplies in 2019; the place where huge red scars left by landslides still stain the hills and mountains and massive rivers of boulders still hide their secrets.

Is this then the same Zimbabwe that just erected a huge footbridge and three-metre high bronze statue of Mbuya Nehanda [spirit medium of the Zezuru Shona people] on a one-and-a-half metre pedestal in central Harare?

The project was run by the Office of the President and Cabinet, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Ministry, department of Public Works, National Archives, and National Monuments.

The lead architect said in the Herald newspaper that the monument was built using steel, cobblestone, concrete, and glass: 45 tons of reinforcement steel, 58 tons of structural steel … 480 cubic metres of premix concrete … 450 panels of glass, and 58 000 stone bricks.

The lead architect was quoted as saying that this “project cost $56 million” and took 11 months to complete.

The ‘consumables’ imported from South Africa for the construction were granted free of duty by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.” (Pindula)

So in just 11 months a bronze statue and footbridge were erected in Harare, meanwhile 500km away hundreds of cyclone victims are still living in dirty white tents covered in thick red dust two years and two months after a cyclone destroyed their lives and homes, left hundreds dead and hundreds more missing, buried in mud and rock slides and swept away in raging rivers.

Oh Zimbabwe, where are your priorities?

Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer and blogger living in Marondera, Zimbabwe.

Copyright © Cathy Buckle

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There is no rationalizing of anything in corrupt regimes.

Rather study the effects of illegal immigrants in South Africa.

Anyone doing business in Zimbabwe will lose their money.
Anyone doing business in Zimbabwe will lose their money.
Anyone doing business in Zimbabwe will lose their money.

“and the promises we had been given, have not been fulfilled and we have lost hope.”
They must still not be unhappy enough to take up arms against the current ruling party as was done so vigorously 40 years ago against the previous regime.

When your currency was at parity with the UK pound, when unemployment was a fraction of what it is today, and when hunger was unknown, you still took up arms to “liberate” yourselves in Zimbabwe.

By failing to take up arms today, you are indicating that you are happy with your uhuru. People get the government they deserve.

Europeans tend to judge communalist African societies from a European perspective based on property rights and law and order. Since they have rejected this system of property rights when they won their “freedom” from colonialism, the general living standard is slowly returning to levels last seen before property rights began to build a sophisticated economy. This is a natural process.

The size of economic activity, or GDP, determines the number of people that can be carried by that economy. When they reject property rights to go back towards communalism, they inadvertently reverse economic growth, and the size of the population has to contract to reflect the shrinking of the economy. Economic contraction leads to a contraction in the population size. This is a natural process and the enemies of capitalism should bear this in mind.

This brings us to the point – Famine and disease are the natural consequences of the communalist system. Poverty is inherent to communalism. The South African democracy empowers ANC supporters to engineer the degradation of their environment. The communalist mindset combined with the right to vote is a recipe for economic disaster.

Zimbabweans make me laugh. They’re happy being waiters and maids down here in Harare South, but won’t lift a finger against ZANU-PF.

Cathy Zimbabwe and South Africa are countries of missed opportunities.
Whenever things go wrong or go missing the mantra is
”not me , not me ”always blame it on the umlungu.
I was born in Francistown , my parents moved to SA in the 60s because of
”swart gevaar”, how silly they were

Poor Cathy, poetic and optimistic but trapped in the pathetic faded hope and destroyed potential of a once lovely nation. The finest continent got the worst people – who says that irony is dead!

I read somewhere (loosely quoted): “Democracy is a belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance”. How true for Africa! And another question: Where is the UN now, complete with all sanctions, boycotts and lots of noise on the world stage? Missing in action while worse human right abuse is taking place.

Yip, try “Oh Africa, where are your priorities” Cathy, and don’t bother to ever ask again, a waste of breath it will be!

The bronze statue is there for ordinary Zimb.., no Rhodesians, to see that their Govt is doing something for its citizens (despite being left destitute).

ZANU-PF must’ve learned something from their old role-models, the Communist Soviet. A western tourist asked a Russian at a Moscow train station, embellished with lavish architecture, expansive gold & marble everywhere…as to WHY? (…the New York underground is grey & dreary in comparison)

The Russian replied its how the Govt’s thinking work: you skimp on services & infrastructure all over the country, but instead only over-spend on places of public gatherings (stations, plains, etc)….so that the average Russian that walks through the station “feels wealthy and proud for a moment”, although we Moscovites remain comparatively poor.

and the individual stays a poor individual for rest of his live, whilst the few top rulers lives like kings and as “owners” of the whole country – how blind must one be not to see it???

End of comments.

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