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Beautiful Zimbabwe, big men and 12c a day

An old man was doing his best to help people organise themselves so that it would be fair when the Big Man did appear.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as people living on US$1.90 a day. Zimbabweans most impacted by Covid-19 must make do with 12 US cents a day. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

It’s that time of year when the first early rains of the season are starting to fall.

Blue sky turning purple; crashing thunder, streaks of white lightning and then the heavens open, washing away months of suffocating dust. Almost overnight brown is flushed with green, the ground is gentle underfoot and you can hear Zimbabwe breathe again. Early in the morning a slender mongoose runs across the garden, snatching up beetles flushed by the rain and late in the afternoon a hammerkop flies in and sorts through a pile of mulch under a fruit tree, selecting the pieces that would make the perfect lining for its enormous platform nest high up in a tree.

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Our beautiful Zimbabwe is coming back to life. In many of our towns and cities the streets are lined with Jacaranda trees and their purple flowers are a spectacle this October, providing colour in our impossibly difficult lives.

Sitting on the edge of a step, an elderly man with one blind eye and a pair of home-made wooden crutches leaning against the wall had taken charge of people waiting outside a government bank.

A small backpack at his side and an A4 school exercise book and blue ballpoint pen in his hand, we greeted each other.

“Is there a queue?” I asked.

He said there was a ‘temporary queue’ and did I want a number?

“Yes please! But what’s a temporary queue?”

The man wrote the number 28 on a piece of paper the size of my thumb nail and I bent down to take it from him.

“It’s only a temporary number until the Big Man comes out,” he said.

The Big Man is the security guard and when he was ready, in his own good time, he would come outside and give each person a small square of paper with a number written on it and when he was ready we would be allowed to enter the building – and if 20 or more people with connections, cleavage or clout pushed in front of us that was just our tough luck.

This is the ugly reality in our beautiful Zimbabwe 40 years after independence.

With my precious number 28 in my pocket, I waited.

I passed the time thinking about the World Bank saying that figures indicate that extreme poverty in Zimbabwe has increased from 33.4% to 40% of the population. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as people living on US$1.90 a day.

Finance minister’s response

Our minister of finance responded to the World Bank’s statistic by saying: “They [Zimbabweans] are not poor, we are sending them cash transfers of Z$300.”

The minister did not clarify that the Z$300 being sent to families most impacted by Covid-19 is a monthly amount and is currently only worth US$3.70, a pitiful 12 US cents a day. I tried and failed to get my head around this 12 US cents per day and how any leader anywhere could define this as not being poor.

Half an hour later the Big Man still hadn’t appeared, the doors still hadn’t opened and at least another 50 people had arrived.

“Thank you my friend,” I said to the old man on the step, handing back my number 28.

“Today I cannot wait any longer. I’ll have to come another day, give my number to someone else.”

The old man told me it was his third day of waiting here and that he was doing his best to help people organise themselves so that it would be fair when the Big Man did appear.

It was a beautiful day under a bright blue sky and we chatted for a minute before parting with smiles and good wishes, but it was hard to accept that an old man had come back three days in a row to get service and that this is the state of our lives in Zimbabwe: at the mercy of Big Men whose hearts seem utterly devoid of compassion and empathy.

My next stop was off the highway and into a high density area and almost immediately the pain in my heart was lifted.

A group of young girls were playing stinger under a Jacaranda tree. Their home-made ball is made of plastic bags tied together. The game involves aiming for legs, where the ball stings you if it hits you. Squeals of laughter as they dodge the ball, smiles and waves when they see you watching. Further along a little boy runs along the road studiously steering his home-made wire car with a small cardboard box attached as a trailer. A mother braiding her daughter’s hair on a chair under a deep green Msasa tree. Oh beautiful Zimbabwe, you can see it breathing life here.

Some good news

Finally on this day good news came with the release from Chikurubi Prison of MP Joana Mamombe.

Joana’s name has been on our lips and in our hearts for months. She, along with two other opposition activists, was abducted from a police station, blindfolded, tortured and sexually abused and dumped on the roadside in May after taking part in an opposition protest.

Accused of making statements prejudicial to the state, Joana and her colleagues were arrested, denied bail, eventually released and are to stand trial. When Joana was hospitalised with an anxiety disorder just before the trial, the prosecution said she was feigning sickness and a magistrate ordered her sent to Chikurubi Prison on September 24 for two weeks so she could be assessed by doctors.

Thirteen days later a high court judge ordered her release from prison, saying that “nothing warranted the placement of Mamombe in custody for the purposes of her mental examination”.

How beautiful our Zimbabwe is: from a mongoose and a hammerkop in the garden to an old man sitting on a step issuing temporary numbers for a queue; girls playing stinger under a Jacaranda tree and a little boy pushing his wire car on the road.

I am delighted to announce that my Beautiful Zimbabwe Calendar for 2021 is now available, please visit my website for details and to see thumbnails of the images.

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

Copyright © Cathy Buckle

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And the same recipe is followed in South Africa as well; it seems 12c a day is a desired outcome in the Southern part of the continent and not a disgrace as the writer tries to frame it.

So much economic potential.
Such a beautiful country and people.

Say no more ….

… such corrupt and opportunistic politicians … such cowed and beaten people.

Hello to my “Marondera sister”, or as locals would say “Mhoro Africa yakanaka”.

“….a mongoose runs across the garden, snatching up beetles flushed by the rain and late in the afternoon a hammerkop flies in and sorts through a pile of mulch under a fruit tree…”

A city dweller in Europe would gasp & say “we don’t have THAT experiences on a daily basis!”. Most of us don’t have private gardens to start with, but have to share public parks (albeit safe and well kept). But you experience the natural beauty that ‘we’ in Europe can only wish for.

Such imaginary European person would state “sister, you are truly blessed! And now that ‘us’ Europeans are approaching icy winter….arrrrch…let me pull that that thick coat closer. Soon to be staring at the ice-rain out of our apartment windows, we long for an African adventure like this lady in Nambabwe”

😉 Yes, Cathy you’re blessed.

(..and glad the local kids play happily under the Jacaranda)

I see that you do indeed reside in Europe and not in ZA.

Agree. Otherwise he is smoking too much of the good stuff.

*lol* both of you @Adventurer and @LuluAlert are 100% correct in a way….but not what you think it is.

I am in Europe…but sort of 😉
I view SA as a “last European outpost” on this continent. In my ‘little Europe’ cocoon here in SA, where we Saffas are (still) fortunate to enjoy Western benefits like many of us have individual transport (many at least 2+ per family/residence) fully stocked shops, electricity, and water when I open the tap. Private hospitals & decent roads. All taken for granted. SA has a western value system. The question is “How Long?” for the African tribal value system to replace our current Eurocentric value system…that us minority hold so dear?

“How beautiful our Zimbabwe is: from a mongoose and a hammerkop in the garden to an old man sitting on a step issuing temporary numbers for a queue; girls playing stinger under a Jacaranda tree and a little boy pushing his wire car on the road.”

Sadly Cathy, it’s because Zimbabweans are happy with this state of affairs that the country is in ruins.

Good point. Yet, I was about to point out that the kids are playing HAPPILY ball under the Jacaranda trees, and smiles emerging from the ‘draadkar’ boys.

Yes, I know, what does a kid know (only has his/her current environment frame of reference, blissfully unaware of his/her future)

Been wondering: say if Ian Smith’s govt was still in control & in later years to follow would’ve realised they must be more inclusive to survive (without any racial labour laws SA have). And the world’s economies supports into this leading, African country called perhaps Rhodes-babwe 😉 those SAME KIDS could now be running to their grandparents, exiting their parents new cars in the estate’s driveways in Harare, and say “…Mhoro grandma/grandpa, look at this Playstation or WarThunder game I just got from my mom Fadziso. Dad Shohiwa bought me also this electric scooter…wow. Grandparents’ respondse : “…wow, little Kutenda, I see you’re wearing your Maison du Style kids’ shirt today”

My imagination running wild today *lol*……

….or COULD this be images from the ZIMBABWE it COULD’VE BEEN with great past leadership?

Absolutely. Which goes for most of Africa where the Big Man (as the security guard is called) decides for the Small Man. We are seeing the same scenario in the Zuma debacle in SA.

Sigh …

Thinking about this over lunch, some questions come up which perhaps Cathy could discuss:

The Zimbabwean populace has no stomach for violent revolt, even though they are living worse than many others on the continent.

Could this be because more than a million of their citizens are here sending monthly remittances and keeping them just marginally existing without actually working?

Is the ANC regime party to this farce of the Rand supporting Zimbabwe indirectly because a violent revolution on our border may encourage a similar event here?

When will the rot eventually cause the country to collapse completely?

Hopefully, some insights will be forthcoming.

@beachcomber. Thinking almost along the same lines here.

“Is the ANC regime party to this farce of the Rand supporting Zimbabwe indirectly because a violent revolution on our border may encourage a similar event here?” as you stated.

My question ties up with the above: what was the REASON for top ANC delegates (which recently chartered an Air Force plane) to make a sudden visit to their ZANU-PF comrades?
(…a bhoo-haa followed in the media around the unauthorised way the SAAF plane was chartered….possibly to serve as a distraction and smoke screen as to the REASON WHY the ANC needed to visit in the 1st place).

To go and assist their failing govt with US$ cash?
Or smuggle money back?
Why is it so important for the ANC to see the ZANU-PF maintain power? A symbiotic relationship seems to exist….the one rely on the other.
The answer may lie in the evil struggle bed-buddies….but what?

Lets just give Thabo Mbeki a big thank you for the intellectual he was when ZanuPF lost the election and he decided to support Mugabe in staying in power. Also… to the African Union whom has done great work at keeping Africa oppressed by the elite corruptors and thieves. Wow…. what an achievement. Africa being ruled by Africans. Not a great advert for the rest of the world. Disgraceful. What did Trump call African countries? Something with an “S”. (Spot on description).

The hypocrisy of the BLM movement to demonstrate in developed countries when Black lives are treated like this in Africa. Furthermore, this shocking treatment is endorsed by the powers that be such as the ANC in the case of Zimbabwe. Political systems increasingly favour thugs and criminals – see South Africa – and it has to change. Name one politician from a successful country like Switzerland? I cannot because in that country the politicians are largely serving the people i.e. they don’t have time to be public personalities.

Zimbabawe ? they can vote and they have the land.

End of message.

End of comments.

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