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Zimbabwe’s sound of hope

The contrast between the struggle of everyday life and the beauty of Zimbabwe is dramatic.
Image: AdobeStock

Summer finally made its way into Zimbabwe this week and oh how pleased we are to see her. In the highveld the Msasa trees have emerged into new leaf: pink, red and caramel, and in the lowveld the Baobabs are bare and the Mopane trees are shedding their old leaves in a beautiful palette of gold, orange and russet.

As I write this letter it’s a warm and windy September day; the air is full of dust and the horizon is smudged by smoke and haze. A man on a bicycle goes past, calling out that he is buying empty bottles which he swaps for sweets, eggs or single cigarettes. His voice carries in the wind along with the calls of a beautiful black-headed Oriole, newly returned to the neighbourhood with the arrival of warmer temperatures.

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The contrast between the struggle of everyday life and the beauty of Zimbabwe is dramatic.

There is a desperate rush going on in Zimbabwe this week after government announced it was opening schools again. Parents earning next to nothing are suddenly scrambling to find money for school fees and books. One desperate dad I met was trying to raise US$23 for a pair of school shoes for his son. US$23 might not sound like a lot but when I put a US$20 note into his hand and his eyes shone with tears as he clapped his hands in thanks, I knew exactly how much that money meant to him.

Last week outside the main supermarket in my home town was a floor-to-ceiling display banner reading: ‘WFP (World Food Programme) Social Assistance Vouchers redeemable here.’  The WFP is giving US$12 a month to vulnerable people in urban areas who are struggling to meet their basic food needs.

The WFP is targeting cash assistance to 500 000 people by the end of 2021 and says it has seen a “30% increase in the average price (in ZWL) of basic food items in the first half of 2021.”

Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s finance minister is under pressure to disclose the source of funding for 19 vehicles estimated to be valued at US$1.14 million just given out to the leaders of 12 small losing political parties who backed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s disputed 2018 election.

The contradiction between cars being given out by our government while the WFP gives out food vouchers to ordinary people is nauseating. The US$1.14 million for cars could have bought 95 000 food vouchers.

At 04:30 I stood outside under a star-filled sky, and a fiery necked nightjar was calling: ‘Good Lord deliver us’, its voice clear and consistent in the darkness. This nightjar, known as the Litany Bird has long been the sound of hope and determination for me, the song of Zimbabwe calling out for deliverance.

With the call of the Litany Bird in my mind I am pleased to announce that I have just released my new book, ‘Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty’ – a collection of photographs and stories showing the country’s enduring beauty. Visit my website for more info.

© Cathy Buckle

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I never miss any of Cathy’s delightful and exquisitely written articles. She describes how a country, blessed with an abundance of natural resources and beautiful people, can be ruined by a destructive political system. It is easy to ignore economics or take politics for granted when we enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. The Zimbabwean reality, which has also infected the South African reality, forces us to consider the effect of political systems, economic decisions, and the value or purpose of democracy itself.

A democratic dispensation allows individual voters to express their mindset, attitude, knowledge, and cognitive ability. Democracy is like the freedom to drive a car at any speed you want, without headlights, in the dark and thick fog, without any markings on the road or traffic lights to guide you. Errors in judgment lead to loss of life, not only for yourself but for other road users. When the law defends property rights, the resulting rule of law enforces a speed limit, acts as markings on the road, installs traffic lights, and switches on the headlights of the car.

What can solve this already bad, and ever-worsening situation in all collectivist African countries? Clueless people are driving at 180 km/h without headlights in the pitch dark. Well, there can only be 2 solutions. Either take away their car and ban them from driving, or force them to obey the newly-created rules of the road. Confiscate their right to vote, or protect property rights. China chose to use both these options simultaneously and they lifted a poor communalist nation out of poverty and into the middle class in one generation. They created a political and economic miracle, simply because they banned collectivists from expressing their mindset at the ballot box.

The Chinese are chastised for their “poor human rights record” while they have lifted 1.4 billion people out of poverty, while the South African government, which created the worst unemployment figure and inequality in the world, is admired for its constitutional democracy and human rights charter. There is no freedom or dignity in poverty.

And who gets to be the CCP in this little story? It would be nice to know who my future oppressors are in advance before a red-heeled boot come crashing down on my head in the name of progress.

The privileged few, who find themselves at the top of Maslow’s Pyramid, who can afford and appreciate democracy, will never understand why those at the bottom of the Pyramid will take the CCP over the ANC any time.

The privileged few also don’t realize that a democracy incentives those who don’t own property to confiscate the property of those who do. When the voting majority in a democracy does not own property, then that economy and the stability of the democratic system are doomed. Therefore, the South African constitution actually guarantees economic decay, rising unemployment, and social unrest. What is the value of your human rights if the violent deaths per capita in your country are 10 times higher than in China?

The democratic right to express your mindset at the ballot box can be a destructive and deadly risk if you have a communalist mindset. Democracy is a wonderful solution for sophisticated people and a poisoned chalice for ignorant and uneducated people.

The World Food Program is exactly the type of enterprise whose activity obfuscates the understanding of voters of cause and effect. It softens the consequence of voting some incompetent crooks into power and therefore prolongs the self inflicted misery. Tough love finally required in Africa.

Wondering how many of those morally-impeccable Zanu PF landgrabbers who chased the evil whites off their ill-gotten farms two decades ago, are not too ethically encumbered today to take alms from those same despicable whites.

This is exactly the reason I stopped my unconditional WFP contributions. I have a huge dilemma giving charity money to people who detest my type.

Sounds more like hopelessness.

Sigh … the stark contrasts of the bounty of nature and the corruption of politicians.

End of comments.

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