Dear Family and Friends,
Driving towards Zimbabwe from a neighbouring country recently it was hard not to be overwhelmed by two dramatically different sights that seem to tell the story of the subcontinent so well. Through every town and village you see such poverty and people living in such primitive conditions that it’s hard to believe these are places in the 21st century. People bathing in rivers, washing clothes in rock pools, carrying enormous burdens of food or wood on their heads, crushing rocks to sell stones, living in mud walled houses roofed with grass, reeds or plastic. And everywhere people are making a living on the side of the road, selling everything from live animals to meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, cheap clothes, furniture, machines and all manner of electrical goods.
On the other side of the coin is the dramatic beauty that surrounds this gruelling poverty. Brilliant blue skies, towering kopjes, vast open plains, rushing red rivers, giant trees and a treasure trove of spectacular birds whose colours are so bright and gaudy that you wouldn’t believe they were real unless you saw them with your own eyes.
When you get to the border to come back into Zimbabwe, reality returns. How long will it take before someone is holding their hand out for a bribe you wonder? It doesn’t take long at all. Barely have you closed the car door when a crush of men are offering to get you to the front of the queue and ‘rush’ you through immigration and customs formalities. They don’t take no for an answer lightly; persistence is definitely their middle name. With all the formalities completed there comes the dreaded boom at the exit gate where an apparent official who is not wearing a uniform or carrying any identity makes a bee line for you. After ten minutes of absurd demands, un-provable requirements and un-documented regulations, he finally gets fed up and says: “Oh just give me something and you can proceed.” Corruption has sadly become the most dominant feature in Zimbabwean life: everything has got a price and everyone wants their cut. That this should happen at our border posts, the shop window into our country, makes us hang our heads in shame.
After a time away from Zimbabwe it is always great to be home but oh so disappointing that nothing seems to change. There was news of a brutal attack on a Guruve farm where father and daughter, Malcolm and Catherine Francis, were left beaten and unconscious and both subsequently died. Then the tragic news of ten fatalities in yet another accident involving a minibus. And then, a little light in a gloomy tunnel, the news that constitutional lawyer, Justice Alfred Mavedzenge, has filed a High Court application seeking to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to make the voters’ roll public. For all of us in Zimbabwean it is still unbelievable that we went into the July 2013 elections without ever having seen the voters roll and even more unbelievable that it has still not be seen ten months later.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy. 23rd May 2014