Millions billions trillions – Letter from Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,
All week a spotted eagle owl has been hooting early in the afternoon in my garden, hours before the stunning caramel sunsets so typical of winter in Zimbabwe. The strangeness of the day time calling of the owl comes in the same week as the sad news of the latest casualty to Zimbabwe’s long struggle to a new order.

Since February 2000nothing has been normal or predictable about Zimbabwe but one thing has been constant and that is the shortwave radio broadcast at 7pm every night from London. For the last thirteen years, since the 19th December 2001, SW Radio Africa has been our nightly companion. Through bouts of deliberate jamming and interference; often by candle, torch or firelight and with solar powered, battery or wind up radios, we have followed them as they have told our story for us, been our voice to the world.

Many of us who have followed SW Radio Africa listened with tears in our eyes to their first broadcast thirteen years ago. By that time we had been a country in deep crisis for 22 months: farms were being violently grabbed every day; people were on the run everywhere; torture, terror, burning and looting were daily occurrences; political violence was widespread and anyone involved or supporting opposition politics was in danger and under attack. In the week before the first SW Radio Africa broadcast four men were brutally murdered in political violence; their names, and their sacrifice for Zimbabwe, have not been
forgotten: Trymore Midzi (Bindura), Titus Nheya (Karoi), Milton Chambati (Magunge) and Laban Chiweta (Bindura).

At the end of their first broadcast on the 19th December 2001 SW Radio Africa closed with a message, sung by and for Zimbabweans: ‘hold on just a little bit longer.’ We are still trying to hold on but it was with great sadness this week to hear SW Radio Africa make the announcement we so dreaded. Station Manager Gerry Jackson said that their short wave radio broadcasts would end on Friday the 18th of July. Gerry thanked Zimbabweans for being such loyal supporters, for sharing their stories and bringing SW Radio Africa into their homes for thirteen years. Zimbabwe will never forget SW Radio Africa or any of their staff whose voices have retold our horror stories, lived with us through our anguish and cried with us at each inhumanity.

I have been proud to have had my letters from Zimbabwe read on SW Radio Africa for the last thirteen years; it has been a humbling experience. My second book containing an edited collection of those letters is now in print. ‘Millions, billions, trillions’ tells the story of Zimbabwe from 2005 to February 2009. It was a time of madness that most of us would rather forget but it is a part of us and of our history. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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