Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Saint Andrew

Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland and it is celebrated today in Scotland. We do not however get a public holiday for it. There are numerous Ceilidhs all over the country, where people go to dance and celebrate in fine form with the swing of the kilts and singing. No doubt Haggis and/or Stovies is served up half way through the evening. It is a great family and friends get together usually in the local Town Hall, and it is thoroughly enjoyed by all who go.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Cathy's last letter

Dear Family and Friends,This week Zimbabwe made international news almost every day as the Englishcricket team hovered over the border while the politicians and assortedspokesmen argued and threatened, issued ultimatums and huffed and puffedabout who would and would not be allowed into the country. Finally, byFriday, it looked as if the cricket matches were going to happen and thereporters were going to be there and while it was good that Zimbabwe wasin the world news, as far as I was concerned it was for all the wrongreasons.To the best of my knowledge most people in Zimbabwe don't give a damnabout cricket anymore. Our inspirational players are gone after theirblack armband protest; our national team has been politically cleansed andanyway, most of us don't have time to worry about cricket - we've got farmore important things on our minds. I was asked this week how bad thingsare now compared to four years ago. At the time of the question I was in ameeting and we were talking about the desperate conditions of hundreds ofpeople who live in wooden shacks in the back streets of Marondera. Theirhouses, if you can call them that, are made of rough timber off-cuts,lined with cardboard boxes for insulation and roofed with pieces of brokenasbestos, rusty sheets of tin or old plastic fertilizer bags. In thesedreadful hovels which have neither water nor plumbing, whole families areliterally living on the floor which is just compacted dirt. They have nomoney and do not work because there are no jobs for 8 out of 10Zimbabweans. They have only the food given to them by charities, churchesand well wishers because they cannot afford to buy any of the food in theshops. The children do not go to school. HIV is common as is TB and it isthe most abominable way for any human being to have to live. To makematters worse, our local hospitals and clinics are desperately short ofmoney. This is now the second month in a row when our local hospital hasnot even been able to dispense phenobarb to unemployed epilepsyoutpatients.These are the real things that ordinary people are worrying about inZimbabwe. Long after the shouting, batting and bowling is over and thecricket players have gone home, nothing will have changed for the ordinarypeople of Zimbabwe. We will still have 80 % unemployment, 209% inflationand a life expectancy of just 35 years. I don't now how many multimillions or billions of dollars these cricket games have involved but forsure they could have got people out of rickety wooden shacks and intodecent brick houses with water and electricity are maybe, luxury ofluxuries, a flushing toilet.Until next week, love cathyCopyright cathy buckle 27 November 2004 http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books on the Zimbabwean crisis, "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" areavailable in the UK from: orders@africabookcentre.com ; www.africabookcentre.com ; in Australia and New Zealand:johnmreed@johnreedbooks.com.au ; and in Africa: www.kalahari.net www.exclusivebooks.com

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Crossing 2004

The Crossing 2004
Originally uploaded by Mara 1.
This is the beginning of the return to Kenyan soil of the Migration. There were thousands of Wildebeeste and Zebras waiting to cross. We had to wait for ages before the first one took the plunge. Within the Mara River lurked hungry crocodiles. Looking across the river the red earth is disturbed, adding a visual drama of
the sense of urgency. As the crossing begins the noise level rises with both the sound of the Wildebeestes grunting and calling, and the splash of the water as they run the deadly gauntlet.


Originally uploaded by Mara 1.
Matriarch just keeping her eye on us.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cathy's latest letter

Dear Family and Friends,

On Friday afternoon the long, hot dry spell which had lasted for five weeks in Marondera, finally broke in true African fashion with the most ferocious storm. In the middle of the day it grew very dark, a fierce wind arrived from nowhere and lightning streaked down the blackening sky every few minutes. The power went off almost as soon as the rain started and while my son and his friend played cards at the table I surveyed all the bounty on the floor around me.

For almost three months I had been tracking a donation which had been left on the other side of the country. Three boxes, one suitcase and one bucket was the description of the donation and at last, thanks to the kindness of a whole string of people, it had finally arrived in Marondera.

On the side of an 8 kg bucket in big print it said "Old Fashioned Blueberry: Frozen gourmet muffin batter." Inside the bucket there was something far more valuable than muffin mix though and I pried open the lid to see scissors, tweezers and toothbrushes. While the storm outside raged, the piles of treasure for the Christopher Campaign grew - soap,
disinfectant, linen savers and antiseptic - whatever could be used to give some comfort and dignity to desperately poor people living with HIV and AIDS in Marondera.

There are over 700 unemployed and virtually destitute people with HIV and AIDS in Marondera. In addition there are over 900 orphans in the town and 21 child headed households. In all cases these men, women and children are almost entirely dependant on the goodwill of strangers, on food and clothing handouts and charitable donations from NGO's (Non Governmental Organizations) like The Red Cross or The Rotary Club under whose umbrella our little Christopher Campaign operates in Marondera town.

There are thought to be in excess of 3000 NGO's in Zimbabweemploying over 20 000 people who in turn help literally millions of people in need in Zimbabwe. There are NGO's working to help the very young and the very old, the sick, the hungry and the downtrodden. There are NGO's working in the cities, towns and remotest of villages. This may well be the last week that a large number of these NGO's continue to operate in the country. This week parliament began forcing the NGO Bill through the required stages. Despite an adverse report by the parliamentary legal committee which said the Bill contradicted the constitution on 12 counts, it now seems inevitable that the NGO Bill is about to become law. NGO's are frantically making preparations as I write. Some say they will go underground, others will relocate to neighbouring countries and many more will simply cease to exist. Welshman Ncube, the Chairman of the parliamentary legal committee described the NGO Bill as a "pervasive attempt to curtail and extinguish the fundamental freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe". He said the Bill "does not seek to regulate but to control, to silence, to render ineffective and ultimately shut down non-governmental organisations."

These are the darkest of days in Zimbabwe. So many people get from one day to the next thanks to the kindness of strangers and the goodness of charitable organisations. How they will survive once these organizations are outlawed lies only in God's hands. Please remember Zimbabwe in your prayers. Until next week, love cathy Copyright cathy buckle 20 Nov 2004

"African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available outside Africa from:
orders@africabookcentre.com ; www.africabookcentre.com ; www.amazon.co.uk ;
in Australia and New Zealand: johnmreed@johnreedbooks.com.au ;
Africa: www.kalahari.net www.exclusivebooks.com

News From Cathy Buckle in Zimbabwe

Here is a recent letter from Cathy Buckle who lives in Zimbabwe.
She has been writing every week for nearly 4 years on how things are really like there.

Dear Family and Friends,
I met a very brave woman this week. Heather is 42 and married with two teenage
children. Her 18 year old son has recently left home and her daughter is at
boarding school and about to write public exams. These are about the only normal
things left in Heather's life after almost five years of hell. As we sat and
talked Heather's phone rang almost incessantly, but we had time to have a cup of
coffee together. It was very special coffee, home grown on their farm in

Heather is the wife of an opposition Member of Parliament and she and her
husband have lost everything in their determination to bring democratic
governance to Zimbabwe. Being married to an MP hasn't meant chauffeur driven
limousines, exotic weekend retreats and lavish dinner parties for Heather. It
has meant rape, torture, murder, arson, looting and theft All of these horrors
have become personal experiences as they have happened directly to Heather and
Roy Bennett and their friends and employees in the last five years. None of the
crimes committed against the Bennett's and their employees have been resolved.
None of the perpetrators have been sentenced or imprisoned and none of the court
rulings issued in favour of the Bennetts have been upheld or obeyed by
Zimbabwe's police.

Being married to an MDC MP has meant fear, anguish and enormous personal
sacrifice for Heather but amazingly, even now with her husband in prison, she is
not angry and bitter or baying for blood and revenge. It is unlikely, but not
yet clear, if Roy Bennett will be allowed to stand for Parliament again now that
he has been convicted for pushing an MP to the floor and sentenced to a year in
prison for the offence. Heather told me that even if Roy could never represent
the people of Chimanimani in Parliament again, the five years have not been
wasted. The Bennett's have stood up for what is right, spoken for those who
cannot and helped build the New Zimbabwe we are all fighting for. Heather says
at the moment she feels like she's flailing in a raging waterfall with demands
tugging at her from all directions. But her focus is entirely on her husband,
his safety and his health in prison. Heather can only visit Roy once every two
weeks for ten minutes. All she can take him is a 50ml tube of toothpaste, a bar
of carbolic soap, a small jar of vaseline and 6 individual pieces of fruit. This
ten minutes every fourteen days has become the focus of Heather's life and she
said it takes every ounce of her self control to get through those ten minutes
without crying.

For pushing an MP who was shouting abuse at him in Parliament, Roy Bennett is
sharing a four man cell with 17 other people. He is dressed in rags and working
all day in the fields at Harare Central Prison. When I left Heather I drove
past the Harare central prison this week so that I could describe the view. In
temperatures of over 30 degrees C, men wearing ragged white shorts and short
sleeved tops, trudge barefoot, without hats, in the burning sun carrying
buckets. They walk to the river, bend, fill their buckets and carry the water
back to pour on the vegetables. Others carry hoes and they bend and weed between
lines of straggling greenery, watched by a bored prison official.

For almost five years I have been writing this letter to the world about events
in Zimbabwe. It is men and women like Roy and Heather Bennett whose unceasing
bravery and determination have given me the courage to keep going. When I left
Heather this week I was ashamed that all I could offer as thanks for their
example and inspiration was my words. Roy Bennett did not steal or loot, burn,
torture, rape or murder, he pushed a man to the floor. If you would like to know
more or would like to be involved, please email: freeroybennett@yahoo.com . If
you are able to contact your local MP please ask them to expose this situation
and lobby support for a fellow parliamentarian. If you could just help with
signing a petition, please do so. Every name is wanted and needed as soon as
possible, just write PETITION in the subject line and contact
freeroybennett@yahoo.com. This letter is for Heather Bennett, a very brave
woman who asks only for our voices. Until next week, love cathy. For full
information on Roy Bennett please also visit my website :
Copyright cathy buckle 13th November 2004.

My books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from:
orders@africabookcentre.com ; www.africabookcentre.com ; www.amazon.co.uk ; in
Australia and New Zealand: johnmreed@johnreedbooks.com.au ; Africa:
www.kalahari.net www.exclusivebooks.com


It looks as if the England Cricket team are not going to play in Zimbabwe now, and about time too that this decision has been made not to allow them to play there. The fact that Mugabe has now banned several newspapers who were to cover the matches, has motivated the ECC to stop the tour part to Zimbabwe. I am of course pleased that this decision has been made.
However it is hard to take that it is a game of cricket that has brought forth results to show Mugabe that his regime is totally unacceptable to the U.K. and also all the decent people of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe has all but silenced everyone in Zimbabwe who does not agree with him and Zanu-PF.
If not, then they face torture, starvation, rape and death. All this is happening right now and the world looks on and ignores it.


Windmills - On Farm Land or out at Sea, which is the better for the Environment?

A-Blogging We Will Go...

This can only be a great way for us all to express our views, write articles and take up new projects. It enables us to read about other people's thoughts and hopes. It makes the world even smaller to us all. We may not all agree or course with everyone, but just maybe,
it can give us time to reflect on what others have to say.