Saturday, May 28, 2005

HEARTBREAKING NEWS FROM CATHY

Dear Family and Friends,
This week I find myself as a stranger in my home town. Familiar faces have gone, familiar stopping places have been demolished. Men and women who would nod, wave and smile as I passed, have disappeared and I feel an overwhelming sadness at what has happened to them and to their struggle to make a decent living in these most desperate of times. Around the corner from my home a woman used to sit on a concrete block with her vegetables laid out for sale on a piece of cardboard in front of her: butternuts, tomatoes and onions. She has gone, chased away by Police. At the end of the road a young woman, sometimes with her little boy in his bright red jersey, sat on the ground under a tree with a few things to sell to passers by. She had pushed four sticks into the ground and fashioned a little table to hold her products: popcorn, matches and vegetables. Often her little boy would smile and wave when I passed by, but they have gone, chased away by the Police. Outside the junior school four women waited every day to sell their wares to parents and children when the last bell of the day rang. They sold frozen drinks, toffees, peppermints and bubble gum balls. They have gone, chased away by Police. Opposite the hospital eight or ten women, many with children at their feet or babies on their backs, stood selling fruits and vegetables to nursing staff, patients and visitors. Their stalls were substantial and made of treated gum poles with thick plastic sheeting overhead to protect them and their produce from the weather. Here you could buy bananas and apples, avocado pears, cucumbers, cabbages, tomatoes and almost any fruit or vegetable in season. They have gone, chased away by Police. On the main road through Marondera town there were at least a dozen places where young men stood with pockets of oranges, potatoes and butternuts forsale and on upturned crates they had jars of golden nectar which they were adamant was honey but we all knew was syrup. They too have gone, chased away by Police. Near the main petrol station a group of men used to weave baskets, stools and wicker chairs which they sold on the roadside along with hand woven rugs and mats. For years those men have been there, their fingers twisting and pulling the canes into intricate designs with such skill that it was a delight to watch them work and an insult to bargain with them over their prices when you knew how much work had gone into the finished product. These men too have gone, chased away by Police. Outside the main Post Office the woman with her battered enamel basin crowded with bananas and twisted cones of newspaper filled with ground nuts or nyimo beans has gone, chased away by the Police. In this case out of sight to the authorities is not out of mind to us, the ordinary people. What I am describing is the tip of the iceberg. In towns and cities across the country the Police are embarking on what they call a clean up campaign. It is not only street vendors who are having their stalls demolished and goods confiscated but also people who the police say have built illegal houses in illegal areas. On Thursday night I watched in shock as the main TV news carried film footage of a crowd of riot police standing watching a bulldozer demolishing "illegal houses" . The camera focused on three young children, one with a school satchel on her back,watching the brick house being torn down; the walls were plastered and painted blue and I cried inside knowing exactly how it felt to have the place you call home stolen from you. It is winter here in Zimbabwe. Last night the temperature in Marondera dropped to just seven degrees Centigrade. In Harare last night over 500 families spent their second night out in the open as their homes had been demolished by Police. I have seen such cruelty and such a lack of compassion and humanity this week that I cannot imagine which way now for Zimbabwe. No one can understand what this is about or why it is happening now.There are already so few voices speaking out for the desperate ordinary people in Zimbabwe that it is with overwhelming sadness that we heard this week that Short Wave Radio Africa is about to stop broadcasting as they have run out of money. Through SW Radio Africa ordinary people could tell of their own struggle to survive and for those of us who have listened faithfully every night, I do not know how, now, we will find the courage to go on without our voice of hope. We feel more alone now than ever before. Until next week, with love, cathy.Copyright cathy buckle 28th May 2005.http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books on the Zimbabwean crisis, "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" areavailable from: orders@africabookcentre.com ; www.africabookcentre.com ;www.amazon.co.uk ; in Australia and New Zealand:johnmreed@johnreedbooks.com.au ; Africa: www.kalahari.netwww.exclusivebooks.com
Dont know about everyone else who has read this last letter from Cathy, but I have to say I was in tears for all the good folks trying to make ends meet. How CAN this be happening? Why cant we care enough to actually DO something for them? Why does the United Nations not demand that BASIC human rights are observed? Why does the world turn a BLIND eye to what is going on in Zimbabwe? WHY, OH WHY, OH WHY, OH WHY........

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