CATHY's weekly letter from Zimbabwe.
Burn out Saturday 21 January 2006.
Dear Family and Friends,
A friend recently sent an email describing how activists manage to cope in circumstances where fear, stress, insecurity and unrest continue for long periods of time. Determination, principle and routine, seem to be about the most important factors to consider.
As the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, more and more activists seem to be falling silent or just disappearing from sight. The recent split of the MDC has left most Zimbabweans feeling alone, betrayed and desperate about how to cope and which way to turn. It is now very difficult to keep depression and despair at bay and prevent "burn-out".
Our lives have been in turmoil for six years and many days it seems as if nothing will ever be the same again. Houses for sale are now quoted in billions of dollars, those for rent are in the multi millions, a visit to a doctor is two million dollars and the smallest handful of basic groceries carried in one plastic bag easily costs a million. The horror of this reality comes quickly when you know that an ordinary teacher for example, or a nurse, takes home only five million dollars. The men and women entrusted with educating our children and saving our lives can not afford to live in Zimbabwe any more.In homes across the country municipal accounts for January have just arrived and they have left residents absolutely staggering in disbelief. In my home town the municipal charges have increased overnight by almost six hundred percent. We should be saying, in disgust and outrage that we will not pay for services not being provided - street lights that don't work, garbage that is not collected, water that is filthy or roads that are collapsing. But we do not; without brave and strong leadership we are a country and a population afraid and so instead we search desperately for ways to survive, to find the money and to pay for almost non existent services.
In the very early mornings you see the real people of Zimbabwe going out to do whatever they can in these wet January days. Men and women and even children who should be in school but can't afford to attend anymore. They go to little roadside gardens to dig and weed maize, beans and pumpkins - crops which are hungry for fertilizer and whose meagre yields will be dramatically reduced when the night time thieves start coming around and helping themselves. Other people go out into the bush to pull down tree branches for fuel wood or they go collecting mushrooms and wild fruits - to eat and to sell. One day after the other, one foot in front of the other we carry on, struggling, praying, hoping - we cannot afford to burn out.