CATHY BUCKLE'S LETTTER FROM ZIMBABWE!
Dear Family and Friends,
The prolonged effects of trying to survive the highest inflation in the world are grinding us down. When you ask people how they are, I mean how they really are, they say they are tired, they can't sleep, the worries just go round and round and there is no relief in sight.
Almost every day the propaganda machine here cranks out the usual rant and rave about how private companies and businesses are putting their prices up. Thes tate media say that these people are "sabotaging the economy" and "fuelling inflation" and they keenly name names of who has been arrested or fined that day. No sensible or even rational explanations are given as to how a businessman can stay afloat when he is ordered by the state to sell goods for a lower price than he paid for them. Blind adherence to government stipulated prices is dictated and common sense does not seem to enter into it. The state media says nothing, however, about the price rises and complete lack of ethics and fair trading in government organizations and companies. It seems they are exempt from obeying their own rules.
You don't ever post a letter here now without first checking how much postage rates are. They change - every month! Last month it cost 60 dollars to post a local letter, this month that same stamp costs 100 dollars and no one arrests the Postmaster! (And please remember that you have to add three zeroes onto every price in order to get the real costs - before the convenient removal of digits a couple of months ago ) Postage rates now go up so often that it is very rare to buy a local stamp which actually has a price printed on it. Local stamps these days just bear the words: 'Standard Postage.' It is not clear what standard is at hand, so we just take it to mean 'inflation standard.'
Parents all around are already beginning to panic about how they are going to afford government school fees in January. One friend I spoke to said his daughters fees at a government school were two and half thousand dollars this term and were increasing to 15 thousand for the January term - an increase of six hundred percent.
Then we come to water. In my home town on the same day that the water billswere hand delivered there was a national news report on the colour and qualityof the water in the area. Actually, to say the bill is "hand delivered" is a bit silly because in reality the flimsy bit of paper, not stapled closed or even folded in half, is just thrown through the gate onto muddy ground! The news report said, yes - it was true that raw sewerage was flowing into the dam which supplies the town with water and yes, it was true the pump was also broken. Appropriate film footage of foul brown slush pouring into our only source of drinking water and a man kicking the broken pump, illustrated the report. For this disgusting service there are no apologies or medical assistance, refunds have not been given and the costs for deteriorating service continues to go up and not down.
Then comes the mess that is called electricity. It is now not unusual to see factories working at night. They do so, not because they are working double shifts to keep up with demand, but because at night there is less chance of machines shutting down in the incessant power cuts. This week a notice appeared in the state run Herald newspaper advising people to conserve electricity promising that if they did: "the streets will be safer with better lighting." Oh Right, you say, what street lights! In a four kilometre journey in a built up residential area, passing one church, one hospital, one nursery school, one junior school and scores of private homes, just six street lights are working. It has been like this for over a year. Knowing that less than five percent of our street lights presently work, does not offer much of an incentive to save power. I am sure the fifty or so families near me who had no electricity for three days this weeks, feel likewise!
There is good news from Zimbabwe this week. It is raining, our vegetable gardens are growing and so are the sounds of protest. For the next fifteen days people are being called on to bang pots and make noise for a few minutes at exactly 8 pm every night. This week there were five minute noise protests during the lunch hour in Harare and Bulawayo and prayer protest gatherings too. Stormclouds are gathering. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.
Copyright cathy buckle 25 November 2006.My books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are both available at:email@example.comRecent letters can be read at:http:/africantears.netfirms.com