Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

Seventh Spring !

Saturday 25th August 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

The view from Zimbabwe's window is absolutely gorgeous this week. Evidence of spring and renewal is all around us. The sky is cloudless and blue, the temperatures are rising and the blue headed lizards are out basking in the sun again. The indigenous woodlands that have survived the army of winter woodcutters are breathtaking as the Msasa trees go from red and burgundy to caramel and a shiny butterscotch colour before finally preparing to shade our land for another year. After nearly two months of government price controls and the ugly mess they have created, the beauty and warmth around us is the only thing keeping many people sane in this seventh spring of Zimbabwe's turmoil. This week, after a long silence, government inflation figures were announced and, as expected, the price controls have not helped at all - exactly the opposite in fact. Inflation which stood at 4530% in May, soared to 7634% in July.
I went to visit an elderly couple this week and we exchanged delights about the season and the climate and then they showed me the letter which had just arrived. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the news about their pension. The letter was from a senior executive in one of the largest pension fund companies in the country and read as follows:"We confirm that you are entitled to a monthly pension of $0.85 cents. This pension is currently suspended. As the monthly pension has now been eroded by inflation, the company has now decided to pay out the balance of your pension as a lump sum. The lump sum payable to you is: $2.9 million dollars."
I can't think of words that adequately describe the outrage of this. A monthly pension representing a person's working life and the result of years of payments being now worth just 85 Zimbabwe cents. There is not a single thing you can buy for eighty five cents in Zimbabwe, not even one match stick; in fact there aren't any coins in circulation in the country anymore. The couple told me they had agreed to accept the lump sum payment because they really had no other option but they knew that even this amount would only pay for 4 days of their board and lodge.
Young or old there is just one way to survive these bleak times in Zimbabwe and that is one day at a time. We have all been forced into short term thinking and even shorter term planning as we try and keep food on the table in these days of government induced famine. There is still almost no food to buy in our shops - no oil, margarine, flour, rice, pasta, maize meal, biscuits, cold drinks or sugar. No soap, washing powder, candles or matches. No meat, eggs, dairy products or confectionary. In a weeks time our children go back to school but even this fact does not seem to inspire our government into action. How do they think schools are going to feed the children who stay for lunch or are boarders? How do they think that parents who have been forced to run their businesses at a loss for the last two months are going to be able to even pay school fees? How do they think pensioners can survive on eighty five cents a month? There are no answers to the questions at any level.
Even more worrying is that glorious as the weather is, it is almost planting time again and yet there is no seed to buy in our empty shops and our day at a time thinking caused by our governments day at a time planning is condemning us to even harder times ahead. It hardly bears thinking about and so we try not to and hope and pray that there may be an end to this, just an end.

Until next week, thanks for reading ,
love cathy.

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