Sunday, May 03, 2009

Cathy Buckle's Letter from Zimbabwe !

Dust and rust !

Saturday 2nd May 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

This month's municipal accounts are the first printed bills we've had from the local council for eight months. The accounts were hand delivered, door to door, post box to post box in residential suburbs. This, believe it or not, is cause for comment!

When a neighbour told me to look in my post box, I laughed and said that was a waste of time because nothing has gone into my home post box for nearly a year. The Post Office don't deliver any letters anymore - who knows why. The bank's have long since given up sending out statements to their customers and other street delivered items like electricity, telephone and municipal accounts have fallen by the wayside in Zimbabwe's collapse. It's been so long since anything's gone into my post box that I had to use a stick to clear a way through the spiders webs and had to manoeuvre my hand carefully underneath a hanging hornets' nest. There, lying in the dust and rust was my municipal bill. A couple of hornets flew out and the nest shivered in warning and alarm as I carefully lifted out the piece of paper. No envelope, not stapled closed, not even folded discreetly, the municipal bill may as well as have stayed where it was for the information it contained.

"All charges are in US Dollars and you are expected to pay on time to avoid inconveniences," it said. The bill itemized municipal charges and included a Fire Levy. This was cause for much heated conversation in the street. "A Fire Levy," people said, "for what?". The last time a house burned down in our neighbourhood the fire engine didn't come, apparently because it was picking up sick people.
Another item on the bill causing rage is that of Public Street Lighting. For three years the street lights in our neighbourhood haven't worked so you can cross that charge off, everyone is saying. Then there's the one that makes us all furious: Refuse Removal. It's been over a year since our garbage has been collected. We burn what we can, because we have no choice, we bury what we can and we accumulate what's left. Piles of trash lie under trees, on roadsides and dumped on any vacant piece of land.

Water charges on the municipal account are cause for disgust and contempt by residents. As I write this letter we are going into our fourth day without water - not a drop anywhere in the whole town and none are spared, not schools, hospitals, old age homes, industry or residences. The absence of water for days at a time is just one of our nightmares and does not address the issue of raw sewage flowing into the dam our water is being drawn from. Not to mention the levy for the pipeline from the new dam that we've been paying for years and yet not a drop does it deliver, in fact the pipe is not yet even laid in the trench dug for it.

Needless to say, no one is paying the ludicrous amounts being charged by the municipality. Charges so high that they amount to three quarters of a civil servants entire monthly wage. Everyone is paying something but only a small token. We have been paying in US dollars for electricity, telephones and municipal services for three months and now its time to receive service.

The new sentiment sweeping over Zimbabwe, at all levels, is: You deliver, we pay. You fix, we pay. You maintain, we pay.

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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