Monday, July 20, 2009

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe !


Dear Family and Friends,

On the side of the main highway near Harare there's a hand painted
sign on a piece of battered tin. 'Bricks 4 Sale,' it says, the
message wedged into a forked stick. Standing in a forlorn heap
alongside are the very bricks. Its a sad little assortment of rubble:
lumps of red, odd sized, second hand bricks with eroded edges, cracks
and chips and some even with splotches of white paint on them.

A few kilometres away a very battered blue pick up truck with no
number plates and a seriously twisted chassis is below a bridge
across the main road collecting water from a stream. The stream bank
is full of litter - plastic bags and drinks bottles, broken glass and
beer tins. In the back of the truck there's a huge white plastic
that must hold a thousand or more litres. Three women and
four men are working in a line with buckets, pouring murky water from
the polluted stream into the water tank.

A little further along the road a crooked tree branch is propped up
with chunks of cement, a thin plank nailed onto the top. Standing in
a line along the plank are six old plastic jam jars. They have no
lids and are half filled with a murky brown liquid. "HUNEY" is the
sign that's written in charcoal on a stone nearby.

A group of soldiers stand right in the road trying to wave down a
lift and as you swerve to avoid them you see how very young they are,
almost children still and yet wearing army camouflage. No private cars
stop, no one knows who's who these days. The big 4x4's flick past,
windows closed, doors locked, huge aerials swinging. On their car
doors are the stickers announcing that they are the people keeping
Zimbabwe alive, the international aid organizations.

Strange scenes are everywhere in our broken country after a decade of
collapse, even in upmarket suburbs. Rounding a corner in a quiet
residential neighbourhood its not unusual to come across a great
gathering of people. At the hub is whichever house in the street is
fortunate enough to have a borehole, and whose owner is gracious
enough to share. A hosepipe over a wall fills countless buckets, tins
and twenty litre plastic containers. Patiently men and women wait for
a share, some carrying their containers in aching hands, others
pushing wheelbarrows and hand carts.

Even with such abnormality around us, not to mention the disgusting
scenes of hooliganism at the constitutional conference recently,
there are little glimmers of light coming into view. The removal of
20 US cents worth of government levies from fuel is one, the lifting
of import duty on newspapers, mobile phones and computers is another.
A breath of fresh air is blowing into our country and lets hope it
turns into a gale and blows away what newspaper owner Wilf Mbanga
calls Yesterday's Men.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love



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