Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cathy Buckle's Letter from Zimbabwe !

20th August.2009.
Dear Family and Friends,
Swine Flu has officially arrived in Zimbabwe. A ZBC TV news bulletinthis week reported that there were a number of confirmed cases ofswine flu in Mutare. The report said that people should not panic because hospitals were prepared, staff had been trained and information would soon be disseminated to private practitioners. Special attention is apparently going to be given to critical areas like the country's border posts.
This latter cannot come soon enough and I am sure that every poor soul who has had to endure the horrors of Beitbridge border post will agree with me. In the last few days I have met two Zimbabweans who have been through the Beitbridge border post this month. They say it is hell, a nightmare, a national disgrace, a shame on our country, a deep embarrassment to Zimbabwe. And this is being polite!
When you arrive at Beitbridge from South Africa you are overwhelmed by touts. Aggressive young men in their twenties who swarm around you and solicit bribes in order for you to proceed through the formalities. The touts control the speed and progress of everything: the queues, the forms, the stamps and signatures, the customs inspections and the final scrap of paper, the gate pass, that allows you get through the boom and into Zimbabwe. Both of the travellers I spoke to said they simply found it impossible to proceed without giving in to the demands for bribes. Every time they got near the counters in the border post the touts and their customers would push in ahead of them with great piles of papers and none of the officials on duty were interested in intervening, not immigration, security,customs or tax collectors. Touts appeared to be making an average of 500 Rand, or 50 US dollars per customer - half the month's pay of a trained teacher in Zimbabwe.
The toilets at the border are apparently a swamp, there is no toilet paper, no towels and no way at all to keep yourself clean. Everyone waits till they are through the border and then pull up on the roadside and relieve themselves in the bush. If we are to believe ZBC, it is into this madness of Beitbridge border post that there is going to be swine flu detection and control. Pardon the pun, but pigs might fly!
Zimbabwe's unity government has been in place for six months but it is still the thieves, con-men, blackmailers and bullies that are manning the entry points into our country. Until they are gone and until Zimbabwe can clean up the shop window to the country we haven't got a hope of controlling swine flu, of tempting tourists into the country or of getting any of the overflow of visitors from the 2010World Cup football games in South Africa. Its about time that some of our senior leaders went incognito to Zimbabwe's borders and saw the thieves and bullies holding tourists, visitors and returning residents to ransom.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy



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