Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cathy Buckle's Letter from Zimbabwe !


15th August, 2009.

Dear Family and Friends,

A growing number of analysts are starting to say that the "honeymoon is over" for Zimbabwe's unity government. For the last six months the very long suffering Zimbabweans have been patient, very patient. After living through nine years of violence, hunger, disease, poverty and oppression, everyone wanted to try and make this botched up and hugely over-staffed government work.

"Its a transitional" stage, we were told by our MP's in March, April and May.

"Be Patient!" they urged, " in June and July. "The collapse is widespread, the corruption rampant and change is going to take time."

At a local level services remain largely non existent - garbage iss till not collected, street lights don't work, roads are full of potholes and water supplies are scarce.

At a business level conditions continue to be extremely precarious. For the last three months the NEC (National Employment Council) have been announcing new wage levels for employees in the business sector.They are demanding increases for workers of 40% in some sectors, 50%in others and are saying that new wage rates are to be backdated by 2,3 and even 4 months. Employers are saying that if the wage levelsare enforced they'll have no option but to make half their staff redundant and reduce business by 50%. Employees say they understand on the one hand but threaten to strike on the other. It's a timebomb.

At a professional level government doctors have finally reached tipping point and gone on strike. After a minimum of five years university and hospital training and working very long hours with negligible equipment and facilities, they've said enough is enough.They say they will not continue working for 170 US dollars (106British pounds) a month.

Government teachers are very close to withdrawing their services too.Three or more years of tertiary education, teacher training, classroom experience and every afternoon of every school day spent supervising or travelling to one sporting event or another, teachers are very disgruntled. In return for their labour they are currently earning only 140 US dollars (87 British pounds) a month.

To put all this into perspective are two pictures:

First is the driver of the truck which killed the Prime Minister'swife, Mrs Susan Tsvangirai. The truck driver was reportedly earning 300 British pounds (US$ 480) a month at the time of the accident.(for which he was fined US 200. ) A truck driver earning almost double the salary of a doctor?

Secondly are the new NEC rates for security workers. A man standing at the gate of a complex lifting a boom across the road for vehicles to enter is now earning 140 US dollars a month, before transport, lighting and housing allowances. A gate guard earning more than a teacher? Zimbabwe's priorities are confused and patience grows ever thinner.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy



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