Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe !

It's time !

Saturday 26th September 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I was about 8th in a queue in a supermarket this week and kept looking to the front of the line impatiently to see why things were moving so slowly. I was waiting to buy airtime for a mobile phone and suddenly the reality of what I was doing struck home. I'd recently heard from someone who wanted "the real scoop" about daily life in Zimbabwe and in fact here it was, right in this queue.

Less than a year ago I wrote about this very same supermarket which sometimes used to open at 9 or 10 in the morning, some days it didn't open at all because it had nothing to sell. Less than a year ago huge supermarkets had only cabbages, condoms or bundles of firewood for sale. Now the shelves are brimming with goods again and if we have money there is food to buy.

This time last year if there was a queue in, or outside a supermarket, you were literally taking your life in your hands if you joined it. Queues for bread, sugar or maize meal were controlled by riot police. People were waiting outside supermarkets all night for the chance to get a single loaf of bread or little plastic packet of sugar. At opening time thousands of people would surge forward, some were injured and others even died in the stampedes.

This time last year we were still dealing in Zimbabwe dollars - worthless paper in denominations of billions and trillions which had expiry dates. We were queuing outside banks for days at a time to be allowed to withdraw miniscule amounts of our own money. Amounts that weren't enough to even buy a bar of soap or a cup of tea. This dreadful time is also now a thing of the past and the banks are deserted places because most people don't have enough money to save and don't trust the banks who so recently treated their customers and their life savings with such casual contempt.

The reality of life in Zimbabwe this October 2009 is that the basics are back: food, fuel and bank notes. Yes the food is all imported and the bank notes are American but they have given such relief to an existence that had become almost unbearable. Everyone, without exception, knows that the bank crisis, the currency crisis and the food crisis were bought on by bad politics and bad governance and we also know who fixed their mess and what courage and determination it took.

And now, as we are just a fortnight away from the rainy season, it is time for the next battle of the basics to be fought and won. Now its time for Zimbabwe to start growing its own food again. Bad politics and bad governance forced us to import our every need and now its time for the brave and determined people who gave us back money food and fuel, to give us back functional farming and our own food on tables. We've wasted eight good rainy seasons and its time to turn the corner.

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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