Saturday 30th April 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
There has not been a single day in the last week when we have had uninterrupted
supplies of both water and electricity in Marondera town. The water cuts are
unexpected and unexplained and trying to find anyone in authority prepared
to talk about the problem, the reason or the expected duration, is a complete
waste of time.
In other parts of the country the water situation has reached crisis proportions.
According to even the state owned television news, there are now densely populated
areas of Harare which have had no water for two weeks. On Thursday night ZBC
TV news showed shocking film footage of scores of desperate urban people crowding
around a shallow and unprotected well waiting their turn to fill containers
from a clouded pool of water. It is an untenable situation and there are reports
that some schools are now having to close less than a fortnight into the winter
term as there is simply no water.
The electricity cuts are now regular occurrences and invariably at times when
demand is at its highest. A casual telephone enquiry about the power cuts to
the local electricity offices this week resulted in a flustered employee who
was clearly taken by surprise when actually asked to explain why there was
no power. Some stuttered and mumbled excuses about insufficient maintenance,
no money for spares and no foreign currency were eventually proffered but it
wasn't convincing. "What about the hydro electricity we produce at Kariba?" I
asked, "the generators powered by the coal we mine at Hwange?" I questioned,
but there were no answers and you could almost hear the man squirming on the
phone. Everyone in positions of authority in this country, no matter at what
level, now seems to take it for granted that they will not be held answerable
or accountable and so they stutter and mumble and use the standard Zimbabwean
excuse saying "I am not the one".
Marondera, like every other town and city across the country has completely
run out of fuel this week and there is a feeling of both panic and anger at
this disgraceful state of affairs.Shortages of basic food products such as
sugar, salt, cooking oil, roller meal and margarine will now be exacerbated
as deliveries dry up altogether with no fuel for trucks. Trying to find basic
food in one huge wholesaler in Marondera this week, I started counting empty
shelves but gave up when I got to 72. I was simply looking for foods we produce
in Zimbabwe like sugar, pasta and cooking oil but my search and counting of
empty shelves was just too absurd and I left. And, all this in the same week
as Zimbabwe took delivery of two new Chinese passenger planes and was chosen
to sit on the UN Human Rights Commission for the next three years. The hypocrisy
and absurdity of it all, is overwhelming.
Until next week, love cathy.
Not even smoke
Saturday 23rd April 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
Things have deteriorating noticeably in Zimbabwe in the three weeks since the
ruling party declared they had won the elections. Prices have shot up, basic
foodstuffs are becoming harder and harder to find and the fuel supply is sporadic.
Water from taps has become a luxury and the state owned television this week
gave us a long story to explain that as winter approaches electricity cuts
are going to be regular occurrences.
This week the MDC finally gave up their prolonged diplomatic game and openly
declared that the South Africans were not honest brokers in mediating in the
Zimbabwean crisis. They said that it was now apparent that the South African
stance of "Quiet Diplomacy" was in a reality just a "package of lies and pretence." The
statement of this sad fact and an end to the nonsensical diplomatic pretence,
comes as a relief to Zimbabweans. We had watched with shock and disgust the
line taken by the SABC TV news presenter reporting from Zimbabwe during the
election period and few people believed they had remained impartial.
Zimbabweans feel so utterly betrayed by our African neighbours and at least
now the talk has become straightforward and to the point. By all accounts there
are probably less than 20 or 30 000 white people left in Zimbabwe and it is
matter of continental shame that our regional neighbours cannot and will not
see the suffering of 11 million ordinary people but choose to keep on and on
hiding behind the now 25 year old "colonialist" scapegoat
It is very hard to be optimistic about anything at the moment but there is
a joke doing the rounds which is particularly appropriate as we hurtle backwards
into the dark ages. Using a stick, an old shoelace and a bent paper clip a
hungry man crafts a crude fishing rod and goes down to try his luck at the
river. Against all the odds he manages to catch a small fish and he hurries
home to his wife with the first meat they've seen for weeks. He asks his wife
to grill the fish immediately but she says she can't because they are having
an extended power cut. Then he suggests that she uses the paraffin stove instead
and poaches the fish but she can't do that either because there is no paraffin
in the country for the stove. The man goes off to collect firewood and says
now they can fry the fish but that is also impossible because there is neither
margarine nor cooking oil in the country. In despair, the hungry man suggests
they simply boil the fish but that too is impossible as there is no water in
the taps. Resigned to just smoking the fish on an open fire, the hungry man
bends to light the sticks but cannot even do that as the country even ran out
of matches this week. In disgust he gets up, grabs the fish and takes it back
to the river. The fish slides into the water and turns back to wave a fin at
the hungry man and says: " Well, you voted for them."
Until next week, with love, cathy.
Warming the same seat
Saturday 16th April 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
On lamp posts, telephone poles, street signs, walls and trees in Marondera
town, the tattered remnants of Zimbabwe's election have not been cleared away
a fortnight after the event. Ninety nine percent of the posters advertise the
ruling party and say: "We are proud to be Zimbabweans on our land" but to the
hundreds of unemployed young men who sit on walls and pavements around the
town, the words offer no comfort.
For two days this week large parts of Marondera town have had no water or just
an explosive air lock followed by a rusty trickle and it has become common
to see women walking with 20 litre plastic drums on their heads going to find
water so that they can cook food, wash clothes and keep their children clean.
I am sure that these women draw little comfort from the incessant propaganda
about "our land". Urban women, living in towns like Marondera with a population
of almost a million people, suddenly find themselves having to revert to practices
common to their mothers and grandmothers who lived in remote rural areas of
the country. It is a sad indictment of a country which celebrates 25 years
of independence this week.
A fortnight after the election there is no maize meal, sugar, salt or eggs
in Marondera's shops so there can't be many mums and housewives getting solace
from the posters about "our land." For a brief moment there was a little buzz
of interest this week at the opening of parliament. That excitement didn't
last long though because the House opened and even though some of the Zanu
PF MP's had lost their constituencies in the election, they regained their
places when they were appointed by the President using his 30 reserved parliamentary
seats. The House opened, the MP's were sworn in and then, with one swift "The
Ayes have it", Parliament was adjourned to the 28th of June - a long two months
away. President Mugabe announced his new Cabinet this week and that too has
almost no changes, offers no inspiration and promises yet more of the same.
Even the Minister of Agriculture who hasn't been able to secure food for the
people for the last four years is still warming the same seat in Zimbabwe's
Perhaps the only thing that really caused a stir this week was the news that
six new fighter jets have arrived in the country - in defence of "our land" no
Until next time, with love, cathy.
Been there, done that
Saturday 9th April 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
Feelings of despair and disbelief persist a week after Zimbabwe's elections.
I still have a faint pink stain on the sides and under the nail of the little
finger of my left hand. This is a remnant of the ink which was used to mark
me as having voted and when I look at the stain now, I can hardly believe how
quickly elation and hope were replaced with anger and betrayal as the results
were announced. Every day since the elections the state have crowed about peace,
democracy and political maturity but they have said nothing about 3 million
Zimbabweans living outside the country who were not allowed to vote or a tenth
of the voters inside the country who were turned away when they got to polling
stations on the 31st March. Every news bulletin begins with a countdown of
how many days are left before the 25th anniversary of independence and democracy
in the country but then the reports that follow do not tell of the 257 unarmed
women of WOZA who were arrested for praying nor why such an act was indicative
of, in their words, "a mature democracy".
In the week that followed the election result, the huge sense of disappointment
has been almost too much to bear. The MDC took many days to find their voices
and when they did it was to say they had evidence showing massive electoral
fraud and figures which displayed huge numerical discrepancies in more than
30 constituencies. The government of course dispute the claims and the bulk
of the South African observers had already made their claims of peace and freedom
and so nothing has changed, we have heard all this before, been there, done
that and got the T shirt. None of this gives ordinary Zimbabweans hope. Neither
the outrage of the MDC nor the arrogant crowing of Zanu PF has done a thing
to actually help ordinary Zimbabweans this week. It hasn't put medicines back
in hospitals, kids back in schools, food on our tables or clothes on our backs.
In the last seven days since the elections the prices of basic goods have increased
by between 50 and 100%. Margarine, sugar and cooking oil have disappeared from
the shelves and petrol queues have started again.
Across the country many thousands of people made so many sacrifices this last
fortnight, giving so much and showing such courage as they worked for democracy
and now the feeling of betrayal is palpable. Along with millions of others,
I watched the funeral of Pope John Paul the second this week and his life long
call to oppressed people to not be afraid is most apt for Zimbabweans struggling
to see hope and light this week.
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