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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

Mushroom sombrero
January 12, 2013, 9:41 am


Dear Family and Friends,

Greeting senior allies on the tarmac at Harare airport when he returned unexpectedly early from his annual Christmas holiday in the Far East, Mr Mugabe said that number thirteen was considered by everyone else to be unlucky but not for Zanu PF. 2013 was going to be their lucky year he said.

Thirteen years after life, stability, the economy and food security began to unravel in Zimbabwe, we are again a country in waiting.

We are a nation holding our breath this January 2013; watching, waiting, dreading and growing increasingly uneasy by the day. So much has to happen in the next few months starting with a long overdue draft constitution which has to be printed, published and released to the public. Then there has to be a referendum on the draft but no one yet knows which voters roll will be used for that vote. Will it be the present one which the electoral commission admitted in November contained the names of thousands of dead people along with numerous other discrepancies and at least two and a half thousand people aged between 101 and 110. So many Zimbabweans over a hundred years old is cause for much derision in a country where the average life expectancy is only 44 years.

The snail’s pace of the constitution and confusion of voter eligibility became even more muddled when a new-voter registration drive started at New Year. A few days later it stopped; then we were told there was no money for the voter registration exercise, and then that voter registration had been cancelled until funds were released.

While this went on big crowds gathered outside run down government offices. Not allowed to queue inside people have to stand in the mud, the rain and the puddles waiting, waiting, waiting to be allowed in or to be told what’s going on.

Then there’s the hugely contentious issue of whether the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who have been struck off the voters roll in the last seven years will be allowed to vote after being classified as ‘aliens’ if their parents were not born in Zimbabwe. Or the estimated 3 million Zimbabweans living in exile in the Diaspora – will they be allowed to vote? The same questions apply to the elections which have to happen before the 29th October 2013. Who will be able to vote, will electoral laws have been changed, who will be allowed to observe and monitor the polls and will we have a repeat of

2008 when it took five weeks for the results to be announced and winners were forced to share power with losers? Our painfully long story about constitutions, referendums and elections has all become so murky that I turned my attention to the weird mushroom that’s been growing in my garden since early January prompting strange comparisons to our lucky/unlucky Zimbabwe of 2013.

It started when a thick stemmed, round topped, creamy white mushroom emerged into the light of day in a place where a fungus had never been seen before. With thick white flakes on its cap and peeling sections on its stem, it developed into the most unexpected creature in the following days As the mushroom grew taller the cap grew bigger and then flattened out with a hump in the middle until it looked more like a Mexican sombrero than a mushroom. The cap soon completely overshadowed the stem as it got still bigger and its thick white flakes disappeared to be replaced by dark brown giraffe-pattern blotches. When the mushroom stood 18 centimetres (7 “) high and its cap was bigger than a large dinner plate and measured 25 centimetres across (10 “), the mushroom began to expose its real self. The gills curled outwards exposing an 8 centimetre (3”) thick fleshy belly which pushed the edges of the cap up. Rain collected in the new lip, the blotches dissolved turning the rain puddle in the mushroom brown and new markings began to develop, looking like peeling sunburn. What had started out as a promisingly unusual, round flaky mushroom had turned first into a stylish sombrero and then a top heavy monster.

With its head too big to be supported by its stem, the mushroom is destined to melt into a gelatinous puddle of sludge but somehow I can’t bring myself to destroy it. It will have to do that all by itself. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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