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


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"Go Away"
October 16, 2010, 12:32 pm

 

 

Dear Family and Friends,

On a sweltering October day I took a friend to his home in a rural village. It was midday when we left the nearby town and we were loaded down with maize seed, fertilizer, fencing wire, a banana tree, bicycle and a number of bags and boxes. It was one of those days that are so hot, you feel as if you are melting. A day when clothes are dry almost as soon as you hang them on the washing line; when you burn your feet on the sand if you dare walk barefoot. In the deep shade under the newly green Msasa trees, the temperature was 36 degrees Centigrade; in the full sun my thermometer raced up to 46 degrees. It’s that time of year when all we can think of is heat and all we long for is rain; desperately, breathlessly, we look up, in anticipation.

The only route to my friend’s home in the village, his kumusha, meant travelling past my own farm – the one taken over by militant youths and drunk, drugged men a decade ago. The one whose Title Deeds I still own and for which I have never been paid a single cent of compensation for. It wasn’t just the heat of the weather that made my hands sweaty and clammy as I turned onto the first familiar road.

Under a glaring blue sky without even a smudge of cloud, I travelled through what used to be my home neighbourhood. I knew the twists and turns of the road, looked for familiar rocky outcrops, anticipated the deep drifts of loose sand on the verges which accumulate in the same places every year. The names and faces of all the people who had lived and farmed here flashed into my mind as I passed their homes. I could hear their voices and their laughter and remember the embracing welcome that was always waiting whenever I visited. Beautiful homes, gorgeous gardens and everywhere the signs of production and busy farm life: men working in fields and on fence lines; tractors trundling backwards and forwards; big flocks of sheep and goats, herds of beef and dairy cows – all with their heads down, on irrigated pastures, or in troughs filled with hay, mashanga (maize plant residue) and silage.   

In my minds eye it was so comforting and familiar but in reality it has all become so ugly and alien.  

A magnificent purple bougainvillea against the side wall of a farmhouse was the only thing left to look at as I passed a neighbours home. Parts of the roof of the house have gone, the timber and beams have gone; the walls are grey, the gutters gone, security fencing and farm fencing all gone.

On both sides of the road all these seized farms are deserted. No crops, no livestock, no workers, no fences,

We passed a man pushing a wheelbarrow, loaded and wobbling under the weight of a newly cut indigenous tree, the bark still mottled with grey and green lichen. Behind him a woman followed, thin and gaunt looking, she had a toddler wrapped in a towel, tied onto her back. On her head, resting on a small cloth pad, the woman carried a dozen long branches, tied together with strips of bark. They were walking past what had once been a prolific dairy farm where the view had always been of fat, shining black and white Holstein cows, their udders heavy with milk. Now the view is of nothing. Eight years after the farm was taken over by a Government Minister, the view is of black ground and burnt bush. Deserted fields, no sign of workers or machinery, no ploughing, planting or livestock. All along the roadside the fences have gone, the internal paddock fences have gone, the once lush pastures have gone, the contours protecting the soil have gone.     

Farm after farm we passed and the view was the same: derelict, burnt, unploughed and no one out working in the lands. “Where is everyone?’ I asked my friend.

“Now that they aren’t being given all the inputs by government, they are just sitting,” he said.

“But they’ve had ten years,” I responded. “Surely by now they can afford to put in their own crops and produce something on these farms they took?”

My question had no answer.

My heart ached at the sight of so many tree plantations that have been ravaged: felled or burnt. Trees planted by so many of us that farmed along those roads: trees for fuelling tobacco barns; trees for shade, for firewood for staff, for poles for fences.

What I saw of my own farm is too painful to write about.

Arriving at the village, my friend’s family were waiting with big smiles and a warm welcome. We unloaded the makings of their summer crop and parted with handshakes and wishes for good, gentle, soaking rain. As I drove away the chant of patriotism during the rescue of Chilean miners filled my head: “Chi, chi, chi, le, le, le.”

What can Zimbabwe’s chant of patriotism be, I wondered All I could think of was the angry, alarming calls of the Grey Lourie so familiar at this time of year: “Go Away, Go Away,” it screams again and again. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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