Sleeping Like a Hare Millions Billions Trillions    
African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

Cracks and crevices and holes in the ground
October 30, 2010, 12:23 pm



Dear Family and Friends,

The first real rain of the season arrived in the last week of October. It emerged from low purple clouds highlighted by vivid streaks of white, crackling, lightning. After six dry months, we sat below, expectant, panting, longing! It was a typically African storm, the rain pounding down so hard that in minutes everything was afloat. Sheets of brown water covered the ground in a few minutes and when they started to run, they carried away the detritus of half a year: soil, leaves, sticks, pods and everything not physically attached. You couldn’t hear yourself think over the noise of the rain banging in the gutters and hammering on the roof. The choking dust of months was washed off trees, walls and windows and in half an hour it was all over.

Thirty millimetres of rain (just over an inch) had fallen and from the cracks and crevices and holes in the ground, life emerged. The voices of a myriad frogs rang out from every direction: some sweet and melodious, others shrill and urgent and then there were the deep, guttural croaks of the big boys. Shiny black Chongololos (millipedes) came from unknown places and were soon everywhere, their millions of red legs moving in a strange undulating wave. All sorts of creeping, crawling, running and flying insects appeared. Some welcome ones like sausage flies and flying ants; some strange ones like rhino beetles and some terrifying ones like huge rain spiders and other furry coated, long legged beasties.

So life returned to Zimbabwe and for the residents of my home town this first rain brought a unanimous, almost audible sigh of relief as we ran outside with buckets, bowls and baths. For five days the whole town had been without water. Dry taps, empty geysers, hollow cisterns and echoing tanks. Not a drop of water in the entire town; not for schools or hospitals, industry or residential areas. This water crisis had been months, years in the making. Corroded pipes, collapsing pumps and the main town dam visibly polluted with running sewage. We’ve been limping on, getting water for two or three hours a day if we are lucky; water that is always discoloured, often greasy and smelly and water that you never, never, drink before boiling and filtering.  The local Municipality chose not to warn residents that we were about to have a major crisis and then not to tell us what was going on or how long it may be before we got water again. The Municipality sent out the monthly accounts, delivered by hand, door to door but didn’t bother to even attach a note explaining the water crisis or advising us what to do. And so we all did our own thing.

Outside gates around the town huge lines of people gathered with bottles, buckets and containers – these were the houses where owners had boreholes and were prepared to share. School children each had to take a 5 litre bottle of water to school every day. The roads in the mornings were filled with children carrying satchels and suitcases and parents and relations following behind carrying their water rations.  The main bakery in the town drew water into bowsers from a private borehole in order to keep producing bread. In vleis and open areas wells were dug by desperate residents of the town. Shallow holes with unprotected walls and uncovered surfaces. Morning, noon and night women with buckets and 20 litre containers trekked backwards and forwards to these open pools to draw water

With no water for toilets people were defecating in the bush, the same bush were wells were being opened up; the same bush where people have been dumping litter because the Municipality have stopped collecting it again. As the days passed people began doing their laundry alongside, or even in, the open wells. Some residents complained to selfish women that they were soiling the water for everyone else, telling them to carry water away and wash clothes at home. The complaints were met with the same absurd rhetoric of life in Zimbabwe: critics were accused of being MDC supporters.

How we didn’t get an outbreak of cholera or another major water borne disease is a miracle. I pray that I am not speaking too soon as our water crisis continues and our uncollected waste and filth festers and rots and runs down into those open wells.  Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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