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One hundred thousand dollar dinner
November 23, 2013, 9:22 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

After weeks of searing heat and endlessly bright blue skies, the rain finally arrived. In my home town for the past fortnight we’ve been recording temperatures of 32 degrees in the shade by ten in the morning and a staggering 47 degrees centigrade in direct sun. Everything about the weather this year has been strange with seasons running six weeks late and strange anomalies in nature such as Musasa trees which had virtually no pods - apparently a reflection of last year’s weather. The first real rain of the season came with a massive storm which drew ever closer and dropped purple clouds down so low you felt you could reach out and touch them. When the heavens opened a torrent descended: fifty millimetres (two inches) in the first hour and another forty millimetres overnight.

The next morning casualties and beneficiaries of the storm awaited discovery everywhere you looked.  A water-logged millipede (chongololo) being literally sucked dry by a swarm of a small, bright red beetles.  A butterfly wing in the wet sand; a hammerkop feasting on drowned beetles and sausage flies. An exposed owl whose roost had been washed out being mobbed by four crows coming at it from all directions. The aerial  fight was so fierce that you could hear the angry beak-clacking of the young eagle owl. A red winged lourie gorging on the remaining plums left clinging to the tree, the rest of the harvest lying windswept and waterlogged underfoot. A small chameleon heading determinedly across the soaked garden, obviously looking for a new safe place. The more the camera clicked, the angrier the chameleon got, hissing and displaying the bright orange insides of its mouth

It’s not just the first, fierce rain storm that’s aroused Zimbabwe’s attention this week. In an ever growing political storm there are incessant reports of infighting within Zanu PF as the succession race reaches fever pitch; we hear of death threats and plots, of rigging and fraud in their provincial party elections. Meanwhile Zanu PF’s ability to stabilize and expand the economy grow ever shakier. ZBC employees haven’t been paid for five months,  MP’s and Senators haven’t been paid since they took office in August and  the government owes a year’s worth of school fees for the thousands of disadvantaged children on their BEAM education  assistance programme. We are waiting to hear the result  of the National Railways of Zimbabwe’s request to retrench six thousand of their workers, representing a staggering 86% of their workforce.  Amidst this sorry situation comes news that Zanu PF are undertaking to raise three million US dollars , not to relieve distressed companies or assist retrenched employees, but to host their party’s annual congress. Their fund raising programme includes a dinner where tables range in price from US$100,000 to $20,000 with ‘general’ tables costing a measly US$2,000.

Trying to find balance and perspective in Zimbabwe since the July elections is a very difficult task. It’s incomprehensible that some Zimbabweans can afford one hundred thousand dollar dinners while  so many thousands of others are being laid off and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Until next time, thanks for reading this letter and supporting my books, love cathy.



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