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Stuck in the moment
September 12, 2014, 4:42 pm

 

Dear Family and Friends,

“This is my farm.” Those four little words that took Zimbabwe from being the grain basket of the continent to being a nett importer of food consistently for the last fourteen years have taken on a new twist this year. Now the four little words are: “This is my plot.”

Visiting a friend the other day I was shocked to see the boundary fence around two sides of the property had disappeared and just metres away were the hostile, glaring eyes of complete strangers digging in the dust.

“Who are they?” I asked, “Who knows,” came the reply, “one morning they were just there.”

“And your boundary fence, the poles and wire?” I asked. A shrug of the shoulders was the response. 

Gone too was most of the indigenous woodland, replaced by stumps and dust.  You can’t help but stand, open-mouthed in shock and anger and look at the site where just a few weeks ago the wind blew through the woodlands and the  birds called from the trees. Now its all gone and the urban land grabbers just stare back, daring you to try and stop them. There is surely no coincidence that so many of the urban land grabbers are wearing clothes with pictures of the President on them: a  T shirt, cap or wrap.

The grabbing of undeveloped urban municipal land including wetlands, woodlands and mapped greenbelts has reached dizzying new heights this September. Night time tree cutters and roadside cultivators with hoes and hand tools have been replaced by machines this year. Axes are being replaced by chain saws and badza’s by tractors.  Despite reams of legislation, by laws and urban regulations, no one in authority appears willing to enforce the rules or apprehend the perpetrators of offences. Municipal authorities, environmental agency officials and police are completely invisible as chain saws roar blatantly in indigenous woodlands, as smoke darkens the sky in every direction and as tractors plough up greenbelts and wetlands.      

One morning you can look out at  the new, red, spring leaves on a Musasa tree and by the next morning the tree has  gone, the wood has been carted away and a tractor deafens the neighbourhood as it ploughs between electricity and telephone poles, preparing a grabbed plot of land for someone who intends to plant a few lines of maize on a piece of public land.  When the tractor finally leaves,  gouging up tar as it roars through residential neighbourhoods, a  thick cloud of dust  settles and a deep sadness hangs in the air. Yet again the actions of a few are having a devastating impact on so many and the only people who could stop it don’t, or won’t.   

That old saying: Possession is nine tenths of the law has been re-written in Zimbabwe to be: Possession is the law. We are a Zimbabwe stuck in the moment, living only for one day at a time, unaccountable for actions if we have the ‘right’ political connections.  As the twilight settles on the new dusty wasteland that yesterday was alive and full of life but today is devastated by the selfish actions of a few, suddenly you notice something else that is different. Countless thousands, hundreds of thousands of flying ants rise up out of little cracks in the baked ground at your feet. Suddenly the orange sky of dusk   is filled with shimmering wings, pursued by a pair of nightjars, half a dozen drongoes and swooping bats.  The feel of the silky flying ant wings brushing against arms and legs  remind you of happier times but they also give hope that surely, surely, this greedy, selfish, destructive time in our country cannot go on for much longer. Until the next time, thanks for reading this letter and supporting my books, love cathy.



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