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Of raindrops and weevils and poisonous pesticide
October 17, 2014, 11:52 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

The first shower of rain finally fell on the hard, dusty ground in my neighbourhood. Some parts of the country had already received rain and our turn came after hours of crashing thunder and dazzling lightening.  After six  months of dry and weeks of searing heat, even the two millimetres that fell brought relief: the dust is hardly settled but at least the air is cooler. As the lightening streaked down the sky I watched a group of school girls walking home. How smart but hot they looked in their olive green blazers, their faces up, mouths open trying to catch the first few heavy drops that fell from the heavens.

Watching the school girls catching rain drops reminded me of another sight I’d seen that has become all too common in Zimbabwe. On a stretch of highway leading to Harare where road works have been underway for months, two mounds of sand are piled on the verge. Right on the edge of this very busy highway, the tar hardly an arm’s length away, a woman and two young children squatted between the sand piles. They have dug a hole and found water and were scooping it out with little plastic bottles, tipping the murky water into a brown bucket. As cars and trucks stream past you can see the children being buffeted by the wind of passing traffic and you know that this is surely a tragedy waiting to happen. That people in Zimbabwe have been reduced to digging holes to get water is bad enough, that they have to do it in such perilous locations is shameful. A little further along the road, also right on the edge of the highway, countless men, women and children sell tomatoes, onions and fruits while clever young men sell hand-made wire toys: cars, trucks, bicycles and even graders.  This is how people are surviving here when every month more and more people lose their jobs as companies close and the economy contracts.

Saddest of all is that people’s daily struggle is going unnoticed as the latest frenzy of political power struggles unfolds around us. This time it is Mrs Mugabe making headlines almost every day. The President’s wife has now left us in no doubt that she has political ambitions of her own and has embarked on a country wide ‘meet the people’ tour. Addressing rallies and gatherings that make daily front page headlines, Zimbabwe is open mouthed at some of the things Mrs Mugabe is saying. 

In Harare Mrs Mugabe said: “White people came to me with $10 million to stop the land reform programme. I said to them don’t ever come back to me. I chucked them out of my office and almost spat at their faces.”

In Gweru the First Lady bragged about seizing a farm and said “Nobody will remove me the farm which I took. Blood will be spilt if anyone attempts to remove me from that farm.”  She went on to urge women to seize land:  “Women, we need land so let’s take it. Even if we don’t farm that land, that is not a problem, as long as you have it and it’s yours.”  We are speechless that this is being said in a country where 80% of our food is imported because we can’t even grow enough to feed ourselves anymore after previously being called the breadbasket of Africa.

In Bulawayo Mrs Mugabe raged when women left a rally before she had finished speaking: “I love you women and I mean it, yet you walk out while I speak. It’s unfair. Come back and sit down. Anyone who doesn’t sit down will not receive the farming inputs I bought.”

And in the midst of the rhetoric, it seems Zanu PF’s new slogan has been born. It refers to a pesticide called Gamatox used to kill weevils in grain. It started when Zanu PF Minister Didymus Mutasa urged President  Mugabe to “apply Gamatox” to rid the party of “weevils.”  The weevils are factions in the party and the phrase is being used as a rallying call.  “If you don’t heed my advice on factionalism, be warned this will be your end,” Mrs Mugabe said in Bulawayo.  “Down with Gamatox ,” the youths are chanting at Mrs Mugabe’s rallies, their chests covered with T shirts emblazoned with the slogan.

“Interesting times,” a contact in America said;  worrying times, many of us in Zimbabwe think. And for people so tired of it all, whenever you think you can’t bear another bit of gloom and doom from Zimbabwe, think of a desperate woman and her two children collecting water from a puddle right on the edge of a busy highway.   Until next time, thanks for reading this letter and supporting my books, love cathy.



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