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The Master Predator
September 16, 2016, 7:32 am

Dear Family and Friends,

Summer has arrived in Zimbabwe: the spring colours in the trees have turned into shade, the voices of orioles, coucals, hoopoes and shrikes have joined the dawn chorus and everywhere the red dust rises and settles at the slightest movement. For the last few evenings an unusual spectacle has unfolded in the red and orange sky of twilight. A few minutes after six pm bats start to appear, a couple at first then more arrive until as many as fifteen large bats are flitting across the garden. In amongst the bats suddenly there are nightjars: two, three and then half a dozen,  gliding and swirling, snatching at insects in the deepening dusk. After a few nights of witnessing the twilight display I found myself waiting for the bats at 6pm but knew something was wrong when one evening nothing came at all. Then with a slow, leisurely flapping, an owl flew in and perched on the telephone post. The master predator had arrived and everything that once was normal was suddenly gone.

 

This is exactly how life in Zimbabwe feels right now. Routine and normal has all but disappeared and the word constantly on your lips, in your mind, is “shame.” Hundreds and hundreds of people line the pavements outside banks waiting for money. It’s the same in towns and cities around the country. Shame! you exclaim at the huge lines outside supermarkets where people wait desperately to be able to withdraw cash top ups with their groceries. Shame! you whisper under your breath as you navigate around crutches, patched wheelchairs and home-made walking sticks, ashamed to catch the eye of pensioners waiting to withdraw their two week late pensions from savings banks which don’t have any money. Shame on the Zimbabwe government for reducing us all to beggars and paupers again, for the second time in just seven years.

 

Shame! you utter out loud at the growing number of empty or nearly empty shelves in supermarkets: washing powder, cereals, biscuits, pasta, dairy products, cheese, toiletries are all running out. OH NO! here we go again, you think with a feeling of dread and despair in your stomach. Shame on the Zimbabwe government for banning imports when 80% of our requirements have to come from outside our borders. Shame on them for preparing to re-introduce a worthless local currency because this is exactly why supermarket shelves are emptying: you cannot pay for imported products with a worthless Bond dollar.

 

Shame! you exclaim when you the Minister of Finance reports that the Zimbabwe government’s wage bill consumes 96.8% of their total budget. No wonder we are falling apart; no wonder water, electricity and transport infrastructure is crumbling; no wonder we are suffocating in debt. Slight improvement appears possible when the Minister of Finance proposes civil service job cuts, salary cuts and no annual bonuses but shame returns when days later the government reverses all the cost cutting measures announced by their own Minister of Finance.  Any chance of international re-engagement and relief after this evaporates instantly.               

 

Shame! is the only word you can use to describe the latest wave of evictions of commercial farmers from their properties. Coming at a time when over 4 million people, a third of our population, need world food aid to survive, evicting productive farmers from their land because of their skin colour makes no sense at all; it is greed and racism, pure and simple.

 

As I write this letter the police have announced a further ban on demonstrations, in violation, again, of our constitution. Opposition parties and activists say they will defy the ban. The Master Predator is in the garden and we all just want to have a normal life. A collision course seems inevitable. Until next time, please keep the people of Zimbabwe in your hearts, love cathy



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