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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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The spark
February 26, 2011, 6:55 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

On a stretch of road to the south east of the capital city of Harare I was extremely fortunate to witness an uprising recently. It wasn’t an uprising of people throwing off a dictator but an uprising of aerial attackers after a rain storm. It began in the early afternoon when the only visible sign of a possible onslaught was two wide bands of grey on a horizon perhaps 30 kilometres away. The closer I got, the wider the storms seemed to be, looking like dense grey smoke, until suddenly I was right in the middle of one. Big, heavy rain drops pounded down and soon turned into a torrential downpour. Visibility dropped to just a few metres, the temperature plummeted and the noise was deafening. In less than 10 minutes it was all over; the rain band moved leaving pools of water on the verges and clouds of steam rising off the tar.

Before long the view was again of tall golden grass, tips bent over, heavy with their new crop of seed. In amongst the grass the occasional glimpses of pink, purple and white Cosmos flowers. Flowers that will always remind me of the road to my farm where the pink and white extravaganza crowded the verges and were a delight to see, always lifting tired spirits after long days working out on the land. Funny, isn’t it, how a flower in the golden grass a decade later, can provide a flashback to another life: a time when our country was fat and flourishing, healthy and prosperous.

On my return journey a couple of hours after the rain storm, the steaming tar was dry, pools and puddles had disappeared and been replaced by a feeding frenzy, an aerial uprising. The rain storm had prompted millions of flying ants to emerge from underground and embark on their first and only flight. The attackers descended on them from every direction. Dozens of Falcons filled the skies. From trees and bushes they came in their scores and then hundreds to feast on the flying ants. From their perches on overhead electricity lines and pylons they plunged and plummeted on their prey, swooping and circling in so many hundreds they were impossible to distinguish individually or to estimate their number. For a moment it looked like the masses crowded and shouting for freedom in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya ! These birds, once called the Eastern Redfooted Kestrel, have now been reclassified and are known as Amur Falcons. Once a year, for just a few months, the Falcons come in their thousands to Harare where they roost in a gum tree plantation in Tafara, a high density suburb on the outskirts of Harare. Hard to believe that in one poor and overcrowded area of Harare between ten and thirty thousand Falcons stop and rest every year on their way back to Eastern Asia, Russia and China. To see the Amur Falcons rising off the pylons in their thousands is an uprising that must be seen to be believed.

After the rain storm had passed I again turned my attention to the people on the roadsides, looking for signs of another kind of uprising. After Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya, it’s hard not to look for the beginnings. We have all the ingredients needed: unemployment estimated to be over 90%, a civil service earning less than half amount of the poverty datum line, continual water and electricity shortages – if you can afford the services at all - and a very uneasy political situation. They say that an uprising takes a spark but so far it hasn’t ignited. 45 people arrested in Harare for watching videos of Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings remain in detention as I write and lawyers report that at least six have been beaten whilst under interrogation in custody. The spark hasn’t ignited yet in Nyanga where the MDC MP remains in detention and a witch hunt is underway in remote mountainous villages.  The MDC spokesman for the province, says three truck loads of Zanu PF youths were going house to house looking for MDC supporters and hundreds of villagers have fled into Mocambique, crossing the Gairezi river which runs along the border.

While this is happening people try to makes ends meet and women sit on the roadsides selling watermelons: enormous green gourds filled with dripping, sweet, crimson flesh – just the sight of them makes your mouth water! They’re also selling freshly lifted ground nuts and round  Nyimo beans, which when boiled in salted water are oh so more-ish ! Young men are on the roadsides too and the smell of roasting maize cobs, lined up against little fires tempt you with the taste of a country so tired and yet so resilient.

I close with messages of support and condolence for the families of so many hundreds of people who died trying to free Libya, Egypt and Tunisia and to the people of New Zealand whose lives and families have been torn apart in the earthquake. Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy,



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