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


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For Owen
March 19, 2011, 3:57 pm

 

Dear Family and Friends,

A three word text message on my phone this week bought the news I had so hoped wasn’t going to come: “Owen is dead.”

The story of Owen is one that has been repeated a thousand times over in the last eleven years and yet it is not often talked or written about.

In the early 2000’s when Zanu PF supporters and war veterans were swarming over the country, grabbing farms and brutalizing MDC supporters, Owen had a good marketing job in Harare. To save money he stayed in a single room in a prefab house in a high density area while his wife and two children kept the family home in a rural village. At every opportunity Owen worked on their rural home; he replaced the roof, built a small extension to the house and invested in solar panels to enable lights at night, television and DVD’s to entertain the children. Owen was rightly proud of the home and life he was enriching for his family.

With every political drama, at each violent election and whenever human rights abuses were raging, Owen would phone every week for news of his family. He sent money, groceries and medicines. His precious salary kept his family alive and he always managed to scrape a few dollars together for his brother and sister in law and their children and other members of the extended family. Tragedy came often for Owen in the first four years of the new millennium. His mother and father passed away within a year of each other; then his brother died, then his niece.

In 2005 Owen lost his job, laid off when the company he worked for went to a four, and then a three - day week. The agricultural ingredients they needed for their products were no longer coming from the farms the war veterans had grabbed. All but a handful of employees kept their jobs, Owen was not one of them. He tried staying in town to look for other jobs  but then came Operation Murambatsvina and Owen’s home was demolished by the government bulldozers. Owen did what hundreds of thousands of others were forced to do that winter, he went to his home in the rural village. Within a few months he knew he had to find work; the needs of his family were too great: food, school fees, clothes, medicines. Owen went over the border and got work in South Africa. 

For the next six years Owen commuted backwards and forwards to South Africa: six months away, two weeks at home. Each time the Reserve Bank governor removed zeroes from the Zim dollar, Owen sent real money home to his family. When the Zimbabwe government ordered price controls and food vanished from the supermarket shelves, Owen sent groceries home. When Zimbabwe was literally starving to death in 2007 and 2008 Owen had a trusted courier who carried food into the country for him and he literally kept an extended family of 12 or more people alive.

 

Owen finally came home in late 2010. He said he was tired and wanted a rest. We could all see he was sick. By the time he agreed that he needed medical help, Owen couldn’t walk, his feet were burning, his legs were swollen and he had sores in his mouth and throat. For three weeks they struggled to save him but yesterday the message came: ‘Owen has died.’

This letter is for Owen and the millions who had no choice but to leave home and find work in the diaspora in order to keep their families and relations alive. What a sacrifice you have made; it will not be forgotten. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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