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


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August 21, 2010, 12:55 pm




Dear Family and Friends,

Having a meal with friends this week, the conversation turned, as it almost always does, to politics. First the talk was about the constitutional outreach programme which has degenerated into party politics in most areas and left people afraid to attend, scared to speak and facing the consequences of daring to voice their opinions - particularly if they are in rural areas. Then the discussion was about elections - when they should happen; with or without a new constitution and with or without international supervision were a few of many burning questions. Then came the dual citizenship issue and the

disenfranchisement of so many Zimbabweans who now hold foreign passports either because they have been in exile during our country's decade of mayhem or because they've been struck off voters rolls and declared 'alien' if their parents were born outside the country.

Before long our conversation was about the food on the table. A simple meal is still not something any of us take for granted. Memories of 2007 and 2008 when there was hyperinflation and no food to buy are still very fresh in our minds. How well we remember the horror of government price controls, of youth militia going shop to shop forcing prices to be slashed dramatically and then buying up all the stock themselves. We remember walking into huge supermarkets and gazing at aisle after aisle of empty shelves with nothing to sell except perhaps a few wilting cabbages or packets of 'maputi' popcorn, light bulbs or washing up liquid.

How easily this could all happen again, I thought, as we talked about the food we were eating. Almost everything on the table had been grown or produced outside Zimbabwe. The milk was imported from Zambia, where it is produced by dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers. The margarine was imported from South Africa where it is produced by a Zimbabwean company which had no choice but to relocate across the border to survive. The bread was made locally but with wheat imported from South Africa. The eggs were local but the chickens had been fed on imported food. The biscuits were from Mocambique; sugar and coffee from South Africa and even the fruit was imported.

Its been ten years since  Zanu PF grabbed all Zimbabwe's commercial farms and yet we still have nothing to show for it. We are now completely dependent on outside countries for almost everything we eat. A closer look at all the labels on the food in our shops exposes Zimbabwe's continuing inability to stand on its own two feet. Food may have familiar product names and some may have been packaged in Zimbabwe but mostly the contents are imported. How familiar we have become with those little stickers on most of our food which proclaims 'proudly South African.' Browsing around one small convenience and fresh produce shop recently I had to ask if there was anything they sold that was actually locally grown or produced in Zimbabwe. Potato crisps were imported, as were biscuits, jam, chutney, apples, pears, tinned goods, cold drinks and almost everything else.

What a tragedy that ten years after land takeovers, nothing says 'proudly Zimbabwean' because nothing is. Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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