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Why so hush, hush?
January 28, 2012, 9:07 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

When I arrived at my local Post Office this week I couldn’t believe my eyes as I squinted through the brick dust and picked my way around the rubble.  For the past six weeks there have been increasingly loud whispers that the Post Office was moving out of the Post Office. (Yes you read that right!) At first I thought it was some sort of mad Zimbabwean joke and just shook my head, muttered under my breath  and laughed.  As the days went past and Christmas drew closer, the story kept coming back. In the end I asked the counter staff and, like everything in Zimbabwe, it was a mission to get to the bottom of the story. First look over your shoulder and make sure no one is listening, then check that no one is watching and then talk in the quietest of whispers. Eleven years of fighting for political power have turned us into the most suspicious, untrusting people you can imagine.

Anyway, it turned out the whispers were true, the Post Office staff told me. The owners of the Post Office building had put the rent up and when the Post Office management said they couldn’t afford the new rent, they were told they would have to vacate the building by the 31st of December. A few days after Christmas, Post Office staff were packing things in boxes and a computer was being dismantled. It’s really happening, they said,  the new rent being demanded was a staggering seven thousand US dollars a month and they had no choice but to  vacate. Like everything Zimbabwean, there were more questions than answers, uppermost was who actually owns the Post Office. It sounded like a silly question but I asked it anyway: “Doesn’t the Post Office own the Post Office?” More glances over shoulders and whispered whispers before I was told that the government Post Office had been sold in 2005 to the government telephone company’s Pension Fund. For the last six years the Post Office had been renting the Post Office. Confusion reigns, but it’s laced with suspicion. Why all the whispers; why no publicity or protest, no public meetings; why so hush, hush, is there politics behind this?

New Year came and the Post Office was still open and functional. They had been given a reprieve of one month, time in which to dismantle parts of the building that were essential for the continued operation of postal businesses. They were referring to the many hundreds of steel post boxes cemented into the walls of both the main Post Office and another smaller, circular brick building in the grounds. As the days of January passed there was no sign of movement or dismantling infrastructure and no notice to the public about the pending move.  Perhaps it was a mad Zimbabwean joke after all I thought.

Three days before the end of January 2012, I arrived at the Marondera Post Office to be met with the sound of banging and hammering as I made my way to my steel Post Box cemented into the wall. Chips of brick and cement flew in all directions, there was no barricade or notice  to deter pedestrians, no warning of falling rubble.  A pair of builders wearing goggles and armed with hammers and chisels, were smashing the steel Post Boxes out of the walls. I felt sure someone in authority would have emptied the letters from the post boxes before they started smashing down the walls but thought I’d better check, just in case. Wiping brick dust out of my eyes I unlocked my box and sure enough there were all my letters, sitting under a coating of brick dust.

The Marondera Post Office has been in its present location since 1977.  On the 27th January 2012 a handwritten notice, stuck to a signboard was propped up outside the door. “To our valued customers. The Post Office will be moving to new premises at Marondera Country Club with effect from 1st February 2012. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

I stood outside for few minutes watching people’s reaction to the sign.  One after the other people exclaimed in disbelief:  moving the Post Office to a Club where the main activity is a bar? Situated on the outskirts of the town behind a sprawling commuter taxi rank and huge flea market, the Club is hardly a safe and secure place for a Post Office. No one has forgotten how this same Club was taken over by war veterans  in 2001. How they  planted a Zimbabwe flag in the main driveway, renamed it The Laurent Kabila Memorial Club, cleaned out all the food in the kitchen and drank the bar dry. I took a trip to the Club to see where our new Post Office was going to be. At the gateway the grass is two meters high, the Club signboard is promoted by a beer advertisement. The buildings are in a bad state of repair; grey, chipped, run down. There is no mention or indication that the Marondera Post Office is about to arrive here and I found myself filled with sadness. Small towns around the country are falling apart at the seams. 

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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