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


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Soggy letters
March 10, 2012, 7:31 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

There’s nothing quite like an ordinary day in Zimbabwe to make you feel pretty sure that you are having a nervous breakdown.  Things that immediately spring to mind have all happened in the last couple of weeks, such as:

Standing in a queue to pay an electricity bill when the electricity is off in the power company’s office, and has been off in homes and business for 16 hours a day, almost every working  day, for the past month. While you contemplate this irony you shuffle forward painfully slowly because only one counter is being manned, the receipts are being written by hand and the teller is holding each US dollar bank note up to the sun to see if it is a forgery.

Or there’s the similar and equally absurd situation of standing in a queue at the local Municipal offices to pay your water bill even thought there hasn’t been a drop of water in the town for the last four days. Everywhere you look people are carrying bottles, buckets and even black plastic dustbins full of water from wells and boreholes to their homes and shops.

If those two don’t fit the bill, you could go to the Post Office and collect your letters from the post box, which you pay an annual rental for. When you get there you find that all the boxes have been painted red, including the numbers, so you can’t see which box is yours. You have to go and wait at a ‘window’ which turns out to be a hole in the wall blocked off with a piece of dirty plywood. Finally someone emerges and hands you a pile of wet letters - because the roof leaks, he says, un-apologetically.

Included in the soggy letters is one from the locally based, international bank offering you  internet banking . This comes despite the fact you closed your thirty year old  bank account there six months ago because they lost a cheque a month after you deposited it and after they had cleared and honoured it. When you told them that wasn’t your fault they put it in writing that if you didn’t get a replacement for the cheque they lost, they would deduct the value from your account. When you then spent half a day and travelled  200 kilometres to get a replacement cheque from the company that issued the first one, the bank refuse to reimburse you for your fuel or time. And now they want you to do internet banking with them – I don’t think so!  

If you haven’t completely lost your mind by now, you can go and park your car outside a shop you’ve parked outside for the last twenty years and come back to find your wheels have been clamped. Suddenly this has apparently become a no parking zone. When you ask why there are no signs or yellow lines, authorities say the road markings haven’t been done.

On the way home you pop into a supermarket to pick up a few groceries. You hand over a twenty US dollar note and are given your change in the form of a bubble gum and two suckers – because we use US dollars here, but not the coins that go with them.

Finally you go to the filling station to put petrol in your car. The attendant runs inside to start a petrol driven generator which will power the petrol pump to put petrol in your car.

This is everyday life in Zimbabwe and after yet another 16 hour power cut the only sensible way to end this letter is not with a message saying : Sent from my iPhone or Blackberry, but : “Sent from my solar panel.” Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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