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


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Headstones in the golden grass
March 24, 2012, 8:36 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,
I have been writing this letter almost every week since March 2000. This very long and sad story that I first sent to just seven people  is now into its thirteenth year.  As a nation we have been through such turmoil and trauma during these years and one of the most painful is the break up of extended  families. It’s hard to know how many Zimbabweans have had no choice but to leave the country over the last thirteen years. Most estimates put the figure at about a quarter of our population or around four million people who left for political, humanitarian or economic reasons.  Many left behind their parents and grandparents, their aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces. They also left behind generations of their ancestors who are buried in and scattered on our Zimbabwean soils.

Marondera cemetery entrance  March 2012
Stone pillars at entry to Marondera cemetery March 2012
Headstones in the grass Marondera cemetery March 2012
Remains of bench Marondera cemetery March 2012

This week a message came from a  Zimbabwean in the diaspora, asking if I would visit the grave of a relation and take photographs as a keepsake for the family. The request came just a few days after damning newspaper headlines exposed the  shocking statements made by a former Zanu PF MP of Mbare who lost his seat to the MDC in the 2008 elections. Speaking at the graveside during a funeral, the former MP said : “I would eliminate whites in Marondera within a week, especially MDC Member of Parliament Iain Kay.” The ex MP said he and his party did not recognise Marondera’s  MP, Iain Kay, and continued: “Please allow me and Chipangano Youth a week’s stay here and we would eliminate Kay without any problem. Down with all whites.”

There’s nothing like a bit of hate speech to incite violence 32 years after Independence. There is no doubt that if a white Zimbabwean, regardless of their political or personal status were to make similar threatening or racist statements, they would be arrested in the blink of an eye.

Arriving at the cemetery on my errand  it took some considerable time to find the grave I was looking for, not because it is a massive cemetery but because it is so overgrown and run down. The sign directing you to the cemetery is barely invisible in tall, uncut grass. The fence, or what is left of it, that surrounded the once pretty and tranquil cemetery, is lying rusting and tangled in the thick grass. This fence was taken down by the local Municipality when they came with chain saws and tractors two winters ago and felled the pine trees that  lined and shaded the graveyard. When they had finished they dragged the timber away but  never bothered to put the fence back up. A  little gate attached to stone pillars with nothing on either side is the only sign that something once protected the graves of the people of the town. Inside the cemetery the grass was taller than me and most of the graves were invisible in the unkempt jungle. A small concrete slatted bench where you used to be able to sit and think about your relations buried here, has been broken for over two years. The odd tall headstone looms out of the golden grass and I found it impossible not to keep tripping as I fought my way through the vegetation, expecting at every footstep to encounter a snake or fall over a grave.  Sadly I recalled the occasion two years ago when I asked at a Municipal meeting for the cemetery to be maintained in order that we may respect our friends, relations and ancestors of all skin colours who are buried there. I was silenced by council officials and told not to be emotional.

After a while I found the grave I was looking for and spent a little time there, paying respects for a family who can no longer do so themselves. The overwhelming thought that so often comes to mind is how un-necessary all these years of turmoil have been and wondering when and how it will ever end.  I end with a message of thanks to the many, many people who are on this mailing list and have been such long and faithful readers of my writings and devoted supporters of Zimbabwe.  To see the occasional photographs that will illustrate descriptions in this letter, please visit my website. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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