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


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Mums and Dads, Gogos and Sekurus
March 31, 2012, 10:28 am

Dear Family and Friends,

The first whisps of winter are beginning to drift over our horizon. The days are getting shorter and the sunsets more copper. Early these mornings the mist lies thick in the dips and valleys, often not burning away until eight or nine o’clock. Visiting a friend when the dew was still thick on the grass one morning this week, there was neither electricity nor water and the chat soon turned to how unpredictable everything in the country still is.

It’s hard to believe that just three years ago the new MDC Finance Minister announced that we had become a multi- currency economy  and we began using  US dollars and South African Rands.  It’s like a bad nightmare remembering that in January 2009 we were buying one single US dollar for five hundred billion Zimbabwe dollars. The scrapping of the Zim dollar and introduction of the US dollar caused a national sigh of relief.  In a single move one man put a stop to the horrific mismanagement which had caused a decade of financial insanity and economic collapse. Almost overnight super-hyper inflation crashed from multiple billions of percentage points to zero. Vast supermarkets and wholesalers whose shelves had been completely empty were suddenly full of food – all imported of course. The  black market  which had controlled the country and all of our daily needs from bank notes to food, fuel, equipment and medicine, disappeared within weeks.  Within a few months the world, and many of our new leaders, stopped following the huge daily struggle of ordinary people, we were back on track they said. On the surface of things Zimbabwe is getting back to normal, but not for everyone.

A largely unnoticed horror continues to unravel for pensioners in Zimbabwe this April 2012. Three years ago, in April 2009, it cost a family member living in the diaspora less than US $100 dollars  a month to support their parents or grandparents who were over 65. These were parents and grandparents who had lost everything to hyper inflation. They had lost their life savings when 25 zeroes were removed from the currency and turned upright citizens into destitute paupers. Desperate pensioners first  sold their assets, jewellery, treasures and family heirlooms in order to buy food and medicines, then they sold their cars. When that money had been gobbled up by hyper inflation,  they sold their houses in order to stay alive. With no government support, no subsidies in recognition of their age and no way of replacing their lost assets, pensions or life savings, and when they had nothing left to sell, Mums and Dads, Gogos and Sekurus  had no option but to hold out their hands and say: please help. 

The 100 US dollars that supported a pensioner three years ago was enough to pay their rent, water and electricity in a one bedroomed cottage for a month and leave  30 or 40  dollars  for food. Three years later, despite the government’s stated inflation rate of less than 5%,  the rent, water and electricity for the same pensioner in the same cottage now costs 450 US dollars a month and that’s before they’ve had anything to eat or gone to the doctor.

“The prices are never going to go down are they,” my friend asked as we had tea while the mist lifted and melted under the morning sun.  We both knew the answer and that the prices will continue to go up but we said nothing. What can you say to someone who worked all their life, planned and saved so carefully for their retirement and then had it all stolen in front of their eyes by their very own government. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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