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


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Sizzling fireball
April 14, 2012, 8:57 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

When there was a loud roaring noise and then a big explosion late one afternoon this week, most of the neighbourhood ran outside to see what had happened. It was one of those rare occasions when the electricity was on during the day but that didn’t deter people’s curiosity. It’s school holidays at the moment so there was soon a good crowd of people standing around on the road. From the left a man came running out of the bush, doubled over and with his hands over his head. To the right we could see a man perched high up a tree with an axe cutting branches off a big old Musasa tree. Almost as one, all the spectators on the road took a few steps back when the frightening  noise started again. There was another explosive crack and we watched in horror as a burning fireball ran up and down the overhead electricity cables. White acrid smoke drifted down amongst the spectators and we stood in  shocked silence for a moment while we worked out what was happening above our heads.

The two men, one who had run out of the bush and the other who had been up the tree, were wearing blue overalls with the words ZESA printed on their backs. They were electricity company workers and had been cutting branches that  were too close to the overhead cables. Inexplicably they had not switched the electricity supply off beforehand. When a branch fell it hit, bounced and then got tangled in the overhead cables causing a massive explosion and burning fireball. All eyes turned to the two electricity workers. Like parents interrogating errant children the first question was: “Are you OK” and the second was “why on earth didn’t you switch the mains off first?”  They didn’t answer and as the overhead cables dipped and bounced and the fireball sizzled up and down the line, the two workers walked off up the road. Unbelievably they didn’t have any support team, vehicle, ladders or even a radio to alert their colleagues. “What about these damaged cables?” someone called out to the retreating men. “Later” came the reply, thrown over a shoulder, the single word hanging in the smoky, stunned neighbourhood. It seemed miraculous that no one had been  hurt, electrocuted or killed and with damaged, slack cables sparking and smoking overhead, people started pulling out cell phones and calling the electricity company.

No one came from the electricity company  that day or the next. The next two nights were like sleeping in a night club . Every gust of wind caused the overhead cables to touch and then followed a buzz, hum and a roar followed by a crack, bang and sizzling fireball. Countless phone calls followed until,  two days later, the electricity company finally came to re-tension the cables. 

Our neighbourhood  fireball had at least provided a bit of a distraction from the massive rumour that engulfed Zimbabwe this Easter. For days everyone’s nerves had been on edge and it became impossible not to get caught up in the frenzied whispers about the health of President Mugabe. The  88 year old President was either unwell, seriously unwell or fighting for his life in a hospital in Singapore depending on which story you listened to. It all came to a shuddering halt when Mr and Mrs Mugabe finally emerged from an unmarked aircraft and showed no obvious signs that anything was wrong.  Like the fireball on the overhead cable, that rumour fizzled out in a puff of smoke and Zimbabweans were severely castigated by Zanu PF’s Webster Shamu who said we were: ”pandering to the agenda of imperialists.”  Like naughty children Zimbabwe went quiet again, until next time, thanks for reading, love Cathy



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