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No more hiding places
Saturday 23rd January 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
For some weeks I've been trying to decide who it was that most changed the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the last year.
At first the choices seemed obvious. Morgan Tsvangirai, our Prime Minister who, despite winning the March 2008 elections and then living through two personal tragedies, did not give up on Zimbabwe. He stood firm in his determination to start bringing change to the country; he came in for much criticism and made many unpopular decisions but is still shoulder deep in the mess that is our country.
My next obvious choice was Finance Minister Tendai Biti. Mr Biti
suspended the use of a completely worthless Zimbabwe currency and
legalized trading in US dollars. This move eradicated the black market almost overnight, stopped super-hyper inflation instantly and put real money in people's pockets. But, more importantly to everyday life, Mr Biti's policy put food back in the shops.
Then I thought about all the individuals, groups and organizations that haven't stopped, even for a day, in exposing events and fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe. There are so many of them, both inside and outside the country: fighting for human rights; exposing violations; publicising abuses; holding protest marches; collecting petitions; raising money; fighting for women's rights, for people with HIV, for farmers, for animals and so many more. Many of these people who struggle on our behalf do it without pay, after hours, from their own homes and often at great personal risk. Many have given the last ten years of their life to this cause and that little word 'thanks' is never enough.
And then I thought about what has most changed in my life and that of the people around me. The answer was right there, in front of me, in my hand in fact: communication.
In 2009 Zimbabwe emerged from the darkness of state control of communication. Cell phone lines suddenly became available in February and now everywhere you look people have got cell phones: in their hands, in their pockets, on straps round their necks and (only in Africa) even stuffed down their bra's! From roadside tomato vendors to rural villagers and from prime ministers to peasants, we now have the ability to communicate. Cheap and widely available cell phone lines, a growth of over a million lines in one year and over 500 base stations around the country, and democracy becomes possible! Thanks to the insight, determination and vision of Strive Masiyiwa and his company, Zimbabwe is talking, listening, texting and photographing and because of this, nothing will never be the same again.
Cell phones and the availability of SIM cards really have sparked a revolution here. Its funny how quickly we take things for granted but in an instant this week the text messages were flying: meeting this afternoon with the MP; constitutional programme stopped; convicted rapist on constitutional outreach; Rusape farmer arrested; no rain!
Strive Masiyiwa's company , represented by Douglas Mboweni, is in my view the one thing that has most changed the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the last year. Everyone now has the ability to communicate, to expose the perpetrators of crimes that are still destroying our country and to take away their lies and leave them with no more hiding places.
We await internet broadband, with eager anticipation and with urgency. Until next weeks with thanks to all the people who sacrifice so much and work so tirelessly for our country.
With love, cathy
Off bee eaters & baboon spiders
Saturday 16th January 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
After a short break it's always wonderful to come home to Zimbabwe and be reminded of so many things that we take for granted, not the least of which is the balmy weather and clear blue sky. Its that time of year when the new crop of birds have just learnt to fly and our neighbourhoods are alive with flycatchers and fire-finches, waxbills and weavers. The egrets and ibises are out of their nests, all fluffy and gangly and still screeching for free meals and the bee eaters and lilac breasted rollers are back, reminding us how lucky we are to witness this spectacle every day.
Zimbabwe is, however, a place of such contrasts that often you just shake your head and laugh at the absurdity of it all. A visiting relation phoned the airport last week to reconfirm her ticket and check on the departure time of her flight to the UK. "Aaaah," said the woman on the Air Zimbabwe Information desk, " just pitch up!"
We did indeed "just pitch up" as instructed and what a bleak place we found a little before midnight at our country's ironically named International Airport.
The only thing alive was the car park - charging an outrageous 2 US dollars for a period of less than 15 minutes. Inside the main terminal there is no departure or arrivals board, no information at all on which flights are coming or going and even the main Information and Enquires desk was closed and deserted despite the scheduled departure of an international flight. The shops were all closed too so no chance of a cold drink or newspaper or that last souvenir to buy. This is Zimbabwe's front desk, the shop window for the world to see and what a sad disgrace it is.
Getting home from the airport a little before one in the morning, after a hair raising journey where there are no road markings, no cats eyes in the tar, no street lights and most passing vehicles with faulty, missing or non existent lights and reflectors, the delights of Zimbabwe grow dim. An enormous spider is sitting on the kitchen door. Dark brown and very hairy and with fearsome fangs, the baboon spider is easily the size of the palm of my hand and he just sits, waiting.
This is very much the state of Zimbabwe in this first month of the new decade - we are sitting, waiting. Waiting for our leaders to stop arguing, waiting for farm grabbing to stop, waiting for law and order to be restored and waiting for a new constitution leading to a free and fair election. An election where winners are winners and take power and losers are losers and step down.
Despite all our troubles here, our hearts go out to the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake, our thoughts are with them.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.
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