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Rusty paper clip
Saturday 30th May 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
The unity government is being torn apart over the retention of the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono. While they argue, threaten and grandstand, we look at our tattered lives.
In a box, abandoned and covered in dust and fluff, lies the evidence of my lost life savings, seizure of my home and property and destruction of my pension. I am not alone but am one of ten million Zimbabweans who find themselves in the same position, one that has unfolded in just 9 ugly years.
At the bottom of the box are the last accounts from our farm that was seized by the Zimbabwe government in 2000. The accounts show no income and there is a note attached with a rusting paper clip which says: "No compensation paid for house, fixtures, fittings, infrastructure, fencing etc." That statement remains true 9 years later.
Next in the box is a tattered orange cardboard file. Most of it's contents are still too painful to revisit. One section deals with lost life savings which had been invested in a bank that was closed down by Zimbabwe's banking authorities.
In dog eared, dirty bundles held together with melting,
perishing elastic bands there are piles and piles of money. Purple 500 hundred dollar notes, olive 1,000 dollar notes and then strange things called 'bearers cheques. They are blue, red, brown, purple and green bits of paper with expiry dates and values ranging from 5 to 100 thousand dollars. They bear the signature of Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono.
Then other bundles with even higher denomination 'bearer cheques' ranging in value from 1 to 500 million dollars. These too have expiry dates and are signed by Gideon Gono.
There in the box are the records of new attempts to save money - futile efforts because Mr Gono slashed three zeroes from the currency and thousands became single dollars overnight.
More bundles of money, this time they are in billion dollar denominations and are called Special Agro Cheques. they too have expiry dates and are signed by Mr Gono: purple, green, brown, blue, valued from 5 to 100 billion dollars.
Then more records of how everything was lost again when Mr Gono imposed daily withdrawal limits from the banks. We could only draw out enough of our own money to buy half a loaf of bread a day; the queues were in the thousands and our money lost all its value before we could get it out of the banks.
Again Mr Gono removed zeroes from the currency; in a single swipe billionaires became paupers. New bank notes which started at one dollar soon got bigger as mismanagement continued and again we had bank notes for 500 thousand, 1 million, 1 billion. We went dizzy as notes were issued by Mr Gono for 1 trillion, 10 trillion. When Mr Gono's presses physically couldn't print the money fast enough, all out trillions, quadrillions and septillions were lost when trading in Zim dollars was suspended and we moved into US dollars.
At the top of the box is a small newspaper cutting. It quotes Mr Gono admitting that he removed money from private bank accounts to fund government expenses.
And after all this there is cause for argument?
Until next week with a view of scarlet poinsettias, love cathy
Dust and rust
Saturday 2nd May 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
This month's municipal accounts are the first printed bills we've had from the local council for eight months. The accounts were hand delivered, door to door, post box to post box in residential suburbs. This, believe it or not, is cause for comment!
When a neighbour told me to look in my post box, I laughed and said that was a waste of time because nothing has gone into my home post box for nearly a year. The Post Office don't deliver any letters anymore - who knows why. The bank's have long since given up sending out statements to their customers and other street delivered items like electricity, telephone and municipal accounts have fallen by the wayside in Zimbabwe's collapse. It's been so long since anything's gone into my post box that I had to use a stick to clear a way through the spiders webs and had to manoeuvre my hand carefully underneath a hanging hornets' nest. There, lying in the dust and rust was my municipal bill. A couple of hornets flew out and the nest shivered in warning and alarm as I carefully lifted out the piece of paper. No envelope, not stapled closed, not even folded discreetly, the municipal bill may as well as have stayed where it was for the information it contained.
"All charges are in US Dollars and you are expected to pay on time to avoid inconveniences," it said. The bill itemized municipal charges and included a Fire Levy. This was cause for much heated conversation in the street. "A Fire Levy," people said, "for what?". The last time a house burned down in our neighbourhood the fire engine didn't come, apparently because it was picking up sick people.
Another item on the bill causing rage is that of Public Street Lighting. For three years the street lights in our neighbourhood haven't worked so you can cross that charge off, everyone is saying. Then there's the one that makes us all furious: Refuse Removal. It's been over a year since our garbage has been collected. We burn what we can, because we have no choice, we bury what we can and we accumulate what's left. Piles of trash lie under trees, on roadsides and dumped on any vacant piece of land.
Water charges on the municipal account are cause for disgust and contempt by residents. As I write this letter we are going into our fourth day without water - not a drop anywhere in the whole town and none are spared, not schools, hospitals, old age homes, industry or residences. The absence of water for days at a time is just one of our nightmares and does not address the issue of raw sewage flowing into the dam our water is being drawn from. Not to mention the levy for the pipeline from the new dam that we've been paying for years and yet not a drop does it deliver, in fact the pipe is not yet even laid in the trench dug for it.
Needless to say, no one is paying the ludicrous amounts being charged by the municipality. Charges so high that they amount to three quarters of a civil servants entire monthly wage. Everyone is paying something but only a small token. We have been paying in US dollars for electricity, telephones and municipal services for three months and now its time to receive service.
The new sentiment sweeping over Zimbabwe, at all levels, is: You deliver, we pay. You fix, we pay. You maintain, we pay. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy
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