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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Cathy's latest letter from Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,

The good, the bad and the ugly is a very apt description of life in Zimbabwe this week. The good has come in the form of the fast approaching rainy season. Temperatures have soared over the last few days and the first rain clouds have started to gather on the horizon.

Heaven in the garden has come from standing under the drooping, dripping mulberry tree and feasting on ripe, sweet purple berries.

Purple fingers, lips and tongue; angry, impatient birds cursing from overhead! A rare treat came for me with the appearance of a carmine bee eater sitting on the electricity lines over my house. Carmines are usually associated with hot lowveld river valleys where they build nests in big colonies, burrowing into sand cliffs and river banks. At first I thought this Carmine Bee-eater must be lost but then I saw another one, and then another two. For a couple of hours they stayed around before swooping high into an invisible current of wind and disappearing.

The final treat of the week came with the sound of running feet on the roof just after dark. Not human feet but those of the Night Ape as it headed towards an avocado tree for an early appetizer before starting its nocturnal rounds.

In between the ‘good’ and the bad came the absurd, just to bring us down to earth. First came the story of the four men apprehended by police in Harare. The police forgot to handcuff their captives and then left them unattended in a police car whose engine was running, while they chased after another suspect. The four suspects put the car in gear and drove away, chased by the Police in a second car which proceeded to run out of fuel before the men could be re-arrested. The Herald newspaper described the escape as “the conclusion of an otherwise highly-successful police operation.”

Second came the report that Air Zimbabwe, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, had just received yet another emergency cash injection from the government. The 2.8 million US dollar bail out had finally managed to break the airline’s two month long strike. On one of their first resumed flights, from Victoria Falls to Harare, there was only one passenger on board an aircraft which seats 60 people. Talk about a good way to make a return on government money!

The ‘bad’ this week came with the interception by riot police of women in Bulawayo marching to commemorate the International Day of Peace. The women were singing songs about national healing and handing out flowers and leaflets when an estimated 50 riot police moved in on them. Eyewitnesses described riot police chasing and beating the unarmed protestors with baton sticks causing a number of injuries and many being taken to hospital. Twelve of the women were arrested, including WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu.

The downright ‘ugly’ this week came with more reports of Zanu PF youths taking over council properties, car parks, markets, bus and taxi ranks in Harare where they are intimidating people, extorting bribes and using violence against people who report them to the police. Unbelievably the co Home Affairs Minister, Theresa Makone, whose ministry is in charge of the Police, was quoted in the press as saying there was chaos. She said: there is nothing I can do to stop their invasions.”

This is hardly the picture of law and order that Zimbabwe so desperately needs in the turbulent months leading to another election and hardly the image to attract tourists and investors.

Until next week, thanks for reading,



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