Waiting for the river to subside

Dear Family and Friends,

Remember the days when the car slowly, cautiously approached the flooded bridge and then came to a stop? The days when the adults would get out and long discussions followed: was it going to be safe to drive across or not? While the adults debated, looked, pointed, lifted skirts and rolled up trouser legs to wade into the cool, rushing water to see how deep it was, the kids waited anxiously for the verdict. And then came the good news:

“No! Everybody out! We’re going to wait for the water to go down!” That was the decision the kids were longing for! Not only would we be late for boarding school but we might not even get there at all that day! Out came the picnic things: thermos flask and cool drinks, sandwiches, boiled eggs, cold sausage or boereworcs. Everyone retreated into the deep shade of a nearby tree and life came to a standstill until the water level subsided. Paddling, splashing, giggling and before long wet clothes all round.

Well, that’s the kind of rainy season we’re having in Zimbabwe this year; the kind many of us haven’t seen for decades. For over a month heavy rain has been pounding Zimbabwe, filling rivers and dams, raising the water table and bringing our parched, country back to life. Many places have recorded more than their annual average rainfall in the last six weeks alone and it’s only half way through the season.

Almost everyone you meet has got a story to tell: trees falling down, walls collapsing, roofs leaking, latrines filling with water and sewage floating on the ground; wells over filling, their walls collapsing, water contaminated. We hear of huge barbel (fish) slithering above ground in thick wet grass; we see wild ducks floating on puddles on flooded fields and we see cars being washed away when daredevil drivers decide to cross flooded bridges. Almost every day we get messages on our mobile phones from the Civil Protection Unit warning of severe flooding, of rivers that have burst their banks, dams which have breached and of the dangers of being washed away when crossing flooded rivers and bridges.

The CPU warns too of all the life threatening dangers associated with the countless illegal things that have being going on for so long that authorities have largely turned a blind eye too. They warn of houses built too close to rivers and others built on wetlands that are being flooded. In many of these cases we know that occupants and local authorities have been told by EMA, the environmental management agency, that the construction is not allowed but corrupt officials have rubber stamped the sale of plots on wetlands and passed plans enabling construction to go ahead.

In rural villages and on the farms it is in some places a tale of a promised bounty with crops tall and dark green and a good likelihood of bumper harvests. In other places it is a tale of destruction. No contours to divert water has left crops flooded, flattened, sitting in pools of water. Crop leaves are yellow, bleached and leached, dying from too much water.

In towns and cities around the country it’s a nightmare. There have been outbreaks of typhoid in some densely populated areas due to contaminated water . Years of neglect by local authorities, particularly when it comes to road works, storm drains and roadside verges has left our roads in a diabolical state. In my home town the road I live on, and many in the neighbourhood, have not had any maintenance at all since 2008. Nine years of neglect has left deep drifts of sand, no functional storm drains, massive erosion, deep gullies and literally hundreds of potholes. In Harare the state of the roads was recently declared a National Disaster, a statement no doubt intended to attract funding without apportioning blame or holding to account negligent, corrupt, local authorities who have overseen this devastation of road infrasructure. It is a disaster that has been years in the making and cannot be blamed on just one above average rainy season.

Which way Zimbabwe? we keep asking as we splash through puddles, zig zag around potholes and fume at negligent corrupt officials? Is there a way out of our political, economic and governance crisis? We don’t know the answer but the flame of hope flickered again on Wednesday afternoon. Pastor Evan Mawarire, (founder of #ThisFlag movement), an ordinary man who inspired a nation last year and created a groundswell of patriotism, has returned to Zimbabwe. Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested as he landed at Harare airport. He hadn’t had a chance to see the flooded rivers, roll up his trouser legs and wade into the cool rivers or sit under the shade of a spreading Musasa tree but like the swelling water, hope has returned. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy 2nd February 2017.

Post published in: Featured

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *