Birthday overtakes earthquake

BY LITANY BIRD

N: 0in 0in 0pt”>Dear Family and Friends,


Something amazing happened in Zimbabwe this week. On Wednesday night at 20 minutes past midnight the earth shook for a few minutes. The earthquake, which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, was centred in Espungabera, a small farming town in a remote area of Mozambique near the Zimbabwe border.


The earthquake was felt as far as 1000 kilometres away from the epicentre. In north-east Zimbabwe beds shook, furniture trembled and glasses and plates tinkled on shelves in cupboards. Many of us heard a rushing noise like a high wind just as the shaking started and had no idea about what to do or where to go to be safe.


It was a confusing and frightening experience, exacerbated by our ignorance as earthquakes are virtually unknown in Zimbabwe. At 6am the following morning, the obvious place to get news and information about the strange shaking in the night, was the state owned radio and television.


I listened in confusion and disbelief as the headline morning news wasn’t about an earthquake, tremors or shaking but about the “unbundling” of Air Zimbabwe into six individual companies. This “unbundling” is the latest phenomenon of loss making government companies here. Instead of being closed down or privatized, these huge debt-ridden establishments are split up into lots of different little companies.


‘Unbundling’ is the ‘Zim-glish’ word that had sprung up to describe this strange activity which I suppose is undertaken to share the debts and make the losses look smaller than they actually are. The second story on the first news bulletin of the day was about some scandal with a stripper on Valentines Day and still not about an earthquake and so I gave up and went looking for news elsewhere.


For one day, we had something else to talk about in Zimbabwe, something other than massive price rises and inflation that is going up faster than anyone can cope with. In queues everywhere, whether for passport forms, cash machines or petrol, a strange shaking in the middle of the night was the only topic of conversation and it brought Zimbabweans together.


Everyone, everywhere was talking about the earthquake but by lunch time it was still not making headline news on state owned television which was now talking about bumper harvests and the President’s 82nd birthday party. On Thursday evening, 18 hours after the


earthquake, I was forced to give up trying to find out about the tremors as the electricity had gone off – again.


A lot of people were worried about aftershocks but we were mostly in the dark – literally and figuratively. For six hours the next night, sitting in the dark with only the sound of hordes of screeching mosquitoes it was hard not to think scary and superstitious thoughts as we waited for more shaking. When the power did finally come back on the television


was again talking about the nationwide birthday celebrations planned to commemorate


It seems that even the earth moving does match the importance of birthdays. Until next week, ndini shamwari yenyu.

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