Letter from home – The safari Parliament

Dear Family and Friends,
Parliament re-opened last week, but all attempts to watch the full event on state run TV were in vain. There was a power cut just a few minutes after the special repeat broadcast began and the night went dark and quiet - again. Those few brief minutes h

owever had been more than enough to raise eyebrows.
A number of “cultural reforms” have been undertaken by Zimbabwe’s parliament which now resembles a safari lodge. A stuffed leopard and two antelope heads hang on the walls and a leopard skin adorns the ceremonial chair used by Mugabe. Two enormous elephant tusks now frame the Presidential chair and it was between these two great teeth that Mugabe stood to address the house. Near him sat Amai Mugabe on a high-backed green leather chair carefully placed on a striking zebra skin. Hardly had these images registered and before the speech began, the electricity went off.
The images of our leaders sitting amongst elephants and kudu, zebra and leopard are particularly ironic now as the country plunges back in time and people ravage the environment in order to survive. Our lavishly decorated safari parliament is about as far away from the reality of life in Zimbabwe as you can possibly imagine.
Every morning the sound in urban and rural Zimbabwe is that of wood being chopped. All day, every day you see lines of women walking with bundles of great long tree branches balanced on their heads and men with hand carts and wheel barrows piled high with newly chopped indigenous wood. All day, every day and in every direction you see smoke. Some is from urban householders cooking outside on open fires. More is from incessant uncontrolled fires streaming across the horizon, consuming everything in their path.
Seeing the massive amount of wood collecting and looking at horizons permanently smudged with smoke, you cannot help but wonder how Zimbabwe’s wildlife can possibly survive this unrelenting attack on the environment. Grass for grazers is reduced to ash, leaves for browsers are burnt out and trees for shade, shelter and habitat are felled. Undoubtedly the abundance and variety of birds, reptiles, mammals and insects is under severe threat as the assault on our environment continues unchecked.
The reality of life in Zimbabwe has been shocking in the last week. In my home area the electricity was cut for over 29 working hours during the week. The price of a loaf of bread shot up from one to Z$200,000 overnight. The foreign currency rate soared on the black market with one British Pound selling for one million Zimbabwe dollars.
Appreciating cultural reforms of elephant tusks and leopard skins is a world away from bread we can’t afford, bills we can’t pay and hours and hours on end when we cannot work or conduct our business as the electricity is off. Reality in Zimbabwe draws ever further away. Until next week, thanks for reading, ndini shamwari yenyu

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