The darkest of days

Dear Family and Friends,

Most nights between 11pm and midnight a Spotted Eagle Owl patrols my neighbourhood.  He's a big grey and brown owl with bright yellow eyes and distinct ear tufts but it's his haunting, Hu - huuu call that alerts me to his presence in or near my garden. your_zim_7_small.jpg

The arrival of the owl often comes at just about the time the
electricity is switched on and I think that in the years ahead whenever
I hear the Spotted Eagle Owl hooting I will always remember these
darkest of days when my home country was collapsing. It is a time when
the losers of an election held eight months ago are still clinging onto
power even though they cannot even provide the most basic requirements
of life.

If we are lucky nowadays the electricity comes on in the middle of the
night when we are asleep. It doesn’t last long. On good nights we have
maybe five hours of electricity before it goes off for the next 19
hours. It is impossible to run a home, business or institution with
just a fifth of our power needs. The electricity supply (ZESA) is a
government run enterprise and is in a state of almost complete
collapse. Zesa no longer send bills to customers – they say they have
no paper on which to print the accounts. You have to volunteer payment,
usually guessing what you owe, or risk disconnection – leaving you
without even those four or five hours of power in the middle of the
night. This week the government-run ZESA refused to accept cheques from
customers – customers who are paying them for not supplying electricity.

Water supply, controlled by ZINWA, a government enterprise, has
collapsed everywhere and this week came the chilling news from
Medicines Sans Frontiers that one million people in Harare alone are
currently at risk from Cholera. In cities, towns and villages around
the country our taps are dry most of the time, apparently because there
are no chemicals to treat raw water. Desperate people resort to
desperate measures including collecting water from shallow wells dug on
open roadside land – even that alongside cemeteries – and from cloudy
pools in stagnant streams where mosquitoes swarm in their thousands.

Despite this, still we are required to pay water bills every month, for
the dirty, smelly water that sometimes splutters out of our taps and
into our toilets. ZINWA do not warn us to boil the water, they do not
send out accounts and they say that from December they too will not be
accepting cheques from customers – customers who are paying them for
not supplying water, paying them for disease.

In the middle of this week I went with a cheque to pay for my telephone
connection with Tel-One – a government controlled enterprise, and the
only fixed line telephone system in the country. To connect to a number
outside of my home town has become almost impossible in the last few
months with the exchanges being out of order for multiple hours every
day. Tel-One no longer send out accounts to customers so you must pay
what you think you owe, or be disconnected. Tel- One refused to accept
a cheque for less than Z$2 million.

The next day a friend went to pay for their telephone connection and
had a cheque for Z$3million. Tel-One refused to accept the payment
saying they no longer accepted cheques for amounts of less than Z$10
million and said that from next month they will not be accepting any
cheques at all.

Government controlled systems are collapsing all around us and Zanu
(PF) have no solutions  for any of the massive problems which are
closing the country down, chasing away the tourists and leading a
nation into starvation and disease. It is time for a new election in
Zimbabwe, one in which losers actually lose and winners really win.

I leave you with one last thought for those who do not know: the
contentious Ministry of Home Affairs does not only contain the Police
but also the Registrar General’s office where births, deaths and voters
are registered. Until next time, thanks for reading, Ndini shamwari

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