A long way away

Dear Family and Friends,

The view from Zimbabwe’s window is gorgeous at the moment. The bush is gold and bronze and many of the deciduous trees have started shaking off their dusty old leaves as they prepare for a new season.

Spectacular sunbirds give flashes of crimson and emerald as they flick in and out of the flowering aloes and succulents which have given us a spectacular show this winter. It’s always such a treat to see the vast range of delicate pink and purple bells, bright yellow spikes and blazing orange and red flowers emerging from these thorny, prickly plants.

The Paperbark Acacia trees are crowded with pods at the moment and it takes just a glimpse to transport me back to the time before farm invasions, war veterans and greedy, ugly politics ravaged our country.

A time just 11 years ago when Zimbabwe was prosperous, peaceful and so very productive. The pods on the Acacia trees remind me of the time when my then young son and I would gather them up by the sack load around our farm, lay them in the sun to dry and then mix them in with the winter feed for the sheep and cattle.

Another sight that always brings back memories is a huge Fig tree growing on the roadside of a main highway. The trunk and branches are covered in thick clusters of figs. They are green and clinging on at the moment but in the next few weeks will turn orange and red and start covering the ground in heady, fermenting carpets.

This too reminds me of winter afternoons on the farm. Followed by a straggle of dusty, barefoot kids we would go out to collect wild figs and fill bags with the intoxicating sticky fruits.

The kids, of course, would soon get bored and scamper off with home-made bows and arrows, reluctantly emerging when it was time to head home. The figs were another natural bounty to add to the winter feed mixture, relished by all the livestock. The gathering of the fruits was a task not without hazards as the figs were always smothered in ants.

Happy memories were banished when suddenly a line of vehicles stopped on the road ahead bought me back to the present. It’s yet another police roadblock and this time they are obviously looking for something as everyone is being stopped. Three or four police stand in the highway questioning drivers while a few metres off the road other police stand, rifles in their hands and hanging from their shoulders.

After a cursory glance at the drivers licence, the policeman asks: ‘Any firearms on you?’ No, was the answer.

Cars have to open their boots and covered freight is looked at. You don’t ask what’s going on, just quietly, unquestioningly, comply.

For a moment a conversation from a few years ago suddenly came into my mind. I met a woman who had returned to Zimbabwe for a visit. She had left the country in the mid 2000’s when political violence was raging. She had gone to New Zealand and when I asked her if she had any regrets, she said the best thing was that her children had learnt to trust police and not be scared of them. I fear Zimbabwe is still a very long way away from that.

I end this week with a message of condolence for people in Norway engulfed in the horror of bombs in Oslo and mass murder in Utoya. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Until next time, thanks for reading, Ndini shamwari yenyu.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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