Here we go again – Goodbye tourists

Dear Family and Friends,

The searing heat and record breaking temperatures melting Zimbabwe in late October were finally broken by rain a few days ago. Never have thunder, lightning and mud been so welcome. There’s nothing quite so delicious as walking out on a quiet dirt road early in the morning after a night of noisy rain storms.

It’s that time of day when yours are the first footprints to mark the wet sand. The ground is soft and springy underfoot, the air cool and clear and if you are lucky you may see the tracks left by an animal of the night. It always comes as something of a surprise the way a single rain storm awakens an extravaganza of weird and wonderful beetles, spiders and insects.

Almost overnight they are back: Flying ants, Tsongololos, Sausage Flies, Rhino beetles and giant moths the size of saucers. As the sun lifts from the horizon its not long before the voices of the crickets fall silent, to be replaced by the screeching of cicadas as the day heats up.

The reality of Zimbabwe is sitting in a heap at the side of the road. There’s obviously been a burglary in the neighbourhood during the night and the unwanted, discarded items are lying in the wet grass: a black sun hat, an ornamental carved wooden assegai with steel tips, a plumber’s rubber plunger and an assortment of car parts. Walking a little further down the road the day’s work has already started for two young men who are digging a foundation for a new house. Damp soil thuds off shovels, their laughter rings out in the quiet of the dawn; a raised hand is lifted in greeting. A builder strides past carrying his spirit level; smiles and greetings are exchanged.

A school girl meanders along, a little pink satchel on her back; she casts her eyes down and responds shyly when you say good morning. The first vehicle approaches, it is an early commuter minibus going towards the half built high density housing complex nearby. They started building there after the government’s Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 left 800,000 people homeless.

Four workers wearing overalls emerge from a gate, we chorus early morning greetings. A woman carrying a hoe and a bag of seeds heads down to a roadside field; a man inspecting his newly germinated maize crop lifts his hat and we exchange a few words about the rain, the weather, the hope for his crop.

With encounters like these to illustrate the face of Zimbabwe at the start of every new day, it’s hard to comprehend the turmoil that engulfed the capital city this week. Apparently a choir member complained that street vendors were selling pirated CD’s in central Harare, right outside the building that houses the offices of the MDC.

Police arrived to arrest vendors who ran into the MDC headquarters. Minutes later the police were firing teargas, first into the building and then at the large crowd of bystanders who had gathered to watch. The independent papers had screaming headlines and frightening pictures the next day. “Mayhem,” was the banner covering the front of the Daily News with headlines: “Police turn city centre into battlefield,” and “Teargas thrown on civilians.” NewsDay’s front page screamed: “Hell Breaks Loose” and showed pictures of riot police, men and women running and clouds of tear gas engulfing a street in the centre of the Harare.

The next day Prime Minister Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe was retreating into ‘siege mentality.’ He said political violence was on the increase and that 800 cases had been reported in September. Talking about the teargassing of MDC headquarters, the PM said police had threatened bystanders, thrown teargas into crowds of people going about their business and bought the capital to standstill. “The police say they are for the law, for the people, for the country,’ the PM said, “but what we have witnessed is that they are anti law, anti people and anti country.”

At the end of it all, looking at pictures of rows of helmeted riot police in grey police trucks two thoughts were uppermost; the first was ‘oh no, here we go again’ and the other was: ’goodbye tourists.’ Until next time, thanks for reading, Ndini shamwari yenyu.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

Leave a Reply

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