Our hearts are heavy for our neighbours in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi who have been repeatedly on the frontline of Cyclone Freddy for over a month as it has circled, retreated, returned and left a trail of destruction each time. Rivers of mud, houses washed away, trees uprooted, treacherous landslides and massive ravines. Mozambique has been inundated with weeks of torrential rain sweeping houses away and leaving people huddled in shelters, exhausted and traumatized. In Malawi more than 200 people are dead, hundreds are missing, many thousands displaced.
Zimbabwe was mostly spared the worst of it this time. Some eastern areas had high winds, heavy rain, and landslides. And then it got cold, unseasonably cold. When it was all but over, for us in Zimbabwe at least, I stood out under a beautiful, clear and cloudless night sky. Inky black and filled with stars: the two pointers and the Southern Cross, familiar, safe and timeless, pointing the way in front of me, the Milky Way overhead, Orion’s belt and the Seven Sisters behind me.
Looking up into the night sky there are so many memories shining back at me: lying on the lawn with friends watching for satellites in the early evening, shooting stars as the night got later and sometimes running outside after midnight to lie on our backs and watch spectacular comet showers. Friends have gone, families have scattered and loved ones have passed but our stories from Zimbabwe are never forgotten. I find myself lingering there under the night sky, thinking about Zimbabwe and what may lie ahead for us as another election comes. I thought about the week I’d had in Zimbabwe and the beautiful, soulful people I’d met.
I thought about the Pastor who has just written a little book, a guide to love and family life, a guide for youngsters starting out into adulthood. How proud he was when I asked for a signed copy and handed over a few dollars; he knows that I know most of those dollars will go back into his endless struggle of trying to help people in a run-down, impoverished area where nothing is guaranteed, not even a meal every day. As it has been election after election here, we don’t talk politics, it’s too dangerous, we just talk life, hoping always that this short-term five-year thinking of our politicians only wanting to build their mansions and enrich themselves will come to an end once and for all.
Zimbabweans continue to reap the harvest of our leaders’ years of looting and corruption, at the moment it is electricity and trying to keep up with events in Zimbabwe requires real determination to never stop watching. All day every day we are without power, and much of the night too, coming on long after we’ve gone to bed. Every morning we get up earlier and earlier trying to benefit from a brief hour or two of electricity but lately, it’s gone by 4.00 am and today by 3.00 am. Zambia said this week they were going to switch us off over non-payment of a US$10.7 million debt. These numbers and even the reasons for them are often lost on us now as every day our thoughts are on surviving 480% inflation and where each US dollar we need now costs twelve hundred Zimbabwe dollars. Four years ago that same US dollar cost just one Zim dollar.
Trying to rescue a little snake in the swimming pool proved a fruitless exercise in the middle of the night this week. A power cut plunged me into darkness. The torch in my pocket grew dim, the snake swam and wriggled faster than I could see it or hook it out and finally I left it. At first light, I returned and in one quick scoop got the snake out. I thought it was dead. Half an hour later it lay unmoving exactly where I’d put it and I bent down to nudge it. Of course, it wasn’t dead, just playing dead, and it wasn’t happy with me, running like quicksilver over my fingers before disappearing into the long grass.
At the end of a long day, I thought about the old man I’d met on the road to the mountains that morning and the sad news I had to give him. It had been a beautiful journey getting there: tall grass tipped with gold, a huge spider web laced with dew hanging in the mist, two little boys and a donkey cart and away in the valleys steam rising from rivers, curling and twisting as it followed the water course. My heart grew heavy as I arrived at my destination and met the old man. Tears shone in his eyes and also slipped down my cheeks as I told the old man that our mutual friend had died. She had given a life of service to Zimbabwe and always been so kind to everyone in her path, often giving her last scrap of food to someone more in need than her. You will be missed Hilary and we will watch for you in the night sky amongst the shooting stars.
There is no charge for this Letter From Zimbabwe but if you would like to donate please visit my website. Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter From Zimbabwe now in its 23rd year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, a country in waiting.
Ndini shamwari yenyu (I am your friend) Love Cathy 16 March 2023. Copyright © Cathy Buckle https://cathybuckle.co.zw/
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