via Richard Eyre: life is getting better in Zimbabwe – Telegraph. 15 June 2014
Richard Eyre, the theatre director, who has just returned from Harare, says many Zimbabweans are now prospering.
I’ve just returned from Zimbabwe, where my daughter has recently gone to live with her family. Six years ago inflation was at 231 million per cent, there was widespread unrest and massive unemployment. But, at least on my brief visit, the city of Harare utterly failed to live down to my expectations. The US dollar is now the local currency and, in spite of forceful government and forced land redistribution, if you walk around the centre and the suburbs of the city you will witness no violence and encounter universal courtesy.
“Hello, how are you?” is the universal greeting to which the reply, “I’m fine, thank you. How are you?” is acceptable; “Sharp, sharp,” is even better. The city centre is, like many African cities, a mixture of decaying tower blocks, some colonial buildings, some smart international shops, some shacks and a host of street sellers. In the extensive suburbs there are long, sleepy, tree-lined avenues bordered by houses with walled gardens and security gates and, within the walls, lawns and pools, tennis courts and well-kept gardens. Drive down streets named Churchill Avenue or Chatsworth Road and, were it not for the red earth and the profusion of flame trees, bougainvillea and jacaranda, you’d believe you were in Weybridge.
Who lives here? Well, it can’t only be the rump of the white Zimbabwean population. There were never more than 250,000; now there are less than 40,000. But someone is prospering, even if it’s only those who are blessed by Mugabe and, if our visit to a safari park was anything to go by, tourism is reviving. A cosmopolitan group of us saw giraffes, rhinos, zebras and, as my four-year-old granddaughter predicted, elephants: “I’m not joking, grandpa, they’ll come to see us to have their lunch.” And sure enough they did.
The metaphorical elephant (in the room) in Zim (as I learnt to call it) is the question of how long Mugabe will survive and who will succeed him.Mary Soames, who died last week, became friends with Mugabe and his wife, Sally, when her husband conducted negotiations for Zimbabwe’s peaceful passage to independence in 1980 after the civil war. She felt Mugabe’s decline from democrat to autocrat as a personal hurt. When I saw her a few weeks ago she was frail and her memory uncertain, but when I mentioned that I was shortly going to Zimbabwe she said, “Ah yes, Zimbabwe. What a shame…” Indeed.