Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2005 5:36 PM
Subject: I have One Bar!
Dear Family and Friends,
I was at a small local function this week when a father stepped forward
and addressed the gathering about the dire needs of an institutional home
for mentally handicapped people. He told of how the institution had always
been massively subsidised by farmers and businessmen. Farmers who would
just arrive with sacks of vegetables, potatoes, meat and fruit. Businesses
which gave bedding, furniture or cash donations to help with plumbing,
maintenance and upkeep. In the last six years as the majority of farmers
have been forced off their properties and as more and more businesses have
closed in our shrinking economy, it has become almost impossible for
specialist institutions to keep going.
At the end of his short appeal for help, there was clapping and
encouragement from the audience and the man returned to his seat. As he
did so the electricity went off in yet another power cut but before the
candles had even been found, people were coming forward in the dark. One
after another they passed over handfulls of cash and others gave bottles
of brandy and vodka to be used as prizes in a raffle. Someone suggested
the bottles be auctioned and amid cheering and applause an auctioneer was
nominated and the bottles of spirit came under the hammer. There was
nothing at all special about these bottles, they were the cheapest locally
made spirits with unknown brand names which sell for around a hundred and
fifty thousand dollars.The bidding for the first bottle began at a hundred
thousand and with much laughter, taunting and insults it rose to two,
three, six, eight hundred thousand dollars. "One Bar" shouted the
auctioneer, "I have one bar" which is the latest Zimbabwean slang for one
million dollars.This became two bars, and then three bars. At last the
bidding was done and the sale made.The hammer went down in the candle
light, the applause was defeaning and a desperately struggling home for
mentally handicapped people was given a small reprieve.
Not long after the impromptu auction, talk turned to the ludicrous
situation these days where the banks are short of big denomination notes.
In a country with galloping inflation, presently at 411 percent, none of
us ever seem to have enough money. A businessman told how he'd been short
of 30 million in cash to pay his small work force. The bank said that at
such short notice they could only provide it in one thousand dollar notes.
Can you imagine drawing 30 million dollars in one thousand dollar notes?
Later that night with a large sheet of paper, a calculator and kitchen
scale I worked out what this entailed. Thirty thousand bank notes, three
thousand paper clips and 30 elastic bands make up thirty million dollars.
This large pile of paper weighs a staggering 45 kilograms and when the
businessman got to the bank to collect his money, they had to loan him a
tin trunk and two security guards to carry it. And what can you buy for
thirty million dollars in Zimbabwe this week: twelve hundred loaves of
bread or 90 frozen chickens or a drum and a half of petrol on the black
market. It has all become very much like living in the land of Alice in
Wonderland but the people are still the friendliest, kindest and most
generous people in the world. Until next week, love cathy
Copyright cathy buckle 19 November 2005.
"African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from:
Sunday November 20, 2005
Long plagued by political infighting, Zimbabwe Cricket has fallen deeper
into crisis, with national team captain Tatenda Taibu in hiding from ruling
party thugs, the team calling for the resignation of the chairman and the
chairman under investigation for misuse of foreign funds.
The litany of troubles has brought calls from inside Zimbabwe as well as
international commentators for the intervention of the ICC into the
political interference in the administration of the sport in Zimbabwe.
The national team has not recovered from the boycott by former captain Heath
Streak and 17 other white players last year. But now the young black players
who replaced them are also balking at the way hardliners from President
Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party are running the sport and allegedly helping
themselves to the foreign earnings.
The players are threatening to strike and last week urged the resignation of
Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka and managing director Ozias Bvute.
Serious questions about misuse of funds by the national administration were
repeated by the chairmen of Zimbabwe's five provincial cricket boards.
Matters came to a head when Taibu, 22, addressed a press conference 10 days
ago about the national team's grievances and he is said to have received a
threatening phone call from a well-known Zanu-PF enforcer. Within a few
minutes, Taibu's wife also received an intimidating phone call and the
couple and their four-week-old child went into hiding.
Until recently, Taibu was the cheerfully apolitical young sportsman who
replaced Streak and led a woefully inexperienced national team to a string
of humiliating defeats. But now Taibu is speaking out.
He said that he slowly discovered that the troubles in Zimbabwe cricket were
not about race. 'We found out that it is about the administrators,' he
explained. 'They have two players on contract and 75 people employed in
administration. Usually I am a quiet guy who doesn't usually like to get
involved in a lot of things, but when these guys [Chingoka and Bvute]
started to put the race issue as the major cause of problems in cricket, I
felt I had to make a stand and tell the truth. It's simple as it can be -
cricket is not being run properly.'
The players support national coach Phil Simmons, a former West Indies
player, who was sacked by Chingoka. Simmons was replaced by former player
Kevin Curran, who once was banned from the national team because he played
in apartheid South Africa. He is not a popular appointment.
The charges from the players and provincial chairmen that Chingoka and
others had misused foreign funds drew the attention of the country's cash
hungry central bank which enforces the strict laws on foreign earnings.
Agents searched the offices of Zimbabwe Cricket this week and called
Chingoka and Bvute. Authorities are especially looking into what happened to
the £50,000 'honorarium' that Zimbabwe Cricket awarded to Chingoka.
Members of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit are to travel to
Zimbabwe this month, according to reports in South Africa, to investigate
the board's finances.
In an effort to sidestep the critical provincial committees, Chingoka
hastily created five new provincial committees in the past month. He had
hoped that these bodies would help him to win approval at a national meeting
planned for this weekend, but the meeting was postponed at the last minute,
amid allegations of illegalities and irregularities.
'Anyone can see that Zimbabwean cricket has been in a mess for some time,
but now it is getting worse,' said a former national team player, who wished
to remain anonymous. 'The fact is, Mugabe and his Zanu-PF cronies are
running the game for their own profit and they will threaten anyone who
questions them. It is despicable.'
Cold but brilliantly clear. I suppose you could think of early on a winter's
day in Zimbabwe. Nothing that dancing can't help - so there was loads of
dancing. We were grateful to be fortified by our pizza man: a generous
well-wisher who always buys us pizza.
Julius Mutyambizi-Dewa was pleased to get a letter from the British
government in response to our petition calling on Mr Blair to make Zimbabwe
a priority. Lord Triesman, Minister responsible for Africa, wrote with a
full account of the government's policy. We hope to put his letter on this
website. Briefly, he says Zimbabwe remained a high priority but that
concerted international action is the only effective option. We will write
back to him and say this is exactly what we want but why aren't we getting
We had an unusual visitor this week, a local drunk who spent his time at the
Vigil flat out on the pavement amongst the dancers. We were greatly
relieved when he got to his feet and we were able to usher him out of the
There is so much education to do. We had one fellow today who argued that
he supported Mugabe because he was just giving Africa back to the Africans.
A former Zimbabwean teacher, Harris, took him aside and spoke to him at
length about what is happening in Zimbabwe. His view had changed after his
conversation with Harris. So much of what we do is interacting with the
public passing by - people from all over the world. We find that so many of
them are very concerned and sympathetic.
We were pleased to be joined by an influx of Zimbabwean refugees. The Vigil
has become the meeting place for exiled Zimbabweans. The Vigil has made a
contribution towards sending home the body of one of the Zimbabwe hunger
strikers, our sister, Lizwane Ndlovu, who died last week. She has left
behind two young children in Zimbabwe and we all grieve for them.
Next week the Vigil in support of civil society in Zimbabwe is to protest
against the Senate elections. Vigil supporters are against wasting money on
what they consider to be a sterile house of cronies.
FOR THE RECORD: about 40 supporters came today.
FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 21st November, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at
the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand
from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn
right and you will see the pub). The first forum at the new venue will be a
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk.
[Long live Rhodesia!! An efficient, vibrant country the likes
of which Zimbabwe never will be able to match. And who knows... maybe Rhodesia
will outlive Zimbabwe.
The Sunday Times, UK November 20, 2005
Anthony Sattin canoes with crocs and dozes with hippos as he
retraces Dr Livingstone's journey down the mighty Zambezi
Horace was the worst of one-night stands: he left before I woke.
No wonder I slept in. Although he might deny this, Horace had kept me awake
half the night with his snoring, which was rich and persistent. I wasn't
complaining too much, however. I'd expected much from my canoe expedition to
the Victoria Falls, but I hadn't expected to sleep with a hippo.
There was no way I was going to nudge Horace to turn over - not
after hearing my guide, SK, talk about hippopotamus behaviour on my first
morning. "Hippos are dangerous," he said, as we stood beside the glittering
Zambezi near the Zambian village of Katambora. "They won't eat you, but if
they feel threatened, they will attack. They have big teeth and they are
The broad river was sprinkled with islands and fringed with
exotic trees. It seemed like paradise to my sore, city-dwelling eyes - but
not to SK. He saw only the dangers.
"Watch out for the crocodiles," he went on. "Large, very fast
and verrrry fierce. They grow to 16ft and have up to 80 teeth. Keep your
hands and feet inside the canoe."
I looked at the inflatable craft we were about to launch and
wondered whether rubber would withstand croc or hippo teeth. I also wondered
about that roaring noise I could hear coming from beyond a stand of trees.
We were some way above the Victoria Falls, which one of the local tribes
calls Mosi-oa-Tunya, "the smoke that thunders". Was I hearing the thunder?
"That's just the Katambora rapids," SK said. "Nothing to worry about." He
handed me a helmet and life jacket. "But there are dangers," he added
FOR EVERYTHING that followed, I have two very different men to
thank. The first is David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary who passed
Katambora in November 1855 on his way to becoming the first recorded
European to see the falls, which he named after his queen. Where other
colonial figures have had bad press in Africa, Zambians still adore
Livingstone. As a boy, SK was taught that Livingstone told the world about
the falls and fought slavery. "Without him, I might not be here.
And you wouldn't be, either."
The other person I have to thank is Robert Mugabe. The Zambezi
separates Zambia from Zimbabwe, and until a few years ago, most visitors
approached the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side, which has hotels and
tour companies to look after them. Since Mugabe launched his land- reform
programme, however, most foreigners stay on the Zambian side. While the
Lower Zambezi - below the falls - has become an adventure park, the Upper
Zambezi has wildlife and some beautiful riverside lodges, but is less
We pushed the canoe out, me in front, SK at the back, a motor
behind him. I scoffed at that. After the rains, the Zambezi flows so fast
you don't really need to paddle. Even in the dry season, we moved without
too much effort, picking up speed as we approached the rapids, which looked
gentle enough, but still soaked us. SK smiled knowingly.
The Zambezi's small sand islands closed down the horizon, but
provided plenty to look at. SK pointed out the many birds along their
banks - the vultures, a cormorant, some storks. Then something slid into the
river, very near us. Very near.
"Crocodile," was all SK said, paddling swiftly across the
Television has made an art out of wildlife-watching, feeding us
lingering views into the private lives of creatures. Real time in the wild
is different: the croc moved so quickly that all I saw was its spine gliding
into the water. I didn't see much more of the hippos that surfaced briefly
further downstream: "To check who we are," my guide explained. Then the
breeze picked up and SK laughed. "Still want to paddle?" Well, I did, but
the wind was practically blowing us back upriver. We motored to Siankaba.
Without Mugabe's folly, the islands of Siankaba probably wouldn't
exist. It is the reason that Simon Wilde, a Zimbabwean, opted to set his
luxury camp on two Zambian islands. On one, he built six wooden rooms,
hidden in the trees. On the other, he built a restaurant, bar and pool.
Wilde is so successful at creating a house-party atmosphere that
even the honeymooners joined in as we ate together, strolled through nearby
Siankaba village and paddled out onto the river for a sundowner. The first
day of my journey concluded in classic African style: around the campfire,
galaxies above us, unidentified sounds all around.
Gathering around a fire is one experience we can still share
with Livingstone, 150 years on. Another is travelling in a mokoro, a dugout
canoe like those the explorer used to reach the falls in 1855. Mine had been
carved from a balsa-like manketti tree. I sat on a chair in the middle while
Lemmy Nyambe punted us into the stream.
As well as wielding the heavy oar, Lemmy was skilled at spotting
game - bushbuck, hippos, crocs - and at identifying trees. I was
particularly struck by the tentacle-like roots of the waterberry, the arms
of the baobab and the leaves of the mangosteen. Lemmy took me as far as
Sindabezi, another island bush camp, this one with just five beds. I spent
the evening watching baboons play in the Zambezi National Park while the red
sunset dissolved into the river.
But the real thrill at Sindabezi came after dark. There is no
electricity, so five of us were dining by candlelight - crocodile on the
menu - when conversation was halted by a noise from the riverbank. A hippo
strolled slowly past the table.
"Don't stop talking," our hostess suggested. "Horace likes
Unlike other hippos, Horace grazes all day and comes ashore at
night. So it was that he chose to kip near my bed, snoring through vast
nostrils. All things considered, I was glad he was a heavy sleeper.
Just a few more miles of beautiful river to the falls. Most of
Zambia's riverside developments lie below Sindabezi, including the Zambezi
Sun, where I spent the following night.
The Sun and its upmarket twin, the Royal Livingstone, have been
built inside the national park, right beside the falls. This must have had
wildlife campaigners gnashing their teeth, but it doesn't seem to have upset
the animals, which got to me before I'd even had breakfast.
A sign outside my room asked me to Please Beware of Crocodiles.
I assumed it was a gag, but it turned out to be the beginning of a safari: I
encountered a small croc sunbathing just behind the sign; zebra were
cropping the grass; baboons were bothering guests at the terrace restaurant;
and a family of elephants were crossing the road. Overexcited, I returned to
Livingstone landed his mokoro on a small island in the middle of
the surging stream, which has since taken his name. The island is sacred to
the local tribe, who made sacrifices here to the river gods, and it provides
the most spectacular view of one of the wonders of the world. Livingstone
crawled to the edge, looked down and declared this "the most wonderful sight
I had seen in Africa".
There was one trick, however, the good man missed. I stormed
across to Livingstone Island on a twin-engined banana boat, and a guide
named Samson took me to the south bank, where he suggested that I dive into
the river. We were a dozen feet from the edge of the falls. Apart from the
obvious, I thought about the dangers SK had warned against, but Samson
declared that hippos and crocs don't like fast-flowing water. In I jumped.
Below the falls, people were bungee-jumping and white-water
rafting, flipping helicopters inside the gorge and flying microlights above
it. But nothing could compare to this.
The river, surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly powerful, pushed
me towards the brink of the falls, where a ridge of rock stopped me from
going over. Leaning across it, I watched the river fall 328ft and throw back
a spray - the "smoke" - and a roar - the "thunder". It also made a rainbow.
It wasn't till I got home and saw the photographs that I
realised the rainbow ended, leprechaun-style, in the river, just beside me.
.. Anthony Sattin travelled as a guest of Sunvil Africa
The Sunday Age, Melbourne, Australia.
20 November 2005
OUALIFYING for the 2006 World Cup had nothing to do with the heroics of
goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, the ice-cool penalty kick by John Aloisi or
supercoach Guus Hiddink.
The real reason for Australia's great football victory is some investigative
journalism by comic John Safran.
If you think this is a joke, rewind the tape of the post-game presentation
on SBS and watch analyst Craig Foster quickly thanking Safran for helping
lift the curse on Australian football.
The story begins in 1969, when the Australians were trying to qualify for
the 1970 World Cup. The team had lost a play-off and was to face Rhodesia
(now Zimbabwe) in Mozambique.
Safran said: "Johnny (Warren) told me that after the first game of that
series, some of the players heard about a witchdoctor in Mozambique who said
he could sort things out by putting a curse on the Rhodesians.
"They all said, 'Yeah, cool, let's do it' and so the witchdoctor planted
some bones near one of the goalposts and cursed the opposition."
The team won the next game 3-1 and the witchdoctor told the players he
wanted $1000 for his services.
"You owe me", the witchdoctor told them, but the players didn't have enough
money," Safran said. "He warned them he'd reverse the curse and put it on
"The players left the country without paying up and Johnny sincerely
believed that, ever since, Australian soccer has been cursed."
The national team qualified for the 1974 World Cup but suffered a run of
gut-wrenching defeats, topped off by the 1997 Iranian disaster and the
tear-jerker in Uruguay four years ago.
When Warren told him the story last year, Safran decided to go to Africa to
do a story about the curse for his show John Safran vs God.
The wftchdoctor had died, but Safran found another who could channel him by
going to the stadium at which the Rhodesia game had been played 35 years
"That involved us sifting in the middle of the pitch and he killed a chicken
and splattered the blood all over me," Safran said.
"I then had to go to Telstra Stadium With Johnny and we had to wash
ourselves in some clay the witchdoctor had given us."
Safran watched the game at a friend's place. He said he had forgot ten about
the story until he began receiving emails from people thanking him for
having lifted the curse.