Casting shadows on our streets – Cathy Buckle

via Cathy Buckle News from Zimbabwe November 9, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Standing on the pavement  waiting for a friend outside a shop this week,  I noticed a tall barefoot woman holding the hand of a little boy who was maybe three or four years old. Both the woman and the child looked to be in a bad way: dirty, dishevelled and gaunt. It was a scorching day, the heat was beating down and in the shadow cast by the buildings another young woman sat on a cloth she had laid out on the pavement. Next to her she had a bucket  filled with plastic frozen tubes filled with coloured soft drink called Freezits. This is how hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are making their living: sitting on pavements selling things because there are no jobs anywhere for 80% of our population who are estimated to be unemployed. Three months after elections won by a party whose slogan was ‘indigenise, empower, develop, employ,’ more and more companies are in trouble. Between September and October alone, nine companies went into liquidation and twelve others were placed under judicial management. Industries are shrinking at an alarming rate and almost every day there are reports of retrenchments and redundancies with numbers of people losing their jobs running into the thousands.

The tall woman and her child stopped in front of the bucket of Freezits and the little boy stared longingly at the bright coloured frozen drinks.  ‘Five for a dollar ,’ said the pavement vendor but the mother had nothing except a look of despair in her eyes.  She caught my eye but said nothing. No words were needed because once a Mum, always a Mum. I remembered how much my son used to love the sweet, icy Freezits in summer and how many thousands I used to sell from our little farm store before land invasions. We used to call the frozen drinks cent-a-cools and before that penny cools and there can’t be many Zimbabweans who didn’t grow up sucking on icy, plastic bags.

I pulled a dollar out of my pocket. The child chose a green Freezit while his barefoot Mum took another four and dropped them into the empty plastic bag she was carrying. She looked at me, clapped her hands in thanks and said quietly: ‘Four children at home but no work. Can you give me a job?’  ‘Sorry,’ I said, shaking my head and watched as she reached down for her son’s hand and they walked on, the boy sucking on his tube of frozen sugary drink. I can hardly bear to think what will become of so many unemployed, hungry Mums and their children in the times ahead. After the horrors of hunger in  2006, 7 and 8, we thought we would never have to see such despair and desperation again but already it is casting shadows on our streets.

 Until the next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.


  • comment-avatar
    BossMyass 10 years ago

    Traditionally Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector was dualistic; on the one hand there was the commercial sub-sector comprised of large-scale farms producing cash crops such as tobacco and grain, on the other the small-scale producers who grew food crops, especially maize. This food fed the country and there was even surplus for export to other countries in the region. The government’s land reforms dismantled the existing system of land distribution and severely damaged the commercial farming sector, which was an important source of exports and foreign exchange, and which provided employment for about 400,000 people in rural areas. The old system was geared to large-scale production and the transition to smallholder production has been slow and painful.

    The economic crisis of the past decades has prevented substantial capital investment, and new enterprises have been slow to emerge. Agricultural production in general has suffered as a result of weak support services, lack of credit, and acute shortages of essential inputs such as seeds, fertilizer and fuel. In drier areas water scarcity is a major challenge for farmers. Productivity can be improved only through investment in agriculture water management, particularly small-scale irrigation and water harvesting. Many smallholders are struggling to continue farming, and only a minority in some areas have been able to establish viable enterprises.

    • comment-avatar
      Kevin Watson 10 years ago

      You miss the one important thing and that is land ownership without which the land cannot be used as collateral to raise funds for the purchase of inputs. Why do the ignorant always assume that agricultural inputs should be handed out free and water and electricity provided free so that the small scale farmers can eke out a living.

      • comment-avatar
        BossMyass 10 years ago

        Dear friend, who said for free ? The notorious Zimbabwean land cannot feed the population for decades.Prior to 2000, agriculture was the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, but there was a scarcity of useful farming land and a great disparity between the quality of land owned by black and white Zimbabwean farmers. White Zimbabweans had controlled a majority of the arable land (which only accounts for 8.24 percent of the total land in Zimbabwe3) since Zimbabwe was colonized by Britain. The land was used for both private and commercial purposes, but the commercial sector was a huge proponent to Zimbabwe’s agricultural stability. Black Zimbabwean farmers, however, were living on land that was arid and infertile. Because of the social and economic inequalities, the Zimbabwean Government was faced with growing discontent amongst the population.

        Over a decade since the land redistribution, up to 70,000 households—perhaps 350 000 people–remain displaced, living in poverty on the urban peripheries of Zimbabwe’s cities and towns. But the total displacement was far greater. Many more, perhaps two to three million, did not receive land and lost their livelihoods in the cities and were forced into economic migrancy, mainly in South Africa and Botswana. Many others were forced into labour tenancy, non-wage and casual work on the redistributed land. This loss of population has reduced domestic demand and contributed to loss of revenue for the state.

        Prior to land reform, Zimbabwe produced not only sufficient maize, wheat, and other grains, but a surplus was exported. Since land reform there has been a critical dependence on imports. Approximately 1.8 million tonnes of maize are required annually to meet the country’s needs against the current national yield of a little more than 300 thousand tonnes per year. Since 2000, there have been 13 consecutive years of food deficits and the United Nations has recently appealed for more than $100 million dollars to feed 1.7 million Zimbabweans in 2013. Production of wheat continues to be constrained by lack of access to inputs and an unstable power supply, arising from a bankrupt state that cannot maintain and invest in infrastructure.Understood?

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    Nyoni 10 years ago

    My heart fills with so much pain to see our proud once honest people being brought down to another level. We urge this parasitical government to help the hardpressed people of our country as it is your responsibility.

  • comment-avatar

    It is extremely sad to see such poverty but this is urban poverty and they are paying for supporting MDC. The rural poor depend on food handouts so they are a captive vote for Zanu PF. The plight of the people is the very last thing to ever worry the chefs. If you want proof just check on how many new vehicles for Ministers and Governors have been bought since the election.

  • comment-avatar

    Surely zanupf must fear judgements day

    • comment-avatar
      Hisexcellency 10 years ago

      Let’s hope that this day will come as soon as possible. For the good of all people living in Zimbabwe. We need justice.

  • comment-avatar
    Antonio Delgado 10 years ago

    Very sad and inhumane….

    Hopefully ZanuPF will pay for their crimes before we’re all dead….

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    chibwa2013 10 years ago

    The problem is some people want to be heard more than others and make a living out of others.I for one grew up in very challenging in the Zimbabwe which you say was full of salt and honey I remember going to Form 4 barefooted and no white ever said anything about that their land has been taken they now want to write stories about poverty so that they may seem as if they sympathise with us…how many of the farmworkers’ children wore shoes before the age of 16,yet alone went to school beyond Grade Seven….ZIM is a mess and let’s face it the culprits are still the same whites…who today want to sympathise with our fellow poor peasants coz they no longer have it all..LIFE has always been tough I finished my school in 1995 but I witnessed far brighter schoolmates failing to make ends meet coz of poverty and it saddenns me to see someone saying there was no poverty then and it has started now.