For the youngsters who died underground by Cathy Buckle March 7, 2014
Zimbabwe is still getting over the opulence of two multi million dollar events that left most people open mouthed in disbelief in a country which is on the very edge of bankruptcy again. First we had the lavish 90th birthday party of President Mugabe which was held in white tents at the football stadium in Marondera and apparently cost over a million dollars. The birthday was attended by thousands of people who either sat outside on the ground in the dust or in a series of tents whose occupants wore neck bands declaring them to be either VIP’s or VVIP’s depending on their status. As the luxury cars streamed out of the town on one of only three small sections of potholed road that had been repaired for the function, the town staggered back to normal. The very next day the electricity was off and then the water ran out but no one said anything; this was exactly as we had expected, exactly as it has been on countless other VIP occasions.
Then, just a few days later, came the million dollar wedding of Mr Mugabe’s 24 year old daughter to a 38 year old pilot. We heard of yet more VIP’s and VVIP’s, of billionaire guests, heads of state and lavish gifts. At the end of it all ordinary people were left wondering how this quiet, shy young 24 year old Zimbabwean woman was going to cope in her new life in the times ahead.
For a couple of weeks we’d had something else to think about but the reality of Zimbabwe wasn’t long in returning. Speaking in Parliament, the Minister of Finance made the shocking revelation that the country’s central bank has almost no gold reserves. Mr Chinamasa said the only reserves the bank had were ‘gold coins which were valued at US$501,390 as at the end of January 2014.’ It defies belief that in a country with prolific gold and diamond mines, our central bank reserves are only apparently sufficient to purchase 1,400 tonnes of maize.
Where’s all the money going is what everyone wants to know? And just when we thought we were starting to get answers after recent revelations about the obscene salaries being paid to officials in parastatals, parliament stepped in to try and silence what’s now being called Salarygate. The Speaker of the House of Assembly has just announced new rules to stop MP’s from making ‘unsubstantiated’ statements. The new Rules came a few days after an MDC MP claimed the Commissioner of the tax authority was earning US$310,000 a month and questioned why the Clerk of Parliament was getting benefits far superior to anyone else in Parliament.
But perhaps nothing tells the story of life in Zimbabwe more accurately than the terrible tragedy of 22 young Zimbabweans who died in a disused South African mine last week. They weren’t attending lavish Presidential birthday parties or weddings but like at least three million others, they’d gone across the border to try and make a living for themselves. Apparently the youngsters didn’t have papers to be in South Africa and were evading police by hiding in a disused mine shaft in Roodeport. The youngsters died from carbon monoxide asphyxiation while police waited above ground. One media correspondent who was there described how the police were: ‘laughing and commenting that the illegal miners were too scared to walk out as they faced imminent arrest.’ Our hearts go out to the family and friends of these young Zimbabweans who died underground. They are the products of a country where a few multi millionaires live among twelve million struggling people who strive only for a decent life. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy