via Cathy Buckle News from Zimbabwe September 21, 2013 by Cathy Buckle
Dear Family and Friends,
Arriving at Harare Airport after a time away, you can’t help but wonder what country you’ve landed in. Confusion starts some kilometres before you descend into Harare: the horizon becomes indistinct while buildings and familiar landmarks disappear into the choking smoke of a thousand fires. It’s the time of year when everyone gets into a frenzy about planting a few maize seeds and every spare centimetre of land is set alight. Rural, farming or urban areas are all treated the same: every bush, shrub and blade of grass is incinerated; roadsides and railway sidings aren’t spared, nor are delicate wetlands or even the edges of cemeteries: everything is reduced to ash.
Coughing and with watering eyes you step into Harare International Airport where the sense of disorientation deepens. There are separate queues for returning residents, visitors, people with SADC passports or diplomatic passports. And then you notice that the signs are written in two languages: English and Chinese. Unbelievably the first thing visitors to Zimbabwe now see are signs that aren’t written in the two main local languages of Shona or Ndebele but in Chinese. How can this be? Since when has Zimbabwe’s second language become Chinese you wonder; have we been re-colonized?
Within a few days the culture shock of going from a first world to a third world country wears off. It’s not long before you know you’re home and it’s not long before you are forced to remember what happened. To remember the results of the election that sent the country into shock and mourning. To remember that after a thirteen year struggle for new governance in which thousands died of disease, poverty and violence and four million fled the country, Zanu PF have got back into power, by hook or by crook.
You know you’re home because the day before Parliament’s inaugurated there’s a sixteen hour electricity cut. The next day live TV coverage shows President Mugabe, now in power for 33 years, arriving at Parliament in a Rolls Royce under purple Jacaranda trees. The day after Parliament opens the electricity’s gone again, this time for ten hours. To really make you feel at home this is followed by two days without water and then comes the shocking news from WOZA. Their press release reads that peaceful demonstrations on International Peace Day ‘left thirty women nursing wounds inflicted by police baton sticks.’ You can almost hear Zimbabwe groaning: oh no, here we go again.
So many people who sacrificed so much of the last thirteen years of their lives to bring change to Zimbabwe are left wondering: what now. They had thought, hoped and prayed that 2013 would see a complete transformation for Zimbabwe and that they might get their lives back. As hoopoes and starlings run on my lawn and a red sun disappears into a smoke filled horizon every evening, I too wonder what’s next for our beloved country. Until the next time, thanks for reading this letter, and for supporting my books, love cathy.