via Cathy Buckle News from Zimbabwe Licking our wounds October 19, 2013
Dear Family and Friends,
There’s nothing quite as refreshing after a blisteringly hot October day in Zimbabwe as that hour after sunset when the night starts to reveal itself. You can almost hear the earth breathe a sigh of relief as the sun turns red and slips into the horizon. From red, to pink and then orange, at last the burning heat is extinguished for another day. An early shower of rain a couple of weeks ago re-awakened the flying ants and now, as darkness falls, the ants emerge from the baked ground in their millions, taking to the air in a magical display of silent flight. And then it’s feasting time and you understand why the Robins and Bulbuls are still sitting up on the rooftops; they were waiting for the flying ants and you wonder how they knew. Swooping and swirling the birds gorge on flying ants, then the bats move in, a pair of nightjars and even an owl glides through the swarming, shining wings.
The crowded twilight sky and aerobatic manoeuvres are not that different from the frenzy going on during the day where the struggle for democracy has been replaced with the struggle for survival. As painful as the July election results were, nothing has changed. We still import almost all our food, unemployment is still over 70% and finding a way to keep food on the table is still our top priority. On Zimbabwe’s highways there is a picture of Zimbabwe that tells our story better than any high powered analysis of the state of our country.
Major roadworks supervised by Chinese men, using Zimbabwean labourers, South African machines and funding from unknown sources, are being undertaken to upgrade some of our major highways. It’s an exercise that started a couple of years ago and looks like it’ll be going on for a good many years to come. As a section of road is worked on, only one lane is left open and traffic from opposite directions takes turns to traverse the single lane.
There are of course the bully boys who force you off the road, ride in the ditches and verges, determined to get to the front of the queues of cars. These bully boys are made up of the two extremes of life in Zim : the battered, filled to bursting minibus kombis and the men with too much money driving fancy SUV’s, their windows up, air conditioning on, they are divorced from the real Zimbabwe, determined to always be at the front of any queue.
Sometimes you have to wait for fifteen minutes at these roadworks until your lane is opened and this delay has opened a unique window of opportunity for countless unemployed Zimbabweans. Villagers have learnt that right there, stopped on the roads near their dusty impoverished lives, are scores of cars which can’t move for quarter of an hour and it’s a perfect market place The selling frenzy begins as soon as you stop in the car queue. Men, women and kids armed with bowls, buckets, cold boxes and baskets are soon crowded at your windows. Apples, bananas, carrots, single cigarettes, biscuits, telephone air time, bottles of water, ground nuts , the list goes on and on. You don’t even have to get out of your car as the goods are brought right to your window. The sellers run up and down the lines of cars with their wares, in the blistering heat; they are smiling, laughing and making a few dollars for a change. This is the amazing skill of Zimbabweans: an opportunity created by endless queues of cars forced to stop on the highway and suddenly hundreds of people are making a living from it.
There’s been much scorn and criticism of Zimbabweans in the last three months since the elections but for the moment we are licking our wounds, making a dollar wherever we can, waiting for the next opportunity that may change our fortunes, waiting for leadership. My new book, “CAN YOU HEAR THE DRUMS,” is hot off the press and now available for order from my website. It is dedicated to the people of Zimbabwe, so that we never forget and history never sanitizes what has happened to us.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.
19th October 2013. www.cathybuckle.com