|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.
It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions.
And the actions which speak louder than words.
Commitment is making the time when there is none.
Coming through time after time, year after year.
It has the power to change the face of things.
It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.
The plane is full. I am going through more than seven hours of notes from one interview. The people on either side are talking about their holidays, clutching tall, hand-carved giraffes, reading the in-flight magazine and complaining about the quality of airline food. A mother is singing gently to her child; intermittent laughter echoes through the cabin.
In the margin of my note pad, I jot down key words: the first attack; the second attack; war vets beat up farm workers; betrayal; under siege; coping; anarchy; AIDS work; stress seminars; son’s thoughts of suicide; support; control; manning the radio; leaving with nothing…..
When we touch down, I will be in the country where Nelson Mandela wrought a miracle. Left behind is a country where ZANU PF has wrought destruction. Zimbabwe was once a place many people referred to as ‘God’s own country’, a bread-basket of Africa and a land of opportunity. The scale of the devastation is difficult to comprehend. Fear silences the public voices of many - CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation) agents lurk in unexpected places, and a chance remark could send one for immediate interrogation. Privately it’s a different story and many people want to speak out. They want to air their views on the threats, intimidation and violent attacks. They want to be counted, but they are also afraid.
Kerry Kay is a person who has worked through pain and loss on many levels and has emerged philosophical, proactive and determined to speak out for those who are unable to speak. She represents the agricultural sector on the National AIDS Council and, as an ex-police sergeant, chaired the Security Liaison Committee between the police and the farmers for three years. She is deeply committed to her role as AIDS Co-ordinator for the Commercial Farmers’ Union’s comprehensive national programme, which she took over in 1995.
The walls of her office portray the many AIDS projects underway and the cheerful warmth of the AIDS workers, despite the enormity of their task. Beautifully written in italics are quotations from well-known world figures such as Abraham Lincoln:
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong –
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men –
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich –
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer –
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income –
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds –
You cannot establish security on borrowed money –
You cannot build character and courage by taking away
a man’s initiative and independence –
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them
what they could and should be doing for themselves.
In Kerry’s view, truth will prevail. Her dream is to meet Nelson Mandela.
“We need to be the keepers of our brothers and sisters, wherever they may be.”
Whenever I feel absolutely down or frustrated, I go into the communal area adjoining our farm and sit with one of the special women under a tree. The shade softens the relentless heat and we can relax in silence for a while under the limitless blue dome of the African sky. When we talk, we share family concerns – the progress of the children, the illness of a grandmother, the impact of soaring prices on staple foods. Given time, the conversation will turn to the difficulties of a country wracked by violence, and the relentless advance of the AIDS epidemic.
Sometimes, when we pause in the companionable stillness, we can hear the droning of bees in the wild blossom above us, or the rustle of leaves stirred by a gentle breeze. In the distance we may hear the steady chug of a tractor – a reliable, comforting sound which brings a sense of normality to the abnormal days.
These women have set up their own form of hospice, taking it in turns to give moral and spiritual support to family members, friends or even strangers whose lives are ebbing painfully away. I ask how the three children of a dying mother are faring, and I am taken to her where she lies, frail and uncomplaining, in a dimly lit hut. We talk together for a while, but the effort for her is great and I feel it is time to go. I take her hand, reassure her that her children will be looked after when the time comes, and prepare to leave. Suddenly there is panic in her eyes and she reaches out towards me weakly. (Words in Shona followed by the English) “I do not want to die alone. Please pray for me.” I take her hand and pray to the God who has become an integral part of my life through Zimbabwe’s daily traumas. My tears strengthen her and, as I close the door behind me, her face reflects acceptance and peace.
The women who come to take over have learnt how to turn ill people to avoid discomfort or bedsores. They have also learnt the importance of fresh air, so that patients are not shut away in the darkness, as was the custom.
Although I always bring something to relieve the escalating hardship of their everyday lives, the women never ask for, or expect anything. Each gift, however small, is accepted with enthusiasm and dignity. A day or two later, when I return to the farm after a long day’s work, I may find on my kitchen shelf a couple of eggs in a neatly tied plastic bag, perhaps two or three potatoes, a mealie for each member of the family, or a little hand-crocheted mat.
My father-in-law, Jock Kay, who was Deputy Minister of Agriculture from 1992 to 1994, bought this farm in 1948 – a 5 000 acre expanse of virgin bush. My husband, Iain, was born here and grew up speaking Shona like the local people. His second father was Sydney Tuhna, the cook, and Iain would spend endless hours exploring the bush with Sydney’s children. For many years, Sydney dreamt of owning a car. When he retired, Iain’s father took great pleasure in giving him the trusty Mercedes he had admired for many years.
Iain is committed to this country, and to continuing with our productive farming operation. He is also committed to helping the rural people become more efficient, productive farmers. Several years ago, he started cattle discussion groups which were held once a month in different resettlement communities. The meetings would take place out in the open under an indigenous tree, with topics such dehorning, disease control and the construction of a dipping tank on the agenda. Since the government provided no assistance or advice to these farmers, the discussion groups were well supported. To ensure the communal farmers retained their self-respect, a nominal fee would be charged and ploughed back into specific projects.
Iain also set aside eight bulls from our herd and each village could have one on loan for a period of two years to improve the gene pool of their stock. A similar programme was set up for goats. The cattle sired by our bulls were magnificent animals and won many prizes on the local agricultural shows. Four years ago the bulls were sent back – it was too risky for the villagers to retain them. Relationships of this nature threatened the government’s hold over the communal people and ZANU PF’s displeasure was becoming increasingly apparent.
For these communal farmers there is no land tenure. If they had title to land, and were equipped with better farming skills, they could be self-sufficient. Increasingly, the rural electorate realises it has been betrayed. As a result of government policy, and the rapidly degenerating state of the economy, mere existence today is an ongoing struggle. Throughout Zimbabwe, one basic meal a day is becoming the norm in a country which was not only self-sufficient, but a significant food exporter.
This government’s current strategy is to force the communal people into submission through fear and to wage an escalating war of terror on farmers and their farm workers. The first time my husband was attacked and beaten up was in a resettlement area where he was helping to hand out opposition party leaflets. The second attack took place on our farm, in front of the children of farm workers, while he was taking measurements for an additional classroom. Resident “war vets” and squatters, who were psyched up on dagga, beat him with sticks, axe handles and fan belts tied onto sticks. It was like a feeding frenzy. Then they tied his hands with wire and demanded that he show them where the guns were kept in our home. Fortunately our teenage son, David, was alerted and he raced to the scene in a truck. The diversion of his arrival was sufficient for Iain to unshackle himself and dive into the nearby dam. The mob fanned out immediately, hurling sticks and stones each time he came up for air. Single-handedly David managed to drive them away and, in a last act of malice, they set fire to Iain’s Honda 125 motorbike. David raced Iain to hospital in Marondera. His father’s face was covered in blood and his back was zigzagged with appalling welts. They took a long time to heal.
It is strange how premonitions occur. As AIDS Co-ordinator of the Commercial Farmers’ Union’s National programme, I had been selected to go to America on the USA Information Service’s International Visitors’ programme. Initially I had been reticent about travelling at this time because the farm had already been invaded and I sensed that something would happen. Over the past three years we had lost four friends, two of whom had been killed in a plane crash. I could not face another death. However, Iain had encouraged me to accept. It was a wonderful opportunity to represent our country, he said.
The night before I left, I tucked a card under every family member’s pillow. On each was a cross, with the words: “Never will I leave you, never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). When the “war vets” tried to kill Iain, he remembers a vision of this cross flashing before him.
My group was just about to leave Atlanta when the news reached us and I flew home immediately. For over a month, Iain’s eyes remained expressionless. It was as if the person inside the shell was far away. When the curtains finally drew back, he still would not talk about it. Men have to come to terms with things in their own time, and we must learn to be patient.
During this period, the support we received was incredible. Offers of help poured in from the district, from friends and strangers countrywide, and from people across the world. Many of the letters we received were deeply touching, especially those from people who were close to us and in permanent danger themselves.
The …….. farm workers are very unhappy because of what has happened to Mr Kay. There are cruel people here on earth. Mr Kay would have been killed. God is there. Our country is very corrupted. War veterans is fighting people … the uneducated mujibas whom they recruit are playing dirty games…
AIDS is also fighting us. S……. is still in bed, he is very serious. This sickness is not understood.
We are very sorry with what we have heard…. We thank God that you haven’t been killed. We are created in different ways, some of us need to be helped in thinking and some are hot-headed for nothing. We know that God is going to punish them somehow.
We hope you are going to recover very soon and we are gong to pray to God to help you.
Two weeks after Iain’s second attack, David Stevens, who farmed near us at Virginia, was abducted and severely assaulted, together with the five farmers who raced to his rescue. He was then shot in the back. The mob burnt his entire tobacco crop, including the portion curing in the barns, which would have brought in vital foreign currency. Afterwards, they ransacked the farmhouse, burnt it and then set fire to his workers’ village. More than twenty homes were razed to the ground. Since Iain was becoming a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party, threats of a petrol bomb attack on our home began to reach us.
By this time, I was beside myself. We had four children depending on us: our sons, Clive, David, and Bruce, and our adopted daughter, Lindsay, who had lost her parents tragically in the plane crash the previous year. She could not afford to lose a second dad.
We immediately called over eight farmers from the area to discuss the situation. Iain felt that his presence was fuelling the violence and endangering the lives of others, including our farm workers. He then consulted with the workers and a consensus was reached. We would leave the area temporarily.
It is hard to describe what my home means to me, and what it felt like preparing to abandon it. For twenty-one years we had lived in a ‘shoebox’ until, two years ago, we built a beautiful thatched home. I love every bit of the house and cherish every beam, every piece of thatching grass and especially my beautiful kitchen, made big enough for the whole family to be in together while I cook. Leaving was a painful decision.
At a time like this, knowing the enemy and being prepared are among the most effective ways of overcoming fear. I was not a stranger to this type of situation. In 1979 during the bush war, our tiny thatched cottage was attacked. I was alone with David, who was a baby at the time. The firing started about 9pm. As I carried him quickly from the kitchen to his specially-made armour-plated cot, I had a premonition of the sequence of events about to take place: who would answer the radio, what the person would say, and what I needed to do in the interim. It was an extraordinary experience. I knew instinctively then that I was not alone.
Once David was safe, I crept outside with my automatic shotgun and started firing in the direction from which the tracer bullets were coming. Suddenly the gun jammed and I had to run back inside, light a candle, try to unjam it and then reload. Although the ‘reaction stick’ was on the way, it would take about half an hour to reach us. When everything went quiet, the fear set in. My mouth went dry and, for over 45 minutes, I could not get one iota of saliva going. It was pitch dark and the only way to be safe was to slip into the dark garden to hide so that I would have a chance of seeing the attackers if they came through the security fence.
In today’s situation, our lives are still being threatened but we live vigilantly and keep in radio or phone contact with each other, wherever we are. We slept in tracksuits and shoes, and had our backpacks ready the night we were warned that our house would be petrol bombed. Each pack told its own story. Iain’s included a torch, Swiss army knives and a Leatherman, and David’s a compass and matches. Clive had packed the bandages and ammunition, and I took all our personal papers. To ensure their safety, Iain and I had sent Bruce and Lindsay to friends.
Before we went to bed, we discussed in detail our plans for getting out in an emergency. Since it would probably be dangerous to leave by road, we needed another option. However, when the call came through at 11.30pm – Dave Stevens had just been shot – they said we must leave immediately by road. We experienced no fear at all in leaving. It is amazing how, when you carry out rehearsed plans, the adrenalin gets going and everyone takes a task and gets on with the job of evacuating. There is comfort in taking intelligent action. In my experience, the worst stress is the anticipation of something happening. Once it has happened, you can move on.
The men who ransacked our home after we had left included two people we had helped to start a security firm. They had sat around our table on a number of occasions drinking tea and asking for advice. Three of the youths sent to kill Iain during the second attack were sons of a farm foreman who had succumbed to AIDS, as had his wife. We had cared for both of them and had made sure that the sons were employed or at school. Betrayal is a difficult concept to comprehend.
The two weeks after we left the farm were the worst of my life. Many black friends advised us not to return home, and I could not come to terms with the loss of our home, our farm and all that life as we knew it meant to us. I remember sitting on a rock on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, consumed with anger and bitterness. When the anger threatened to overwhelm me, I would counter negative with positive, evil with good. It took long hours of soul-searching to realise that I could not live like this and, for the first time, I admitted to God that I could not cope. Finally I realised that, at this point, the answer was simply to accept what had happened.
While we were away, our neighbours took over the land preparation tasks and, with the help of our workers, planted the tobacco seedbeds for the next crop. When the “war vets” tried to stop them and put burning grass under a tractor, our workers went ballistic and drove them away. When the crop was finally reaped, it was sent to Harare for grading.
Those who are fomenting the destruction of our country and perpetuating the violence on our farms have no conscience. During the attack on our farm, they killed our dairy cows and broke the leg of Starlight, Bruce’s polocrosse horse. Bruce had played polocrosse on Starlight since he was six and she was his soul mate. Starlight had to be put down and Bruce was inconsolable.
The incredible pain you feel for your children is almost suffocating – it’s like being inside a wave shattering on a rock. At times like this you struggle to keep yourself going and to buoy up your children. The lesson of adversity, I have found, is to be more philosophical and to turn the difficulty into an opportunity.
In trying to reduce the trauma of our lives for the children, I made a mistake. I told them that we had many wonderful, supportive friends and that home could be anywhere. But the children had lost something very important in their lives and needed time to come to terms with their grief. Lindsay had kept all other special things in a box, and this too had been stolen. The most important item was her parents’ St Christopher, found at the scene of the plane crash in which they lost their lives.
Clive had been deeply shocked to see his father so badly beaten up – why would someone want to kill Dad when he is so loved by everyone, Mum? Leaving his home late at night and armed had compounded the situation. Since all of his clothes, and those of the rest of the family had been stolen in the attack, he had nothing. His friends were generous and caring, and I phoned him and the other children at their boarding schools every day.
During one phone call, Clive told me that he could not face another class. He needed time out. I sensed it was serious and phoned the school chaplin. The next morning Clive did not attend classes and wrote all day. What emerged was “Desperate”, a poem expressing deep-seated pain at the devastation of his home and his country, and the futility of it all. The following day I went to see him, and read the poem. Part of what he wrote follows:
A certain calmness has returned.
Day to day chores are carried out;
the mind strays little from work
Every so often a thought or two
disturbs the tranquility of school,
but stays only for a short while.
Seldom is there anything worthwhile;
one just drifts through time,
hoping and being ever patient.
Coping is the hardest goal to achieve.
Never offer a glimpse of sadness
as it will only dissolve what little
happiness there is left to enjoy.
Like adrenalin injected straight into the heart
so the feeling of violence erupts,
the desperate desire to punish.
The ultimate goal is to annihilate
the perpetrators without remorse!
The devil has blown through your life
like a wild fire, consuming what
little good you had ever grown in your heart.
Some may say he and the Lord do not exist.
If this is so, then why to you feel, touch, think,
fight, love, hate, live, die and then live again?
Your home is where your heart is;
and my heart is in ZIMBABWE.
When someone threatens my home,
they threaten my heart,
I want to exist, therefore I will fight.
"Focus, don't let it disrupt your work,"
the less affected say;
they don't and can't feel what I am feeling,
keep drumming into my head.
Consciously I am alive;
subconsciously I am dying.
I feel alone and isolated from people,
from those around me,
they do not understand my pain
How do I make them understand?
I am cornered and slipping down the
wall and falling to my knees.
I am fighting with myself
And drowning in my own thoughts,
and in so doing losing my loved ones.
Being temperamental, impatient and volatile
Trivial matters become monstrosities
and I turn on those who care.
Slowly my courage and strengths
are being consumed and I am
retreating into darkness.
Quitters are losers;
I guess by giving up I am quitting
If so, I have lost.
Clive’s poem was circulated internationally by e-mail and through the Internet. The response from people worldwide was incredible and offers of help poured in. Families we had never heard of were prepared to look after our children or animals and we were humbled by their concern. Months later, Clive, a big strapping ‘rugger-bugger’, took on one of the stress seminars in my overloaded schedule and admitted publicly for the first time that he had been suicidal. Referring to the work of Dr Stephen Covey, which focuses strongly on values, principles and integrity, he pointed out that there were people in Zimbabwe who were compromising their principles for short-term gain. He said this totally unacceptable. Since then, Clive has spoken at a number of seminars and has helped many young people to cope with the stress of life in today’s Zimbabwe.
At this point, my husband was also struggling with the ongoing trauma of our lives. Heading up a substantial and successful 5 000-acre farming venture, he was the main provider for his family and our 200-strong workforce, most of whom had dependants themselves. Iain was highly regarded as a farmer and for his work in the communal areas. But overnight he had lost control of his life and could not return to the farm. Furthermore, he had been seriously assaulted on two occasions and had to borrow money in order to continue paying our workers in full. He was also reliant on our neighbours for overseeing all operations on the farm. “It’s like driving downhill flat out and then your brakes fail,” he explained. The workers on a farm in north western Zimbabwe which has been devastated by the “war vets” expressed similar feelings regarding the current situation on their farm. “We are like a trailer behind the tractor. We have no brakes, no steering and no acceleration.”
Despite the fact that we were without a home at this time, we found many other homes and the wonderful friends who took us in became like an extended family. Through the e-mail our network had grown tremendously and support flowed in with unceasing dependability.
For a while, we lived in a small apartment in Harare. However, on two occasions our neighbours drove me back to the farm, hidden in a truck, so that I could see how the workers were getting on. When they realised who it was, everyone, including the children, would come running to greet us. For a few minutes we would catch up with each other’s news and then we’d have to leave, otherwise they’d be hassled by the “war vets” and squatters. When we were gone, the workers would be on their own again. It was very worrying.
The attack on our home had been planned carefully. Using trucks and a trailer, the invaders had sought to disperse their pickings throughout the communal areas. One of the elders, who was offered the goods, refused to take over anything stolen from the Kay’s house.
“We will send people to kill this man,” the villagers were told. “He is a security risk.” When the next wave of attackers arrived, the elder managed to escape by slipping away into the night. Bent on destruction, they burnt his home and his tractor, leaving him with nothing.
Directly the story reached us, I arranged to meet him in a hotel in Harare. I arrived with loads of clothes, and he came in a borrowed suit. We were delighted to see each other, and he immediately wanted to know how Iain was managing. Suddenly he broke down and cried – a difficult thing for a black man to do in front of a white woman.
Later, when we were back on the farm, Iain ploughed 20 acres for him and helped to plant his mealie crop. With assistance from many quarters, a truck was filled with things for his home so that he could rebuild his fragile existence.
The day after our return – we had been away for eight months – a little boy arrived at our door. He explained that his father was dying of AIDS and his mother was already dead. His family had sent him to us to look after.
It was exciting to be back home and to see the workers and our animals. While we were away, our caring, thoughtful neighbours had cleaned up our home and put what goods remained intact into storage. To break the emptiness, there were roses in every room and clothes for the whole family. The kitchen too was stocked - they had even managed to find baking tins!
It was also good to be in control of our lives again. As evil as the men who ransacked our home were, there must somewhere have been a scrap of decency and an appreciation for what we had done for them to make them stop short of arson.
Over the years I had collected beautiful African artifacts from all over the continent. These had been left. However, they had taken most of our special pieces – my inherited bone china, the crystal glasses, my grandmother’s table and my Chanel No 5 perfume – a thirty-year old bottle that had belonged to my mum. Did it matter? Was I just trying to hang onto the long-gone past – to thirty-three years ago when our parents and grandparents had all died within three years? The silence of the empty rooms spoke volumes.
Surprisingly, the pot plants were still alive and, outside on the compost heap, the nasturtiums were coming into bloom. Just before we had left the farm, Lindsay had planted two lucky bean trees in memory of her mum and dad, and they were also doing well. It is remarkable how nature’s resilience puts everything back in perspective.
The second week-end we were back, the “war vets” started burning our workers’ homes. About a hundred marched up to the house, chanting and armed with their standard weapons of “war”. A number of our friends were at the local club when we phoned through for reinforcements and their response was immediate. Everyone raced to the farm, including farmers from Wedza, which is over thirty-five kilometres away. As a result, further bloodshed was averted.
Within a few days, news of this latest violence had resulted in the arrival of truck loads of goods for our farm workers from as far afield as Masvingo. In cases like this, the people of Zimbabwe have learnt not to feel beholden as we all need each other. Trouble takes place on a revolving basis and each must support the other.
Throughout all the violence, the police countrywide have done little to protect the farmers and their farm workers, claiming that “their hands are tied”. I trained as a policewoman and, as a police reservist, have supported our Police Force for over thirty-one years. However, their fear for themselves, their families and their jobs is so great that they have failed to protect many of us during these critical times. Yet, when I asked for help to search a couple of communal homes for our goods, they agreed to assist. It was an uncomfortable experience to go into a stranger’s home and find one’s stolen property.
Later, sitting in front of the police van with the two black policemen and a suspected thief at the back, I began to feel ill. On three occasions they had to stop the truck, but both men were very sympathetic. “We can understand your stress, Mrs Kay,” they said. It is an overwhelmingly traumatic time in our country. Together we are having to deal with loss of life, loss of livelihood and the loss of things we have held sacred. We have also had to accept loss of dignity.
Just before midnight, the police dropped me, filthy and exhausted, at a friend’s house. Within minutes, hot water arrived from the boiler, the bath was filled with sweet-smelling bath foam and a fresh set of clothes was laid out on the chair. My dirty clothes were whisked away for laundering. I don’t believe that you would get as compassionate a response from a community anywhere else in the world. Zimbabwe is truly an extraordinary country.
It is strange how stolen things have a way of turning up again. Months later, some guards found our trailer, now converted into a Scotch cart, in Rusape. Inside was Dave Stevens’ diary. During September, five months after the ransacking of our home, my son’s copy of Dr Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, was discovered in the bush. Our family has been profoundly influenced by Dr Covey’s work, which focuses on values such as integrity, ethics, trust and principle-centred leadership. We find that interest in his material grows here daily.
Leadership is such an important issue at this time. For two weeks a year the Commercial Farmers’ Union holds a programme called “The Leadership Challenge”, which discusses principle-centred leadership within the family, community, society and government. It also examines the concept of servant leadership. The role of a servant leader is to serve and protect the people he leads, and to act all times with honesty and integrity, for the common good.
Increasingly, Zimabweans are reading the works of the Delai Lama, who is revered across all cultures. Our AIDS co-ordinators have recently ordered “God Calling” to help them with the overwhelming challenges they face daily. We have consciously to remind ourselves that there is a greater force than ZANU PF and to learn to be at peace.
Each of us handles the stress of our lives in different ways. One of my coping mechanisms is to ensure that I spend a few hours on my own every day, either reading or praying in a quiet place. The rest of the time I work at a frenetic pace. My advice to people when I speak at stress seminars is to something positive. Look around and see who needs help more than you, and find a way of helping him. If you are committed to this country, you must stand up and be involved. Seek out positive people and avoid those who are always negative. Accept that things will get tougher and work out a strategy to minimise the effect. If you are really down, have the courage to ask for help and accept it. Visit a hospice. Talk to a counsellor. Be honest with your feelings, especially with family members, and encourage them to express theirs. Remember that “fine” can be a dangerous word. You have to interpret what it means. It could mean that the person is not coping, and perhaps even close to suicide, but is afraid to admit it. We have to face the reality that we are living in a very critical time, in an abnormal world, and we have to look after ourselves and each other. Before we returned to our farm, we discussed the risks together, decided that the pros outweighed the cons, and then put our lives into God’s hands.
One evening after Iain had been attacked for the second time, I was cooking in my kitchen, hurting deep inside, when Clive walked in and sat down to keep me company. After watching me intently for a while, he said: “You are also allowed to cry, Mum. You can’t be Superwoman all the time.” I realised then that I was not allowing myself, or my children, to be normal.
The support from our urban community has been outstanding. Town and city dwellers send cards, letters and e-mails to the farming community, offer accommodation when we are destitute, supply clothing when the homes of farm workers have been destroyed and set up prayer groups. They also help in other small but important ways, like offering to baby-sit our children when we have to come to town.
To alleviate some of the pressure on farm workers, we’ve set up a Farm Workers’ Assistance Fund through the Commercial Farmers’ Union and the National Employment Council for Agricultural Workers. As a result of this initiative, those who have been retrenched but are still resident on a farm can have their children’s school fees paid. We organise for boxes of clothes to be sent to them and provide mealie meal and vegetable seeds. After homes of workers were trashed on what was previously a highly productive farm in the Mazowe area, people collected clothes, blankets, pots and buckets. It is important that they realise we care. My husband talked to them for a long time, and was deeply impressed with their courage and morale. We are in this together, they said - together we will survive.
We are deeply concerned about what will happen over the next few months – inevitably there will be bloodshed. We organised a two-day Medical Air Rescue Service course at our club during April and asked the instructor to replace the snake-bite section with information on dealing with gunshot wounds and the setting up of drips. Everyone who took the course was asked to purchase a MARS kit so that medical support would be spread throughout the area. Our district has been divided into blocks and all routes have been marked on maps.
Countrywide, people are deeply concerned about the escalating damage to the environment. Wherever possible, formal and informal planting programmes are underway to counter the devastation of the indigenous tree population. The barren landscape of farms that were designated and then stripped of their protective vegetation mirrors the pain of the men, women and children who face a bleak future. Despite this, a common bond is being forged and the country has grown spiritually over the past year. We are in this predicament together and we have to realise that the decisions we make now are not only for ourselves, but for future generations.
High up in the steeply pitched roof of our thatched home, the starlings are nesting once again. The lucky bean trees have grown a few more centimetres and the nasturtiums have almost covered the compost heap. Our workers tell me that Iain has taken on the totem of the Zebra because all of us, black and white, need to support each other. Time will heal. But the scar of these wounds will remain forever.
THE KAY’S CHRISTMAS CARD: 2000
I asked for strength…
And God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom…
And God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity…
And God gave me brain and brawn to work.
I asked for courage…
And God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for love…
And God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favours…
And God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.