Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Zimbabwe - the land of plenty starves

Haven't written in a few days as have been away.
I went to stay on a farm with some friends just east of Harare in Zimbabwe near a town called Marondera.
It was an awesome trip.
It probably sounds quite strange to an outsider but I have always always wanted to visit Zimbabwe. I have no idea what it is that draws me there but I had never been until this weekend and although it seems desolate right now, you can see how it was once such a prosperous country and I absolutely love it.
At this time of year it seems days are dry and hot and evenings chilly. The colours on the trees are beautiful reds, oranges and goldens and shimmer in the winter sunshine. They tell me it is the harshest winter they have had for 60 years and everywhere is incredibly dry - bush fires are all over and burn brightly in the evening dusk. There are so few people around for it to affect anyone too much but that also means they are allowed to burn on as there in nobody to put those fires out. Rumour has it that 6 Million Zimbabweans have left (shocking - considering the population was only around 12 Million to start with!)
This mass migration really shows. Everywhere we drove is endless acres of abandoned farms. Mugabe's bright idea of chucking off the whites and giving the land to the blacks has worked out a treat! The war veterans took the land over - 'Thanks very much' - whilst the owners were told to leave, generally without more than a few hours notice, then the veterans came in and pillaged. Compensation was apparently offered to most of these farmers at of course the government's discretion. One quarter of this value was to be given on leaving the farm and the other three quarters over a period of 10 years. Most of the farmers (or all those I have knowledge of anyhow) did not take this compensation and therefore, although maybe living in another country right now far far away from Zim, they still hold the title deeds to their properties and pray that one day Mugabe will move on and someone else will take his place and give them back their land.
The war veterans were given perfectly good working farms for nothing - with better farming technology and equipment than you would find in the rest of Africa - and what was their next trick?!? - Sell it all - the tractors, the irrigation equipment, the fertilizer and the seeds, then winter set in there was nothing to eat on the land (as no one had actually tending the farming side of things) and then they just walked away. It is a terrible terrible tragedy - and although Mugabe puts it down to black and white - it really shouldn't be that way.
I do agree that the white Zimbabweans may be still a little backward in their way of looking at the world and do treat some of their menial workers with a little less respect than the majority of the world would agree with, but generally a little more education in respect for each other would of done it - rather than this anti-white movement that's going on.
Inflation is well read about the world over. Until you actually set foot in the country it really is almost impossible to imagine what is going on there though. The latest report I read was that inflation is running at 8000%. All I know is that since Mugabe slashed the prices for goods by 50% no-one could afford to sell anything and the shop shelves lie empty. Every day lives now seem to consist of queuing. Queue for bread, queue for sugar, queue for soap (if you're lucky enough to find a soap queue!), etc.
I went into the main supermarket in Marondera (once an obviously affluent town as I noticed a BMW showroom in the middle of town - it didn't have a roof or doors or windows as some lucky war veteran had obviously already sold those on, but it showed that not so long ago, there was money in this town), and there on those rows and rows of supermarket shelves was a lot of nothing. It seems if you're out for a bar of chocolate, a can of Heinz soup, or a half litre of dettol, then you're in luck. If you want some basic staples such as bread, butter, flour, etc. then forget it and go home - there isn't a chance of anything like that. And fuel is almost become a swear word - it just isn't available and what is, is only on the black market.
Where we stayed in the farm they were almost self sufficient and also fed most of their workers as much as possible (which I understand is quite illegal), and therefore we were really quite comfortable. What's so strange about being there is when you can actually buy stuff it is so cheap compared to our country, one fifth of the price it seems - but then salaries are one fifth too.
Gosh I could go on and on about the hardships that these people are dealing with as once there was some serious wealth (compared to us lot anyhow) and life was obviously rather comfortable for those with that cash. I must say I do see what Mugabe is trying to do but he really has gone completely overboard - it seems the power went to his head and he no longer sees clearly as the people suffering the most are those he was trying to originally help - the simple man - his 'war veterans'.
And after all this can I just say I absolutely loved the place and would live there tomorrow if given half a chance.


szavanna said...

Hi there from another mzungu chick (of Hungarian descent)- from South Africa. Thanks I really enjoyed this post! If you have a sec check my site - it's mainly about music in Africa, open source software and .... guru-shishya-parampara :) - oh yes the address is :


Hi Szavanna,
Glad you enjoyed my post on Zim.
I will most definitely check out your site and catch up on some guru-shishya-parampara!