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New Zimbabwe: Farms slowly come alive, roadblocks disappear – Cathy Buckle

JOHANNESBURG — While the financial crisis in Zimbabwe remains serious, there are some small changes starting to happen on the ground. Among these include fewer police roadblocks (which used to be used to draw in bribes) and the return of some farmland to previously dispossessed white farmers, according to writer Cathy Buckle. Zimbabwe still has a long way to go to fix the mess it created for itself. But if this is anything to go by, small changes could snowball into bigger changes in years to come. – Gareth van Zyl

By Cathy Buckle*

“The taste of freedom was on our lips and in our hearts today,” those were my words on the 18th November 2017 when I last wrote to you from Zimbabwe. That had been the day that broke the iron band of oppression and fear that had been suffocating us for 37 years.

Cathy Buckle

The day when we all stood together regardless of age, colour or political affiliation; the day we finally said we’d had enough of Mr Mugabe.

After two months away and with the euphoria of the Nov 18th Freedom March still simmering tantalizingly on my mind, what was I going to find on my return to Zimbabwe in late January 2018?

“Hello Mrs Buckle! Welcome Home. I like your writing very much!” an Immigration official said to me as I handed my passport over to be stamped at Harare airport. WOW, I was home and it felt so good!

In recent weeks a delegate at the Davos conference described us as a “different Zimbabwe,” while America’s President Trump called us and others the “s**t hole nations of the world.”

Either way, whatever you want to call us, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see a bright blue sky and feel the warm Zimbabwean sun on my shoulders when I returned to my country after two months away. How good it was to see smiling, friendly people, to feel that warm, welcoming, African handshake: hands, thumbs, hands. How good it was to see that a spark of hope remains and that patience prevails amongst ordinary people, despite how much we want a New Zimbabwe and not just a Different Zimbabwe.

On the hundred kilometer journey from airport to home it was wonderful not to see any police roadblocks. They weren’t hovering like vultures with their pernicious home-made spikes; they weren’t impeding the flow of traffic across the bridge; they weren’t under the big, beautiful fig tree; they weren’t standing in the road pointing at you to pull off so they could harass and harangue you, looking for a bribe.

Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on during a panel session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Their absence gave a small glimpse of this Different Zimbabwe and maybe a taste of what a New Zimbabwe, when we finally get there, will be like.

In my first week home I couldn’t get over the feeling that everything had changed but nothing has changed. The banks still haven’t got money, people haven’t got jobs, and everyone’s frantically trying to keep their heads above water, keep their jobs, keep their businesses open.

I visited the family who had been violently evicted from their Rusape Farm after it was seized by an Evangelical Bishop in 2017. While I was away I heard they had been in the right place at the right time; somehow managing to get permission from the new administration to go back to their farm.

Spellbound, I listened to their amazing story: invaders evicted when police did their job (for the first time in 17on farms); government ministers, (who’ve turned a blind eye for 17 years), suddenly saying that farmers with white skin are welcome, that they want all farmers, regardless of their skin colour. With tears in my eyes I watched the video clips of the Smart family being welcomed back onto their land by the farm workers and villagers, and I watched the red soil being turned over by the ploughs and their new crop being planted. Was that the red soil of hope leading us to a really New Zimbabwe I wondered?

zimbabwe flag

Zimbabwe has got a long way to go. Elections are on the horizon. We await democracy, accountability, justice and a complete end to corruption. None of these things will come unless all Zimbabweans, at home and in the Diaspora, step forward, speak out, and break the punitive cycle of 37 years.

I am delighted to announce that my books are now available from an international print on demand publisher with worldwide delivery. Since Zimbabwe increased postage by 400% two years ago, my books have been pushed to unaffordable levels with the postage costing more than the books themselves. The following titles are now available at reasonable rates from http://www.lulu.com

“Can you Hear the Drums,” “Millions Billions Trillions,” “Sleeping Like a Hare” and “Rundi.” My other titles will follow in the coming weeks.

Thank you for following my letters for seventeen years, for supporting my books, for your messages of comfort, compassion and empathy, for never giving up on Zimbabwe and for helping me to keep hope alive.

Your messages have given me strength and the courage to keep going.

  • Cathy Buckle is the author of four children books. She has also written the non-fictional African Tears, the Zimbabwe Land Invasions, Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe’s tragedy, Innocent Victims: Rescuing the Stranded Animals of Zimbabwe’s Farm Invasions and Sleeping Like a Hare. The article was first published at www.cathybuckle.com.
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