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Zimbabwean author Cathy Buckle regularly sends BizNews the latest reports from our neighbouring country, Zimbabwe. In her latest letter, she sheds light on some of the extreme contrasts she experiences on a daily basis. On one hand, there are the struggles experienced by poor and starving Zimbabweans compared with the natural beauty of changing seasons in this poverty-stricken country. On the other, she notes the “nauseating” significance of food vouchers being handed out to ordinary citizens while the government gifts cars to the leaders of 12 political parties that supported President Mnangagwa’s disputed 2018 election. “The $1.14m for cars could have bought 95,000 food vouchers,” Buckle notes. Despite this, Buckle chooses to focus on the undeniable and enduring beauty of the land she calls home. – Claire Badenhorst
Zimbabwe’s sound of hope
By Cathy Buckle*
Summer finally made its way into Zimbabwe this week and oh, how pleased we are to see her. In the highveld, the Msasa trees have emerged into new leaf: pink, red, and caramel, and in the lowveld, the Baobabs are bare and the Mopane trees are shedding their old leaves in a beautiful palette of gold, orange, and russet.
As I write this letter it’s a warm and windy September day, the air is full of dust and the horizon smudged by smoke and haze. A man on a bicycle goes past, calling out that he is buying empty bottles which he swaps for sweets, eggs, or single cigarettes. His voice carries in the wind along with the calls of a beautiful black-headed Oriole newly returned to the neighbourhood with the arrival of warmer temperatures. The contrast between the struggle of everyday life and the beauty of Zimbabwe is dramatic.
There is a desperate rush going on in Zimbabwe this week after government announced it was opening schools again. Parents earning next to nothing are suddenly scrambling to find money for school fees and books and one desperate dad I met was trying to raise $23 for a pair of school shoes for his son. $23 might not sound like a lot but when I put a $20 note into his hand and his eyes shone with tears as he clapped his hands in thanks, I knew exactly how much that money meant to him.
Last week outside the main supermarket in my hometown was a floor-to-ceiling display banner reading: ‘WFP (World Food Programme) Social Assistance Vouchers redeemable here’. The WFP is giving $12 a month to vulnerable people in urban areas who are struggling to meet their basic food needs. The WFP is targeting cash assistance to 500,000 people by the end of 2021 and says it has seen a “30% increase in the average price (in ZWL) of basic food items in the first half of 2021”.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister is under pressure to disclose the source of funding for 19 vehicles estimated to be valued at $1.14m just given out to the leaders of 12 small losing political parties who backed President Mnangagwa’s disputed 2018 election. The contradiction between cars being given out by our government while the WFP gives out food vouchers to ordinary people is nauseating. The U$1.14m for cars could have bought 95,000 food vouchers.
At four-thirty in the morning, I stood outside under a star filled sky, a fiery necked nightjar was calling: “Good Lord Deliver Us”, its voice clear and consistent in the darkness. This nightjar, known as the Litany Bird, has long been the sound of hope and determination for me, the song of Zimbabwe calling out for deliverance. With the call of the Litany Bird in my mind, I am pleased to announce that I have just released my new book, Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty. This book is an evocative collection of photographs and stories showing the enduring beauty of Zimbabwe: kopjes and mountains, waterfalls and rivers, wild places and beautiful creatures, red and orange sunsets, pink and apricot sunrises. I hope through this book you will walk in my shoes, feel the warmth of the sun in a bright blue sky, see the golden grass swaying in the warm breeze, hear the call of the nightjar at dawn and the grunts of hippos in the river at dusk and be transported into the very heart and soul of Zimbabwe.
- For a preview please watch and share the YouTube video clip https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcJZuWhKvj0ulR0DnVms-1Q
- For information on my books about Zimbabwe go to www.lulu.com/spotlight/CathyBuckle2018. For archives of Letters From Zimbabwe, to see pictures that accompany these articles and to subscribe/unsubscribe or to contact me please visit my website http://cathybuckle.co.zw.
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