Conflicting snapshots of Ukraine and Zimbabwe – Cathy Buckle

Snapshots of evil and innocence, from Ukraine and Zimbabwe; the latter with whom South Africa abstained from a condemnatory majority vote in the UN calling on Russia to cease hostilities and withdraw from its neighbour. This is how Cathy Buckle captures her view of the world this week in her ‘Letter from Zimbabwe,’ painting vivid pictures. Realising on a pre-dawn trip 65 km from home, this is the length of a convoy of tanks entering Ukraine. Which illustrates how hopelessly outgunned the Ukrainians are and how likely it is Putin may conquer … at a price he will surely regret, leading to his ultimate political demise. Her sentiments at South Africa and Zimbabwe’s UN abstentions will be familiar to many readers of these columns but the abstentions depict a historical loyalty by local liberation movements whom Russia helped gain power. Loyalty, of course, trumps principles in politics, advancing as it does the narrow agendas of those who hold it. – Chris Bateman

Evil and innocence, side by side

By Cathy Buckle*

I am ashamed to start this letter with the news that Zimbabwe abstained from the ‘Aggression against Ukraine’ vote in the UN General Assembly to “demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops”. I am sad and disappointed that South Africa, our neighbour and the powerhouse of the subcontinent, also abstained from the UN vote. Sad, ashamed, disappointed, disgusted; none of the adjectives excuse our countries’ abstentions as day by day, we watch Ukraine being obliterated while her people make petrol bombs to use against Russian tanks, hide in underground car parks, subway stations and bomb shelters or flee for their borders, if they can get there. Every day we watch the horror in Ukraine and every night in our hearts we listen with them, from the other side of the world, for the sirens, the explosions, the falling of bricks and mortar. Forty-four-year-old President Volodymyr Zelensky has inspired a generation and awakened the moral conscience of the world and the world’s leaders … most of them.

Cathy Buckle

Meanwhile back in Zimbabwe as I travelled east towards the mountains this week, I could not get the images of Ukraine’s horror out of my mind. Along the highway, up the hills and down in the valleys the bush is green and lush in Zimbabwe this early March even though we are gasping for more rain after a long dry spell. On the roadsides, the grass is heavy with flowering seed heads, golden, white, pink and purple. Sixty-five kilometres into my journey, the sun starts to hit the kopjes, illuminating towering rocks, spotlighting the bright orange and pale green lichen stains on the huge boulders. Sixty-five kilometres along a Zimbabwean highway and I realise that’s the same length as the Russian convoy of tanks waiting to encircle the Ukrainian capital city Kyiv; 65 km of tanks, one behind the other.

As the pink flowering grasses sway and dip in the wind along the highway, I pass a man on a bicycle, he’s got a big round, green, plastic bath tied to his carrier with strips of inner tyre tubing. In the plastic bath is the makings of his lunch for later on, a pot, a bag of maize meal and a bottle of water; tied across the green bowl is a hoe and tucked into a space is a dog. Yes, a dog, looking as happy as ever, brown ears flapping in the wind.

The innocence of everyday life for a man and his dog on a bike is a sight to behold but not so across the country in the Midlands where campaigning for by-elections is underway and yet again, the ugly face of politics and bullies in the playground is being exposed. Iron bars, machetes and spears were the weapons of choice when a mob attacked supporters of the newly formed CCC political party as they attended a rally being addressed by Nelson Chamisa. One man was killed after being stabbed with a spear and at least 17 others were injured.

And so the images of a week that has changed the course of history in the world are these: a father’s hand on the window of a train, his son’s little hand on the other side of the glass, families wrenched apart by war. A million refugees taken in by the loving arms of neighbouring countries that know what we all know; this could be us. A 65 km line of Russian tanks waiting to lay siege on a capital city. Smoke billowing from a nuclear power plant in Ukraine shelled by Russian tanks, this surely the insanity to beat them all as a nuclear disaster could extinguish all life not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia, Europe and beyond. And in Zimbabwe machetes and spears, blood and bandages, and a man and his dog on a bicycle. Evil and innocence side by side, something we are very familiar with in Zimbabwe after decades of political turmoil.

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