Cathy Buckle: The perils of telling Zimbabwe’s story

Cathy Buckle has been writing a Letter From Zimbabwe to her family and friends for the last 23 years. However, this letter writing has become increasingly challenging as it can be dangerous to write about the situation in Zimbabwe. Journalists are facing threats from the government and are being forced to self-censor their reporting. Buckle highlights the difficulties of conveying the reality of Zimbabwe’s dire situation in just a few minutes, such as the country’s corruption, inflation, and power cuts. Despite the challenges, Buckle encourages her readers to watch a documentary about Zimbabwe and to share it with others. She also expresses her love and condolences and hopes to continue telling the story of Zimbabwe with the help of her supporters. Read more below.

The Story I Cannot Tell

By Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends,
Writing this Letter From Zimbabwe to you every week or fortnight for the last 23 years has taken some effort, and that’s an understatement! Some weeks it’s easy, words pour out faster than I can type them; other weeks I sweat blood, stare at the blank screen and wonder exactly how to tell you what’s really going on. It’s often a dangerous business writing this story of Zimbabwe; without exception those of us who do it in one form or another are well practiced at the art of self-censorship and hopefully you are equally well practiced at the art of reading between the lines.

I had written this entire letter a couple of days ago and then I saw this notice from Zimbabwe’s bravest of the brave. Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono wrote: “After these continued threats from President Mnangagwa’s spokesman against journalists reporting on the Al Jazeera investigation findings, I won’t be reporting on this story for my own safety. George Charamba made clear the consequences if we continue.”

Expletives! Heads Up!

18.26pm a Barn Owl sits in the twilight watching me. I can’t tell the story but like the owl I can certainly watch it in silence, watch and wait.  

Draft two begins at 03.00am to make the most of the electricity before it goes off. Draft two must tell the story without telling it. Sweaty blood drips onto the keyboard!

Read more: Cathy Buckle: Surviving cyclones, corruption, and power cuts – A letter From Zimbabwe

In a time of instant gratification where our attention span gets shorter and shorter, everything seems limited to a two minute or less clip. Two minutes to explain why a third of our population hasn’t got enough to eat. Two minutes to expose how our once thriving country has turned into a dark hole of corruption. Two minutes to understand why we have 18 hour power cuts every day. Two minutes to describe the reality of 480% inflation. Two minutes to tell you where all the gold has gone. Two minutes to spell out why hospitals haven’t got medicines. Two minutes to comprehend why our best professionals have no choice but to flee to the Diaspora to survive and support their families.

04.00am, the electricity’s gone, the keyboard’s getting sticky, the Spotted Eagle Owls are calling across the valley: Huuu, hoo, hu, getting ready to go into cover before dawn. But I still haven’t told the story.

When the world is prĂ©cised down to two minutes it takes an effort to watch a 51 minute documentary and an even greater effort to watch it twice. And when you’ve done that the words, the numbers, the disbelief and the disgust haunts you. Can they really get away with it? Are they really going to go unpunished? Is anyone going to do anything? Is the world watching, talking about it, going to investigate the investigations? It takes two seconds to click here and start watching and 51 minutes to see to the end of this first of four episodes

I hope you do click, watch and share, those three little words that so dominate our lives today. And now, after a letter that says nothing but everything, I end with a message of love and condolence, I will never forget you Rob and Jen, or you young Jeremy, thankful for every brief moment in time that we had together; I will watch for you in the shooting stars.  

Read more: Cathy Buckle: A tale of Zimbabwean survival and humour amidst land scandals and corruption

Thank you to everyone who helps me to keep telling this story and helps me keep hope alive. I couldn’t do it without you. There is no charge for this Letter From Zimbabwe but if you would like to donate please visit my website. Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter From Zimbabwe now in its 23rd year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, a country in waiting.

Ndini shamwari yenyu (I am your friend)

Love Cathy

Copyright © Cathy Buckle

All my books are now available on Amazon, Kindle and Lulu with the hardback version of my evocative Photo-books “Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty” (the 2021 and 2022 collections) on high gloss paper available exclusively on LULU. Visit my website for full details or click here: or here

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