Cathy Buckle: Zimbabwe’s bitter harvest – Exposing the gold mafia and corruption

Cathy Buckle provides a snapshot of the current situation in Zimbabwe – describing the misty April mornings, the dying grass, and the prevalence of generators and wood-chopping due to the lack of electricity. Buckle also exposes the corrupt practices of the gold mafia and smugglers, who have caused environmental devastation and wealth inequality in Zimbabwe. Further, Buckle criticises the government’s mismanagement and lack of action in addressing the economic crisis that is causing rising inflation and unaffordable prices of basic necessities like bread. Buckle also highlights the government’s failure to support healthcare workers, who are leaving the country due to meagre salaries and poor working conditions – questioning the its ability to improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the upcoming elections. Read this piece below.

Gold, the curse of Zimbabwe

By Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends,

These mid April days it is cool and misty in the mornings. The grass is dying back and turning golden, the red hot pokers are flowering in the wetlands and the termites are back in the trees, their orange soil tunnels tracking skywards. We wake these April mornings not to the sound of bird calls but to the roar of generators or the noise of people chopping wood or pushing wheelbarrows of empty containers to look for water. We do not wake to the smell of dew on golden grass but to the smoke from fires of people cooking outside. We have gone hurtling back into the dark days again and are reaping the bitter harvest of greed, corruption and mismanagement, or most of us are anyway.

The big ‘hush-hush’ subject, the gold mafia operating in and out of Zimbabwe, continues to be exposed in a four part series of documentaries produced by Al Jazeera. It is utterly sickening. Gold is hemorrhaging from every pore in Zimbabwe, carried out through airports in bags that are not inspected and by people who are not questioned. The smugglers are arrogant and boastful as they smirk, laugh and brag about their exploits. They talk not about ounces but about kilograms of gold; they talk not about millions but about billions of dollars. There is a vast web of facilitators and enablers who accept bribes to not see, not look, not ask. The net of complicity is a tangled trail where self enrichment is the only goal. Gold, like other precious metals and minerals is the curse of Zimbabwe, the undoing of us. The devastation to our rivers, our environment and our wild places by the gold hunters is incalculable. Gold is not building infrastructure, equipping schools and hospitals, uplifting our nation, instead it is constructing huge mansions, filling private vaults and bank accounts and amassing fleets of luxury vehicles for the few.

Read more: Cathy Buckle: The perils of telling Zimbabwe’s story

It is too painful to write more because where there is such huge wealth for a few, life has become all but unbearable for the rest of us. In the past couple of weeks the street rate of the US dollar to the Zimbabwe dollar has soared again and today hovers at US$1: ZW$1500 or 1600. This has led to an immediate shock wave in the prices of everything. A week ago a loaf of bread was Z$950, today its Z$1400 and heading up. Inflation’s at 480% and the bills are piling up unpaid, un-payable.  

Where’s the Minister of Finance in the midst of this huge crisis ravaging the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans? He’s been busy campaigning to be an MP in Bulawayo. And his campaign promise isn’t food, electricity, jobs or the abolishment of his punitive 2% tax on all electronic financial transactions. Instead the Minister is promising to install Wi-Fi at ten sites in Cowdray Park where some people are still using outside Blair toilets. There are just no words.  

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

But wait, the strangest news of the past fortnight has come from the Vice President, who also doubles as the Minister of Health who said that Zimbabwe is going to introduce a law making it illegal for other nations to recruit our health workers. “If one deliberately recruits and makes the country suffer, that is a crime against humanity” he said. In response Dr Norman Matara, the head of Zimbabwe’s Doctors For Human Rights said: “The government should note that health workers are not being pulled away from the country but pushed away from the country by the meager salaries they are getting.”

The question we all ask the Ministers are these: Can you put yourself in the shoes of nurses, doctors and healthcare workers? Do you have to walk with a bucket to find water and carry it home every day? Do you go to work hungry? Can you imagine going to work without a hot shower or cup of tea because the electricity’s off for 18 hours day? Can you imagine not being able to afford a loaf of bread? Can you imagine your pay being a fifth of the amount you used to earn before the Zim dollar was reintroduced in 2019? Can you imagine your pay being a fifth of the amount you need to survive, feed and educate your children?

Questions but no answers. Gold mafia and smugglers. Chopping wood and carrying water.  Our poor Zimbabwe; can we find courage when election 2023 comes along in the next few months?   

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

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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