Cathy Buckle: A tale of bizarre politics and heartfelt kindness in Zimbabwe

In the scorching heat of October in Zimbabwe, a paradox unfolds. While the Paradise Flycatchers return and Red-winged Louries revel in the garden’s fruits, the country remains gripped by bizarre events. A sham opposition leader manipulates Parliament, leading to a sense of betrayal and despair. In a supermarket, a mother’s bank card is declined, leaving her and her son in tears until a stranger’s kindness intervenes. Zimbabwe’s economic hardships and heartbreak are stark reminders of the challenges its people face. Despite it all, they continue to support and uplift one another. This Letter From Zimbabwe reflects the resilience and empathy that persists in a country caught in a cycle of uncertainty.

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Zimbabwe sinks into silence

By Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends,

October is exactly how it should be in Zimbabwe. It is everything you will always remember about this time of year.  Sizzling hot. Scorched. Parched. Breathless. Too hot to move. Too hot for a sheet at night. Too hot to walk barefoot outside. Windows wide open. Dust everywhere. Skies full of smoke and haze. Some respite comes very early in the morning but it doesn’t last long and from dawn to dusk we cast our eyes up, looking for clouds, gasping for rain. The beautiful Paradise Flycatchers are back in our gardens and the ever noisy Red-winged Louries (now called Turaco’s) are splashing in birdbaths and feasting on every type of fruit in the garden that you’ve nurtured for months from purple mulberries to green figs and yellow lady finger bananas.  

These are the only things that are normal about Zimbabwe this October. Everything else is just bizarre, there’s no better way to describe it. Six weeks after a disputed, internationally criticized election, nothing has changed, everything has got worse and we’re behaving as if it never happened. With contempt and disgust, we are watching bizarre events in Parliament. A man falsely claiming to be the opposition CCC party’s Secretary General presented a fake letter to the Speaker of Parliament saying that fifteen opposition MPs were no longer members of the opposition party and based on that the Speaker declared in writing to the Electoral Commission that fifteen seats were therefore vacant. It’s so sickening we can hardly bear to follow it and feel betrayed and lost as we sink into disbelieving silence.

How can I best describe this feeling I thought? It only took a 10-minute visit to a local supermarket to do just that. On an early morning trip to the supermarket today there was a young woman and her little boy in front of me at the till. She had a small basket of items, a little bag of milk, a few slices of polony, bread, a bar of soap, two packets of jelly, a small bag of biscuits, a sweet bun with bright pink icing on it and a little white plastic toy car. The boy’s eyes were glued to the little white car as it passed through the scanner at the till. It’s a look every Mum knows, that little plastic car, the jelly, an iced bun, a little lad’s birthday treats perhaps. The boy’s Mum looked down at the lad and stroked his hair. I am sure that long time readers of mine will know that by then I was already welling up with tears. The Mum’s bank card was declined, and again, and then a third time. She abandoned everything and walked away holding the boy’s hand.

I’ve got three items in my basket, a box of cereal, a small plastic bucket and a loaf of bread; it comes to $100,000. I pay and go, quickly, I want to catch the Mum and her boy. They are outside the supermarket, she is bending down talking to the little boy. ‘Are you OK?’ I ask and she just shakes her head. ‘Will you let me help you,’ I ask? Her eyes shine with tears. ‘Why,’ she says?  ‘Because I’m also a Mum,’ I say, ‘please, let me help you.’ She drops her head and nods and I quickly flush some US dollars out of my purse and press them into her hand. We’ve both got tear filled eyes now. ‘God bless you,’ she says and I  touch her hand, wave to the little boy and they turn back into the supermarket.

Oh Zimbabwe. Do you know the pain so many ordinary Mum’s are going through in this crazy broken economy where you need hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwe dollars to buy almost nothing? Is this what we voted for two months ago? More of this anguish? We know we didn’t vote for this but no one is doing anything to insist that our votes are respected.

As I drive away I wait for a wheelchair which is being opened at the boot of a car. I am just horrified by what I see. A thin, crippled old man is lying on his side in the boot of the car, alongside a spare wheel and a box of tools, he holds his arms up and the driver lifts him out and into the wheelchair. There are no words, just no words to suitably describe this. Zimbabwe has descended into such a heartbreaking place.  

All we can do now is all we’ve been doing for years and years, help each other, in whatever ways we can, a few dollars, a bag of groceries, a helping hand and as much empathy as we can muster. How easily that Mum and her little boy or that old man stuffed into the boot of a car could be us.

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 11th October 2023.

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Copyright © Cathy Buckle

All my books are now available on Amazon and Kindle The hardback edition of my evocative Photo-books: “Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty” (the 2021, 2022 and 2023 collections) and my Beautiful Zimbabwe Calendar for 2024 are available exclusively on LULU Please visit my website for further details, to contact me or to see pictures that accompany these letters