Wednesday, January 19

The Goodbye Store and lost dreams


In the countryside, life is slow and dusty this August in Zimbabwe. Winter has lasted until spring this year and people still wear wool hats and jackets to protect themselves from the biting wind, and at night our beds are filled with blankets.

On a recent road trip with friends, the feeling of traveling half a century back in time was palpable.

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On the roads there were more teams of donkeys pulling carts than cars. Goats and pigs, cattle and turkeys take priority and are always being cared for by children who have been out of school almost continuously for the past 18 months. Crucial child learning has been lost due to Covid restrictions in rural areas where online learning is non-existent, as are computers or even internet connections.

Parents without access to any educational resources, not even reading books, have had no choice but to dedicate their children to household chores: cutting firewood, carrying water, caring for livestock.

Piled on tall bushes and wedged into the forks of trees, corn crop residues, stalks and leaves (mashanga) are out of reach of goats who have nibbled on everything everywhere, even the dust they step on. .

At ‘growth points’ and ‘business centers’, garbage accumulates on roadsides, plastic bags and bottles scattered everywhere and caught in grass and bushes.

And you can’t help but wonder what the local authorities are doing and where is your sense of pride.

A scruffy man walks down the road dragging a small tree behind him and carrying a brown plastic bottle of Chibuku beer and half a loaf of bread. The tree branches take the entire lane of the road and I slow down to circle the man and his tree wondering what his story is, what his dreams were, and how his life in Zimbabwe has left him doing this.

I pass by the Goodbye Store and Butchery, and the name is appropriate and heartbreaking 21 years in the 21st century.

Crossing bridges in remote and dusty areas, you wait as youths with wagons loaded with water containers desperately try to keep their mule team from being distracted by a lone donkey heading the other way. A couple with two children and a bicycle navigate the bridge crossing with a pair of oxen pulling a cart loaded with more than two dozen 20-liter containers of water.

On the side of the car, with faded and peeling white paint, are the words ‘Rome was not built in a day’, and I am struck by the moving message of hope, the dream of someone long lost, waiting to be 41 years old. after Zimbabwe. independence.

As we move forward, the poverty and hardships are almost too painful to watch and I can’t help but think about the damning 2019 Auditor General’s reports on local authorities that have just been released.

The Auditor General writes about the positions being sold in Gweru, but has no record of to whom, for how much or where the money went; Mutare Council does not deposit all the cash it raised; Bindura Council billing accounts without names that had been created by unknown users of the system; that the Masvingo City Council collects but does not deposit the parking fees and that it does not have detailed records of the rented properties and the leases, so that the income cannot be accounted for; no complete record of fuel use at Masvingo and no record of who extracted fuel or for what; that the Marondera City Council does not maintain a list of rented properties and lease contracts and only provides 13.5 megaliters of water per day to the municipality compared to a demand of 27 megaliters per day; Chegutu, where 80% of residences have non-functional water meters.

These few examples were the tip of the iceberg in another damning report from Zimbabwe with no sign of responsibility on the horizon.

When we reach our destination, the ugliness disappears and the pain evaporates; the river is a vast sandy expanse, some silvery curves of water remain, and tranquility descends.

We have come to this beautiful desert in Zimbabwe to do what we do best to survive the struggle and trauma of life here: a few precious days to be healed by beauty and to capture images that will remain in our memory for ages. ahead.

The beauty of nature is timeless: baboons sifting through the sand for seeds, towering baobabs without leaves, the cry of an osprey, a lone male bending quickly to drink before silently gliding back into the bush, and later. , under a dazzling night. shining sky with stars, come the cries of hyenas and the distant growl of a lion.

A shooting star falls through the sky and we make a wish; mine is for our desolate land.

Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer and blogger living in Marondera, Zimbabwe.

Copyright © Cathy Buckle


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