Sunday, January 16

Too hot to walk barefoot

Greetings from the beautiful blue sky of Zimbabwe on a hot December day.

All the windows and doors are open, it’s too hot to walk barefoot outside after 10 in the morning, and every day we search the sky for signs of rain.

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In the grasslands, Abdim’s storks patrol their annual summer migration in Africa, a sign that the rains are coming.

Impala pups are being born in the bush and it is a pleasure to watch their huge ears and gangly legs as they frolic and frolic among the Msasa trees and anthill.

There is a serene sense of comfort in the continuity of life despite politics, corruption, greed, and Covid.

Mugabe’s departure

It’s hard to believe that it was only four years ago that Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after army tanks arrived in the capital in November 2017.

What a dramatic day they were, how excited we were. What hope did we have.

Despite repeated slogans from President Emmerson Mnangagwa that Zimbabwe is ‘open for business’ and a ‘new dispensation’, nothing has changed on the ground for ordinary Zimbabweans this Christmas.

Most days now, it looks so much like the same old thing that it is difficult to know what has changed. Four years ago, and for many years before, thousands of Zimbabweans spent their days in queues in front of banks trying to withdraw their own money.

Fifteen days before Christmas 2021, it is the same situation for hundreds and hundreds of people.

Queues spill out of the benches onto the sidewalks, across the blocks, and around the corners. At the entrance doors of the banks it is chaos, with dozens of people crammed desperately trying to hold their place in the queue of the legions of queue jumpers that are entering.

A report in the Masvingo mirror describes how: “Hundreds of people have been sleeping outside POSB [Savings Bank] in Masvingo… lining up for the currency withdrawals the government promised them. Customers said that the bank was giving foreign exchange to a maximum of seven people a day. ”

The rest were offered withdrawals of Zim dollars at the official rate of 105 to one, while on the street the rate is 200 to one, which means that everyone who accepts Zim dollars instead of US dollars is losing the 50% of the value of your money – highway robbery in plain sight.

In addition to the seven lucky customers who withdraw their US dollars from the bank daily, there are thousands of people trying to collect the US dollars sent to them by their diaspora families through international MTAs (money transfer agencies) such as Western Union.

They are also there trying desperately to get to the front, failing and coming back day after day to try again.

It’s a gruesome sight to see these massive queues at a time when Covid is spreading at an alarming rate – 700 new cases a day in early December rising to more than 5,000 new cases reported in one day this week.

Gratitude however

Regardless, this is the time of year to give thanks. Thanks to the Zimbabweans of the diaspora who have not forgotten their home, have not forgotten their families and friends, and who, year after year, continue to support us with letters, packages, groceries, school and medical expenses.

Incredibly, remittances from the diaspora last year reached a billion dollars.

We also thank the courageous parliamentarians like Tendai Biti and journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono who continue to expose corruption, human rights abuses and injustices that put themselves at considerable risk.

We thank the steadfast defenders of human rights: human rights lawyers, human rights doctors, and teachers’ unions, among others, who stand up and speak out again and again.

We appreciate and mourn the loss of Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch’s director for Southern Africa, a Zimbabwean who has always been our voice.

We thank the protectors of our natural resources, our wild and beautiful places, the precious flora and the majestic wildlife, under attack from poachers, illegal miners and political appropriation.

We thank our teachers, doctors, nurses, and civil servants who continue to do their jobs in the most dire conditions, earning slave wages in Zimbabwe dollars. Slave wages where you can’t even afford a loaf of bread a day.

Look at these prices since the new dispensing went into effect: a loaf of bread, same brand, same size, same store: January 2019: Z $ 5; January 2020 Z $ 18; January 2021 Z $ 70; December 2021 Z $ 168.

It’s okay if you have US dollars, but most don’t and go hungry.

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