Cathy Buckle’s latest letter from Zimbabwe came today and gives us some idea of what we have to look forward to – we leave for Zimbabwe on Friday! This will be my first Christmas south of the Equator where the temperature is likely to around 30C. Chilled beer and a BBQ is not what I’m used to at Christmas but I’ll give it a go :-)
Christmas in Zimbabwe is the time of soft sweet litchis, plums, mangoes and peaches. Itâ€™s the time to eat small, sweet purple grapes straight from the vines and to take turns with the birds for pawpaws and figs. Itâ€™s the time when its hazardous to sit, stand or put anything under avocado trees as the high up, unreachable fruits ripen and crash to the ground at the most unexpected times. Christmas in Zimbabwe means towering purple rain clouds, sausage flies and flying ants. It means rhino beetles and chongololos, large spiders and even larger snakes. Christmas is that alluring time when flashes of red, crimson and scarlet tempt you into the ever thickening bush to discover wild and beautiful flame lilies. Itâ€™s the time of year for mahobohobo fruits: sweet, juicy and oh so more-ish and for mushrooms of all shapes and sizes â€“ so tempting to pick but so lethal to eat.
Christmas in Zimbabwe is that first green maize cob scalding hot from the pot: soft, tender and sweet leaving butter running down your fingers and dripping onto your chin. For some it is chicken and rice, for others turkey and ham and everywhere meat sizzles on braai fires.
Christmas in Zimbabwe means reunion. Itâ€™s the time of year when everyoneâ€™s on the move. Transport is a nightmare, lifts are like gold and everyone is weighed down with bus bags and bulging luggage. The roads are chaotic, buses and kombis overloaded and impromptu police road blocks appear every ten to fifteen kilometres. The queues outside the passport offices and the borders grow longer while the bribes get bigger to match peopleâ€™s desperation. Instead of more people staffing home affairs and immigration offices there are less and the looks on peopleâ€™s faces change from anger and despair to disgust and resignation. Zimbabweâ€™s new tradition, thanks to a decade of political and economic mayhem, is the great, international, annual migration to reunite with families scattered all over the globe. To the disapora and from the diaspora hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans try to get together and be normal families, just for a few weeks.
Christmas in Zimbabwe means school leavers. A couple of hundred thousand O and A level students pour out onto the roads, waiting for results, drinking too much, playing head banging music and all the while knowing that there is almost no chance they will find a job in a country where unemployment hovers around 90%. Those that can will have no choice but to join the estimated three and a half million other Zimbabweans living and working outside the country. Those that canâ€™t will set up roadside stalls under trees, wheel and deal, sell airtime, become cross border traders and spend their days looking for ways to use the education their parents struggled so hard to get them.
Christmas for MPâ€™s in Zimbabwe this year is the car loans of US$30,000 that were given to each legislator which have been written off by the Treasury at a cost of US$9 million. And on the other hand, for the vast majority of us, Christmas 2012 is a time when the shops are full but the pockets empty as we juggle the bills, chase every dollar and wonder if, by this time next year, our country will have finally become the new Zimbabwe we so desperately need and want.