This is Cathy Buckle’s letter of last weekend. In it she writes “From all over the country there are first hand reports of people barely surviving by eating roots, wild berries, beetles and insects”. Sadly, I can confirm this. Essy’s Mum has had to resort to pounding her planting seeds in a pestle and mortar to try and make whatever porridge she could of it. I wrote on Monday about the problems of trying to get US$ to her. Well, I managed it by paying someone in Harare to deliver them to her directly. It was expensive but at least she’ll eat.
Dear Family and Friends,
Within half a kilometre of a main army barracks and in view of a steady stream of traffic and hundreds of people, a man lay next to a main road leading to the Harare airport this week. Barefoot, painfully thin and with thick, unkempt hair the man lay unmoving on the verge, his feet protruding into the busy road. Standing on the opposite side of the road four men in army camouflage stood hitch- hiking, choosing not to see the man lying a few steps away from them. Is this what Zimbabwean authorities did not want the former UN Secretary General and former US President to see on a planned 2 day humanitarian assessment visit? Is this why these two respected Elders were denied visas to enter Zimbabwe?
Outside banks, building societies and post offices the crowds of people trying to withdraw their own money have grown to multiple thousands. Many people have resorted to sleeping outside the banks in order to be near the front of the queues where they can only withdraw five hundred thousand dollars a day – enough to buy one mouthful of a single cornish pasty being sold at a local bakery this week. Two and a half million dollars was the price tag for this simple take away snack – five days of queuing at the bank to buy one meal for one person. Is this what the authorities in Zimbabwe did not want Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter to see? Is this why they were denied visas to enter Zimbabwe?
On a seventy kilometre stretch of road through what used to be prime agricultural land on the way to the capital city, there is silence and desolation as roadside farms lie unploughed and unplanted while the country remains barren of seed and fertilizer. Even as the rains fall on the land and the ground turns springy underfoot, the weeds are sprouting but not the food. The lushest crop I saw in 70 kilometres was grass being carefully manicured on a golf course. Is this what the authorities did not want Mr Annan and Mr Carter to see and why they were denied visas?
In supermarkets, the majority of which are not allowed to trade in US dollars, the shelves are empty. There are no staple goods, no dairy products, no confectionary, no fast foods, no tinned or bottled products, nothing to eat at all. From all over the country there are first hand reports of people barely surviving by eating roots, wild berries, beetles and insects. Is this what the world’s respected Elders were not supposed to see and why they were denied visas to come into Zimbabwe?
Hospitals without disposable gloves, medicines, drips, bandages or disinfectant. Nurses who cannot afford to come to work. Toilets and taps without water. A growing cholera outbreak in all areas of the country with 300 people already dead. Raw sewage flowing in the streets of high density areas. Dustbins which have not been collected in urban residential suburbs since July in my home town. Men, women and children collecting water in bowls and buckets from swampy streams and murky pools. No soap to buy in the shops so no chance of preventing the spread of cholera by washing your hands with soap and water. Is this what Mr Annan, Mr Carter and Mrs Machel might have seen had they been granted visas to see for themselves the humanitarian catastrophe now engulfing Zimbabwe?
We hope that the Elders will not give up on Zimbabwe, even though there is no welcome mat at our doorstep.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy