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Dear Family and Friends,
An hour before midnight the calls of an Eagle Owl chased sleep away. It’s that time of year when the heat of summer doesn’t persist long after dark and so you spend all night pulling the blankets on and off. For a long time the Owl called out again and again, its deep, drawn out ‘hoo-hoooo’ haunting and alluring at the same time, eventually beckoning you outside to have a look. Armed only with a torch you sweep the beam around the highest points: on top of electricity and telephone poles, high up in trees and on top of the roof. Then you see it, sitting rather precariously on a television aerial. The big owl stares unblinking into the torch light, not moving, just looking. Moving round for a clearer view you catch your breath when you see there are actually two Spotted Eagle Owls sitting side by side on the aerial. That explains the prolonged, almost frenzied hooting and knowing that there are two birds clearing the garden of rodents, or maybe courting, you leave them to it and go back to bed.
By then sleep is even further away. The image of two owls sitting side by side on a moonlit night set me to thinking about the topic which has been the national obsession for almost a month. Instead of talking about the deadly serious issues of the constitutional referendum and then the general election that President Mugabe has unilaterally decided will be held in March 2013, everyone is still obsessed with the recent wedding of Prime Minister Tsvangirai. Everyone’s talking about it, or more accurately talking about all the women who are coming out of the woodwork laying some sort of claim to the man. Promises, pregnancies, damage payments, customary breaches and alleged broken promises all queue up to make front page headlines almost every day. For this to be happening in a land where HIV and AIDS stand in the shadows of every doorway, it hasn’t set a very good example for youngsters and so the talk goes on and on.
Most shocking of all is the fifteen thousand US dollars a month ‘maintenance’ payment being demanded from the Prime Minister by one woman. Saying that the Prime Minister was : ‘in a position to pay maintenance for my upkeep,’ and that he was: ‘handsomely paid,’ the woman is demanding to be paid an enormous amount of money every month. Fifteen thousand US dollars is the equivalent to almost three years salary of a government school teacher or seven and a half years pay for a domestic or garden worker in the country. Open-mouthed, ordinary Zimbabweans have looked at the breakdown of the fifteen thousand dollar a month ‘maintenance’ claim and can’t help but wonder if this is a common level of expenditure being practised by our leaders. The most staggering amounts being demanded in the ‘maintenance’ breakdown are $4,000 for groceries when most people can hardly afford 5% of that in a month; $1,200 for telephone calls which is a far cry from the twenty to thirty dollars a month most people spend and the $3,200 for clothing, hair and beauty has left us shaking our heads in total disbelief as we debate if we can afford a ten dollar T shirt or a twenty dollar pair of jeans.
This September it is very hard to banish thoughts of four thousand dollar a month grocery bills. How can this be happening in the same country where the World Food Programme say 1,6 million need food aid ? The WFP say one in five rural people will need food aid during what they call the peak of our ‘hunger season.’ There is a restlessness in Zimbabwe these summer nights and it’s not just the hooting of the owls causing it. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.
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