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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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Dogs in the manger
October 13, 2012, 1:50 pm

 

Dear Family and Friends,

To the beckoning whistles of the Paradise Flycatchers and under a blistering October sky, Zimbabwe waits for the rain. As every day gets hotter and drier and we think ‘maybe today,’ everything around us seems to be in a state of growing unease, infected with the delirium of October heatstroke. 

Because of the three week truck drivers strike in South Africa, a few items began disappearing from supermarket shelves in Zimbabwe, making us wonder if this was October delirium or frightening reality. Little gaps on the shelves reminded us not only of those recent nightmare years when there was no food to buy but also of the fact that an estimated eighty percent of the food on our tables is still imported. It’s a  frightening fact that is hardly ever talked about here because it exposes the real truth of twelve years of land seizures. But this is one of those facts that that you can’t hide because everyone can see all the run down, unproductive farms along any highway in any part of the country. The majority of commercial farms in Zimbabwe, given out as reward for political patronage, remain locked in ‘dog in the manger’ mode: I don’t really know to do with it but I’ll be damned if I’ll let you have it. The few farms you do see working are growing money not food. Tobacco yes, food no, is probably the best way to summarize the view from Zimbabwe’s window.

Local economist Erich Bloch said that a meltdown in Zimbabwe could occur in a matter of weeks if trucks from South Africa didn’t start coming in. Despite the October heat it is very chilling to realise how quickly and easily we could plunge back into those horrific years when hunger was everywhere and shops were empty.

Ironically, while farms remain unproductive and food is being imported, October is the time of year when everyone gets into a feverish state about planting maize. From back gardens to roadsides and wetlands to railway lines the dust is flying  in and around all urban areas as little squares are cleared. Last year the trio of inputs consisting of a 20kg bag of seed maize, 50 kg bag of Compound D and 50 kg bag of A.N. fertilizer cost $78. This year the cost of those three same inputs has gone up by 25% and it now needs $100 to get a small field of maize (corn) into the ground. It’s hard to comprehend the 25% increase when officials continue to assure us that inflation has gone down. This October even though people know yields will be reduced, they are preparing to plant without fertilizer and say they will just hope for the best.

Zimbabwe’s been stuck in this tug of war between the ‘dogs in the manger’ and those ‘hoping for the best’ for so long and as the rain clouds gather it looks like we’re about to waste another rainy season out there on the farms. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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