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Dear Family and Friends,
Walking barefoot in a newly rain-drenched garden I came across a snake in the grass. It must have felt my footsteps and I stopped, kept my distance, watched and waited as it slipped back into a hole and disappeared underground. It left a strange, unsettling feeling knowing there was a snake, right there, under my feet and its very similar to the way many people are feeling about life in Zimbabwe this November. For most of us its been a very difficult year. Money has been short; rents, fees and utilities have consumed every spare dollar; businesses have struggled to keep going and jobs have been almost impossible to find. And always, waiting like a snake in the grass, is the knowledge that at any moment we could spiral back into political violence and economic collapse. We are, after all, still using another country’s currency and are now just months away from an election.
Some very mixed messages are coming from Zimbabwe as we get closer to a constitutional referendum and election. On the surface of it some things are looking encouraging. The IMF have just announced they have eased restrictions on Zimbabwe. There is no money involved and no financial support to be given to Zimbabwe but IMF say their staff will provide advice, technical support and assist in monitoring economic programs. The IMF said they had made the decision because of "significant improvement in Zimbabwe's cooperation on economic policies." For a country which has an external debt of 10,7 billion US dollars, this is the first step on a very long road but it is a step forwards.
Other encouraging news came when KLM resumed direct flights between Zimbabwe and Amsterdam after a thirteen year absence and then LAM Mozambique announced the introduction of flights between Harare, Beira and Maputo. But the question everyone is asking is why now?
Anyone who knows anything about elections in Zimbabwe knows just how quickly the snake can, and does, reappear in the grass. Just a fortnight ago the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated information on their website relating to Zimbabwe. They say that ‘political tensions remain, particularly in light of a potential constitutional referendum and elections.’ They advise their nationals who are resident in Zimbabwe to : ‘have a contingency plan in place in case you need to leave at short notice.’ The FCO advise caution when travelling in unfamiliar areas saying: ‘Farm invasions continue, often accompanied by violence and looting of property.’ To demonstrate just how fragile the situation is in Zimbabwe, the FCO advise people to be aware that an open hand is the political symbol of the MDC- T and say: ‘a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted. Wearing T-shirts with political slogans, can provoke a hostile reaction.’
As absurd as knowing that a ‘friendly wave may be misinterpreted,’ is the knowledge that at any time and any place there may well be a snake, right there under your feet. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.
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