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Crocodiles, mermaids, goblins and the constitution
January 26, 2013, 6:06 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

When we heard the news that fifteen thousand crocodiles had escaped from a crocodile farm into the swirling waters of the flooded Limpopo River, it seemed hardly surprising after a fortnight of the strangest events occurring in Zimbabwe.  Our internationally famous boundary river, immortalized in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories,’ had changed from the “great grey-green greasy Limpopo River” into a swollen, raging flooded monster.  No one could believe the pictures of the flooded Limpopo, or the news that at one stage the border post actually had to close for a while until the water subsided. Was this the same river that thousands of Zimbabweans wade across chest deep, when they’re jumping the border into South Africa? Was this the same river that most of us can only ever remember as being a great wide river bed which always looks more sand bank than water? The fifteen thousand escaped crocodiles had come from a flooded farm on the South African side of the Limpopo and while seven thousand had been re-captured the rest were still at large. One croc had even been sighted on the rugby field of a school in Musina.

A few days before the Limpopo River flood a strange report had appeared in the government controlled Herald newspaper from their Beitbridge Bureau. The report spoke of a woman who had found a number of strange objects in a field. According to the Herald, and in their own unique wording, these objects included: “red pieces of clothes tied with a red string, a new razor blade, some padlocks, a pick stuck on a tree trunk, a new pot with a lid and several matchsticks.” Aaah, the joy of the Herald’s descriptive language we thought, and read on to discover that a local Ward Councillor had called for an urgent cleansing ceremony as people believed this was witchcraft.

The thought of crocs on the rugby field and razor blades and matchsticks in a field were almost as weird as the story of the talking bus that had been making news.  An abandoned minibus in Mount Hampden apparently drove itself to its current location, left no tracks on the ground and ‘talks’ to anyone that tries to remove parts from the vehicle. Locals say that when someone stole the wheels, they were mysteriously returned a few days later; they suspected the bus had spoken or maybe it was something to do with the large and mysterious snake that wasn’t really a snake  that someone said they saw slithering out of the vehicle.

As if all of this wasn’t peculiar enough, then came the tragedy in Chitungwiza. A massive explosion in a house in a high density area killed five people, including a seven month old baby, and blew the walls and roofs off at least four neighbouring homes. The explosion had taken place in the house of a traditional healer and theories as to the possible causes grew wilder by the day. A relation of the deceased healer said the family believed the healer had supernatural powers and a mermaid spirit. Reports told of people scattering salt on the road around the area to ward off evil spirits that may have been let loose in the blast. Then came the story that the healer had been sending lightening to strike a target in a process people apparently call ‘bluetooth.’ The theory was that the chosen target of the lightning was protected by a more powerful force and the ‘bluetooth had been returned to sender,’ hence the explosion. No story so strange could be complete without the goblins, yes goblins, also being blamed for the explosion although it wasn’t clear if this was a disgruntled customer returning a goblin, or a angry goblin who didn’t want to be returned. It took a few days before theories of juju, black magic and witchcraft were squashed by experts who said this was a bomb of some sort.

And while everyone was trying not to pay attention to stories about talking buses, mermaids, goblins and home- made return-to-sender lightning, something else very strange happened in Zimbabwe. Despite four years of arguing, stalling and accusations, it was suddenly announced that political leaders had agreed on the new draft constitution and that we could expect a referendum in March. The irony of two such dramatically different guiding life principles was not lost on us and so we look to the future while our feet seem firmly stuck in the past. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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