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Old 06-12-2017, 10:38 AM
 
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I recently flew by Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa to Harare in Zimbabwe. I stayed over Christmas 2016 and the first couple of weeks of the new year with my daughter and her family, initially in their house in Harare and then at the Malilangwe Trust in the Lowveld.
I have fond memories of my childhood in Rhodesia, where I lived until 1970, leaving at the age of nineteen after my first year of university. My parents and sister and I moved to Canada because of the civil war which was by then becoming very nasty. Salisbury was, at that time, a modern city with some modest skyscrapers and an airport capable of handling Boeing 707s.
I had been back with my Canadian wife in 1978, shortly before the first of two surface to air missile attacks against civilian passenger aircraft which ultimately resulted in the negotiations which led to majority rule. By now security was everywhere. We saw civilian men and women openly carrying automatic weapons as they went shopping or walked to work, and all shops had a security desk where women had to empty their bags to ensure they were not carrying a bomb. Cars had been stopped out of town by terrorist road blocks, their occupants shot and the cars set on fire. Farmers would drive their oldest, least productive cows up the driveway each morning in case of land mines. But life in the suburbs was still peaceful.

My son had also stayed with his sister for five weeks in 2005, when the economy was in ruins mainly due to the "indigenisation" policies of the Mugabe government, and suffering from crazy inflation. He came back enchanted by Africa in spite of having to pay $18 million for a beer!

When I was growing up Rhodesia was one of the last outposts of British Colonialism, with very English way of life and a very high standard of living for whites. The city streets were well paved, clean and well lit, attractively shaded by flowering trees, with beautiful public gardens, golf courses, tennis courts, cricket grounds and graceful public buildings. Life for me, as a white teenager, was spent mostly with friends enjoying outdoor activities.
It should have been clear, though, that it was unrealistic to expect public swimming pools to remain available only to whites, access to higher education or civil service jobs or voting rights severely restricted for the majority of the population. The "winds of change" to use the famous phrase, were sweeping through the continent.

I had mixed emotions about going back: I wanted to see how things had changed, wanted to see my daughter and her family whom I had not seen since they visited North America five years ago, and was a bit homesick for the landscape and animals. I did not want to find that my memories were all the result of a rose tinted nostalgia.

The officials at the airport and a majority of the passengers were black, which was definitely not the case 50 years ago! The highway into town was two lanes each way and used solar powered street lighting. There was a huge number of roadside vendors of African carvings, fruit and vegetables, newspapers, souvenirs of all sorts and even clothing and prepaid cellphone cards and things like metal buckets and tubs, used car tires and pirated movie dvd's. With extremely high unemployment possibly above 70%, people are forced to make a living any way they can. Prostitution and drug dealing are said to be a problem. Roads become much worse as we get into town, potholes everywhere, streetlights leaning over, stop signs faded and apparently the same ones that were in use when I was a teenager. Many buildings are defaced with graffiti and hasve steel window bars or walls with razor wire.
We have to stop twice at police road blocks in the twenty miles back to the house. The procedure is that the police check the stickers on the windshield to make sure the vehicle registration, insurance and radio license are up to date. (A license is required to listen to the radio.) Windows and lights are checked for cracks and sometimes the trunk may be checked to see if there is a warning triangle which must be used on the road behind the car if changing a tire due to a puncture. If any of these items is not acceptable the police want a $20 fine, usually paid in cash as the government has difficulty paying civil servants due to very limited funds. At intersections there are sometimes police watching for driving infringements, so it is wise to come to a complete stop for 6 seconds, and of course, not use your phone in the car.
We pull in to a gas station, but they have only diesel, and kerosene for lamps. The second station we try also has diesel but no gas. At the third station we buy gas, paying by "Eco Bank" a wireless payment made by cellphone.
The suburbs are beautiful but all the houses surrounded by high walls with electric fences on top to prevent theft. Steel gates open by a remote control similar to a garage door opener. Visitors press a buzzer to be let in by someone inside the house. When we get inside I see an ornamental wrought iron "rape gate" in the corridor leading to the bedrooms, to prevent theft or personal attacks. Fortunately, this is no longer needed and is left open.

A few days later we drive down to Malilangwe in the Chiredzi district. The roads are awful and hazardous at night. Cars ahead will suddenly slam on their brakes and swerve violently to avoid a ten-foot-wide pothole or a donkey. at the side of the road we pass several cars and a bus which have apparently broken down and not been worth repairing. Rather than being towed to a wrecking yard they have been picked clean by locals to the point that only the bare body remains- no motor or transmission, no sears or interior, no wheels or brakes or axles. Most of the cars on the road are smaller models from the Japanese manufacturers, with some SUV's, mostly diesels.
My son-in-law is director of the operations of the trust, which aims to preserve and restore the natural bio-diversity of the region. There is a breeding program for rhinos, educational programs for scouts and school students on wildlife, erosion and other issues. The trust also runs a meal program feeding 19,000 school children whose parents, without this incentive to send their children to school, would likely have them looking after herds of cattle or goats.
The landscape and wildlife are fantastic. It is easy to look from a hilltop and look across the flat landscape which must have looked exactly the same thousands of years ago- not a power line or road visible to the horizon. We go on drives to see herds of elephant, rhinos, antelope and buffalo, zebra, giraffe and lions.
It was the trip of a lifetime for me, and while much has changed, some for better, some for worse, it was a wonderful experience!
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Old 06-12-2017, 01:39 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
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That's nice that you enjoyed your visit. Thank you for sharing this snapshot.
I still find Zimbabwe to be a tragic country. With Mugabe's youngest wife, or main wife, or whatever she is, poised to take over upon his death, there's no hope for the country in my lifetime.
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Old 06-15-2017, 01:54 PM
 
Location: Oroville, California
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I had a pen friend while in high school that lived in Salisbury (it was in the late 70s). Her parents moved to Rhodesia after WWII and she and her sister were born and raised there. She would tell me of the changes that had occurred since when they were small children in the 1960s and how worrisome it was getting as the civil war dragged on. Kind of lost touch with her in the early 80s after majority rule. About 1985 she sent me a letter from England - they'd moved back. She said things were already getting a bit hard in "Harare". Her dad had to drill a well on their property and install a generator just to have reliable sources of power and water. His business had declined so much he just sold it and the home for what they could get and left. My friend didn't like England - she said the weather was bad, the houses small and old and the people unfriendly. Felt sorry for her and her family. I've kind of kept an interest in Zimbabwe because of them and its obscene what's happened to that place since 1980. Mugabe should be tried for crimes against humanity. Seriously.
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Old 06-16-2017, 12:51 AM
 
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Thank you for sharing. Zimbabwe I am sure is a great country to visit.
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Old 06-17-2017, 06:39 PM
 
284 posts, read 352,535 times
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I believe there has been at least one attempt to bring charges against Mugabe at hte International Criminal Court, Charles.

It is well known that an elite army unit, the "Fifth Brigade" under his authority and almost his private army. was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 to 30,000 Matabele. (Mugabe, of course, is Shona.) Tribal tensions and the use of violence to suppress opposition are commonly exploited by African dictators, and the ICC seems almost powerless to obtain convictions. The court can only try individuals on three charges:
1) Genocide
2) Crimes against humanity
3) War crimes

Indictment would have added Mugabe's name to a list which includes notorious individuals like Gaddafi , Joseph Kony, Omar al Bashir and Charles Taylor of Liberia. (You may have heard of Taylor's famous 1997 election campaign slogan "He killed mu ma. he killed my pa, but I will vote for him". ) He was elected President.
Mugabe ran election advertisements that my daughter remembers, showing a car slamming at high speed into a concrete bridge support with a voice-over that said "This is one way of committing suicide- another would be to vote for the MDC"

One could almost think the colonial era was not so bad...
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Old 06-17-2017, 07:28 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geezerrunner View Post

One could almost think the colonial era was not so bad...
Well, this is what indigenous Zimbabweans say about White rule--"At least we had food under the Whites".



Is Zimbabwe safe to visit these days? A friend of mine's college-student daughter had plans to visit this past spring. I cautioned her against it; even if there's not a safety issue, isn't the food supply unpredictable? Is there the level of violence that there is in South Africa? It just doesn't sound like a good idea for a 20-year-old college student on break.
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Old 06-18-2017, 03:45 PM
 
Location: Geneva, IL
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Thanks for your insights, very interesting.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Geezerrunner View Post
One could almost think the colonial era was not so bad...

That would insinuate there would/could/should be only 2 choices, Smith or Mugabe. Neither would be preferable. The fact that persons of color did not have basic human rights is always going to be the reason why things were NOT better under colonial rule.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruth4Truth View Post
Is Zimbabwe safe to visit these days? A friend of mine's college-student daughter had plans to visit this past spring. I cautioned her against it; even if there's not a safety issue, isn't the food supply unpredictable? Is there the level of violence that there is in South Africa? It just doesn't sound like a good idea for a 20-year-old college student on break.

I am going back to South Africa for a visit in the next few weeks and was planning to take my kids to Zimbabwe to show them my home. All my friends said absolutely NOT. A lot has changed in the last few months, most notably the crazy increase in road blocks. One of my friends drives 5 miles from home to work and encounters between 20 and 30 road blocks. Maybe 2 are obviously Zim Police, the others are people wearing uniforms and heavily armed, and you have no choice but to adhere to their demands.


The level of violence has thankfully never reached that of South Africa, but government corruption and an absolute absence of resources means even petty crimes are not dealt with or solved. There are no vehicles to attend to accidents or medical emergencies. A friend recently had a medical emergency and had to have family ship all medications, everything needed for an IV, etc.
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Old 06-22-2017, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Oroville, California
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimbochick View Post
The fact that persons of color did not have basic human rights is always going to be the reason why things were NOT better under colonial rule
As if they have them now. You're correct - neither option was/is right, but one could argue a functioning country with decent employment opportunities and a much higher life span (adequate food and medical care) was the more "right" of the two poor choices. They're still ruled by a minority who feather their own beds at the expense of the rest of the population, its just that minority's skin color has changed.
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Old 06-22-2017, 02:53 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
78,526 posts, read 70,455,727 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimbochick View Post
Thanks for your insights, very interesting.





That would insinuate there would/could/should be only 2 choices, Smith or Mugabe. Neither would be preferable. The fact that persons of color did not have basic human rights is always going to be the reason why things were NOT better under colonial rule.




I am going back to South Africa for a visit in the next few weeks and was planning to take my kids to Zimbabwe to show them my home. All my friends said absolutely NOT. A lot has changed in the last few months, most notably the crazy increase in road blocks. One of my friends drives 5 miles from home to work and encounters between 20 and 30 road blocks. Maybe 2 are obviously Zim Police, the others are people wearing uniforms and heavily armed, and you have no choice but to adhere to their demands.


The level of violence has thankfully never reached that of South Africa, but government corruption and an absolute absence of resources means even petty crimes are not dealt with or solved. There are no vehicles to attend to accidents or medical emergencies. A friend recently had a medical emergency and had to have family ship all medications, everything needed for an IV, etc.
Thank you, Zimbochick.
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Old 06-22-2017, 05:32 PM
 
Location: Denver
14,151 posts, read 19,749,193 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeauCharles View Post
As if they have them now. You're correct - neither option was/is right, but one could argue a functioning country with decent employment opportunities and a much higher life span (adequate food and medical care) was the more "right" of the two poor choices. They're still ruled by a minority who feather their own beds at the expense of the rest of the population, its just that minority's skin color has changed.
I have a feeling I can guess your skin color.
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