Cathy Buckle’s Letter from Zimbabwe – Queuing up for the front page

29th September 2012

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 Cathy Buckle
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. 29th
September 2012.

Copyright Cathy Buckle.

For information on my new book “IMIRE”, about Norman Travers and
Imire Game Park, or my other books about Zimbabwe: “Innocent
Victims,” African Tears,” “Beyond Tears;” and “History of
the Mukuvisi Woodlands 1910-2010”, or to subscribe to
Cathy’s letter, please visit the  website or contact [email protected]

See other recent posts from Cathy Buckle

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