Mushroom sombrero by Cathy Buckle

12 January 2013 10:12

Dear Family and Friends,
Greeting senior allies on the tarmac at Harare airport when he
returned unexpectedly early from his annual Christmas holiday in the
Far East, Mr Mugabe said that number thirteen was considered by
everyone else to be unlucky but not for Zanu PF. 2013 was going to be
their lucky year he said.

Thirteen years after life, stability, the economy and food security
began to unravel in Zimbabwe, we are again a country in waiting.
We are a nation holding our breath this January 2013; watching,
waiting, dreading and growing increasingly uneasy by the day. So much
has to happen in the next few months starting with a long overdue
draft constitution which has to be printed, published and released to
the public. Then there has to be a referendum on the draft but no one
yet knows which voters roll will be used for that vote. Will it be the
present one which the electoral commission admitted in November
contained the names of thousands of dead people along with numerous
other discrepancies and at least two and a half thousand people aged
between 101 and 110. So many Zimbabweans over a hundred years old is
cause for much derision in a country where the average life expectancy
is only 44 years.

The snail’s pace of the constitution and confusion of voter
eligibility became even more muddled when a new-voter registration
drive started at New Year. A few days later it stopped; then we were
told there was no money for the voter registration exercise, and then
that voter registration had been cancelled until funds were released.
While this went on big crowds gathered outside run down government
offices. Not allowed to queue inside people have to stand in the mud,
the rain and the puddles waiting, waiting, waiting to be allowed in or
to be told what’s going on.

Then there’s the hugely contentious issue of whether the hundreds of
thousands of Zimbabweans who have been struck off the voters roll in
the last seven years will be allowed to vote after being classified as
‘aliens’ if their parents were not born in Zimbabwe. Or the
estimated 3 million Zimbabweans living in exile in the Diaspora –
will they be allowed to vote? The same questions apply to the
elections which have to happen before the 29th October 2013. Who will
be able to vote, will electoral laws have been changed, who will be
allowed to observe and monitor the polls and will we have a repeat of
2008 when it took five weeks for the results to be announced and
winners were forced to share power with losers? Our painfully long
story about constitutions, referendums and elections has all become so
murky that I turned my attention to the weird mushroom that’s been
growing in my garden since early January prompting strange comparisons
to our lucky/unlucky Zimbabwe of 2013.

It started when a thick stemmed, round topped, creamy white mushroom
emerged into the light of day in a place where a fungus had never been
seen before. With thick white flakes on its cap and peeling sections
on its stem, it developed into the most unexpected creature in the
following days As the mushroom grew taller the cap grew bigger and
then flattened out with a hump in the middle until it looked more like
a Mexican sombrero than a mushroom. The cap soon completely
overshadowed the stem as it got still bigger and its thick white
flakes disappeared to be replaced by dark brown giraffe-pattern
blotches. When the mushroom stood 18 centimetres (7 “) high and its
cap was bigger than a large dinner plate and measured 25 centimetres
across (10 “), the mushroom began to expose its real self. The gills
curled outwards exposing an 8 centimetre (3”) thick fleshy belly
which pushed the edges of the cap up. Rain collected in the new lip,
the blotches dissolved turning the rain puddle in the mushroom brown
and new markings began to develop, looking like peeling sunburn. What
had started out as a promisingly unusual, round flaky mushroom had
turned first into a stylish sombrero and then a top heavy monster.
With its head too big to be supported by its stem, the mushroom is
destined to melt into a gelatinous puddle of sludge but somehow I
can’t bring myself to destroy it. It will have to do that all by
itself. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy. 12th January

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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