Cathy Buckle – Crocodiles, mermaids, goblins and the constitution

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.

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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