Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm back!

That's right yours truly is back after a month long break that was well worth it and well spent.

So what have I been up to? Glad you asked. After encountering Tom Wolfe, the great American Author some time last year, I decided that I (like he) should spend some time observing the subject of my writings: life in Zimbabwe. During the month that I didn't do any writing, I travelled the length and breadth of Zimbabwe watching, listening, and observing life. I've benefited a lot from this and so, I'm glad to report shall you dear reader.

That said, let me understate the underlying themes of discourse among laity in Zimbabwe. The first is this:HARDLY ANYONE WANTS ZANU-PF LEADERSHIP ANYMORE. From the Kore-Kore peasants who've formed the crux of Mugabe's grassroots base in the north-east of the country to the Karanga in the south of the country, people are singing the same tune; "We don't want Mugabe anymore." How this sentiment will affect the future in Zimbabwean politicsstill remains to be seen.

Do not miscontrue the apparent apathy among the people. It's not that they don't want change, the problem is a problem of poor leadership. The tragedy in Zimbabwe is not a tragedy of motivation among the laity for activism or even that of repression by a paranoid regime. The issue is clearly a lack of compelling leadership behind which the people can rally.

But there's hope here. I still think when it's all said and done, Morgan Tsvangirai remains the best option for an alternative leader. He must first make it through the current crisis he's in right now. While on the subject of the MDC crisis, let me drop this quick observation which I will expound more fully in a later post: the MDC crisis is a conflict between popularity and intellect. It is a contest for control of the party between the so called "technocrats" and Tsvangirai's command of public attention. I think he'll ride out this storm and galvanize his base before it's all over. More on this later.

The second recurrent theme that kept confronting me over the last month is that there is hunger in Zimbabwe. Starvation is not looming or threatening to wreak havoc, it is there and is everywhere across the country. The situation is really very tragic. People have no maize meal (a staple) at all. There just isn't any maize meal in the country. The government doesn't have any. Only a few relief organizations have survived Mugabe crusade against aid organizations and these are overwhelmed by the need. With the heavy rains falling right now, we're only months away from the next harvest, but these next two months will be hardest months for many in Zimbabwe.

I hadn't realized just how bad last year's drought was. According to the rural folk it was worse than the drought of 1992 Zimbabwe last major drought. The rains dried up late in the season and the crops wilted in the fields. People's granaries are empty and there's nothing to eat the seasonal relishes that flourish during the rainy season with. It's so bad that a man in Kudyanyemba village in Mt. Darwin who slaughtered a goat for the festive season ended up eating only meat with his family because they could find no corn meal to make sadza (Zimbabwean starchy staple food). If people make tea, they drink it with nothing because there's nothing to eat with the tea. Stories like this are coming from all parts of the country. Many families are surviving on one meal a day if any at all.

In the Midlands and Masvingo provinces where famine is being fended off by food handouts from organizations like CARE International, there's hardly enough to go around. They only have enough to feed orphans, widows and families with no breadwinners. Just last week I was at a grain handout station where I saw three families receive a single 50 kilogramme bag of maize (about 100 pounds) to share for a month. There's no way in under the sun they'll be able to make it last that long! They'll be lucky if it lasts them a couple weeks.

With these two realities in hand people in Zimbabwe are trying to make ends meet. The newest slang term kukorokoza refers to the art of making something out of nothing which everyone has to do to survive--that's just how I survived this past month. Glad to be back with you!

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