It’s a bleak Christmas for Zimbabweans this year as people struggle to access their own cash in banks and food is scarce. The country is in such a dire situation that it imports all its food from South Africa – and that’s right down to the basics, like vegetables that could be grown in a garden. Businesses have been shut down steadily this year as they are unable to continue operating in an economy that is collapsing after years of corruption and mismanagement. While President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, continue to enjoy a life of luxury, most Zimbabweans are hungry and desperately poor.
In many rural areas, the staple diet is vermin and, when you can get it, wildlife. Zimbabwean writer Cathy Buckle has bravely put a wish list together for the country; its message won’t please the authorities as freedom of expression and other human rights have slowly disappeared in the hands of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
In the meantime, Buckle’s article is a heartbreaking indication of how much things can deterioriate in the hands of a dictator, with scary messages for South Africa which is increasingly looking like putty in the hands of President Jacob Zuma and an elite clique. – Jackie Cameron
By Cathy Buckle*
Wish list for Zimbabweans: Accessing their own money tops the list
Dear Father Christmas,
It’s been a very long time since I last wrote you a letter. I got the idea to write to you from a friend who’s been in exile in the Diaspora for many years. Like four million other Zimbabweans in the Diaspora he’d love to come home but wouldn’t survive if he did.
I’ve tried everything to stand on my own two feet but one after the other every plan has failed. Sixteen years ago the government stole my farm and haven’t paid for it yet. The new farmers don’t produce food and sell the free crop inputs they’re given so we have to eat South African food.
A few months ago the government spent all our US dollars and now the banks won’t let us withdraw our own money. The traffic police fine us every time we venture out onto the roads, coming up with all sorts of new offences every week.
Our leaders and MPs are so busy fighting for positions on the power ladder that they’ve completely forgotten about us. Our industrial areas are full of closed factories. There are no jobs to find. There’s no money to spend.
In a few days time it will be Christmas. We can’t buy gifts for our children. We can’t get cash for transport to travel to our families in the rural areas. We can’t buy groceries to take home to our relations. We can’t even withdraw money from Ecocash, Western Union or Mukuru because they’ve also got no money despite it having been given to them by our families in the Diaspora.
So that’s why I’m writing to you Father Christmas because I don’t know where else to turn.
I’m afraid I haven’t been able to get any money out of the bank to buy a beer or make sweet mince pies to leave for you under the Christmas tree. I know you know how good we’ve been here in Zimbabwe; how we’ve turned the other cheek again and again for over 16 years and put up with everything our government inflicts upon us.
So, in hope, here’s my Christmas wish list:
• My own money out of the bank.
• Accountability for the perpetrators of years of injustices.
• The restoration of property rights and compensation for assets seized and losses incurred.
• No more corrupt, greedy government officials.
• New leadership.
• No more violent police.
• Factories re-opened and a million new jobs.
Oh dear, Father Christmas, there are so many things and I do sound greedy; perhaps I can sum it all up by just asking for one thing: A new Zimbabwe.
Thank you to all our friends and supporters at home and around the world for not forgetting us and never giving up on us. Thank you to all the new fighters for democracy and change for stepping forward in 2016 and for your sacrifices for our future. Thank you to all the people who read my letters from Zimbabwe and support my writing and books; your encouragement helps keep the flame alive.
To you all this Christmas I send these images from Zimbabwe; flying ants rising up in their millions at dusk; sweet orange mangoes dripping juice down your chin; red winged louries cavorting in the fig trees; flame lilies springing up in the new green bush; rhino beetles and chongololos; paradise flycatchers showing off their long tails; silver trickles of rain water running down the granite kopjes; barefooted children smiling and waving as they push wire cars through muddy puddles. Until next time, thanks for reading, love Cathy.
- Cathy Buckle is the author of four children books. She has also written the non-fictional African Tears, the Zimbabwe Land Invasions, Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe’s tragedy, Innocent Victims: Rescuing the Stranded Animals of Zimbabwe’s Farm Invasions and Sleeping Like a Hare. The article was first published at cathybuckle.com, or follow her on Twitter @cathybuckle.