Counting our Blessings
As I drove into our property in Bulawayo I heard the sound of a veld fire – frightening at this time of the year when the grass is bone dry and taller than a man’s head and no fire breaks. When I was a boy growing up on a farm in the Esigodini Valley we had a fire one year which started at the head of the valley and swept down along the Mountain range to the north, burning and killing everything in its path. By law we had to respond and we loaded up the farm truck with staff, axes and pangas and wet maize bags and water (to drink) and drove the 20 kilometers to where the farmers were trying to stop the fire.
We burned back from a road and when finally, the fire was out helped survey the damage – several hundred cattle, 5 homesteads and farm buildings and several vehicles were burnt out. This time – 60 years later, the fire brigade arrived in the form of three tenders and men with special beaters and a water bowser. They made short work of the fire and have just left to return to the station.
Three weeks ago, my wife had a small stroke at a filling station in Kwe Kwe – a town in the midlands of Zimbabwe. I got her into the back of my vehicle and drove to a private clinic run by two young doctors in the middle of town. They took one look at her and got her into the clinic and the battled for 4 hours to stabilize her so that we could move her back to Harare in an ambulance. I am quite sure they saved her life. The Ambulance took her to Harare some 250 kilometers away – stopping every half an hour to check all her critical signs and to call the specialist waiting for us at the hospital. Halfway the ambulance service sent a more sophisticated vehicle with a doctor on board to take her to the Capital.
On arrival, we found the specialist waiting for her at midnight and she was taken into the hospital and was examined and treated. The ambulance staff called me every day for four days to find out if she was OK. They were fantastic. She is now at home with my daughter and recovering with few symptoms of the scare she gave me and everyone else. I was so proud of Zimbabwe at that point – I could not have expected better service anywhere in the world.
While this was happening my son, a pastor in Harare was in Michigan seeing his beloved daughter Rebekah into University to read for a degree in mathematics. She was Head Girl last year at school, took her A levels in December with the Cambridge University examinations Board and got a double A in Mathematics. She is a mature 18 year old, plays sport and has significant leadership qualities. All her school life she was a minority as a white African in her class. She is also a sincere Christian and wants to go into research or teaching. She won a 75 per cent scholarship from the University on the strength of her academic record and I am sure they will discover what we already know, she is an outstanding student.
Some time ago I had dinner with the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University in South Africa who was in Zimbabwe to recruit students for his University. He told me that one third of their enrolment were from Zimbabwe and that they were the corner stone of the University – the best students academically and the best paying students. They were also disciplined and hard-working and seemed to be “well rounded”. He went even further and said that he doubted the University could work as well as it did without the Zimbabwe students.
How do we do it? In the middle of a political, economic and social crisis we not only keep standing, but we deliver superb services on very little and our kids do well wherever they go in the world. Of course, in many areas we are a disaster, unemployment at 90 per cent of all adults, very poor standards at government schools and lousy, overcrowded State controlled hospitals. But wherever you go you will find friendly staff who will go the second mile for you. I paid my telephone account this morning – clean post office, shiny floors, two pleasant and helpful ladies at the desk, 2 minutes and I was out the door.
I know all about the negatives – the corruption, the road blocks, poor service in the Civil Service, nightmare conditions at the borders, but there are so many positives if you look for them.
This morning we watched the hurricane season in the West Indies, then a serious earth quake in Mexico, the near total destruction of the Cities in Iraq and Syria and the spectre of a nuclear conflict in the Far East. Here it is spring – temperature about 25 c – humidity zero, and our flowering trees and shrubs are out. This year, after the wet season last year, the trees are superb. The Knobthorns are in full bloom and I am sure the Giraffe’s will be enjoying the flowers, the Jacaranda trees are almost out, the profusion of colour is amazing against the stark brown grass and bare trees waiting for the first rains.
Lots of negatives, for sure, but piles of good things which give us a quality of life that is the envy of many.
Our President said in a speech this week “we have messed up”. What an understatement! This year we are going to break another world record – our budget deficit could reach half of all state income or well over US$2 billion. As a consequence the retail economy is unraveling – fuel is in short supply, the supermarket shelves are thinning out and may soon be empty, the currency in our bank accounts is worth 35 per cent less than 6 months ago and it will be 50 per cent in December. If you want to get your money out of the country you have to go into the stock market and buy a share which you can sell outside in South Africa or the UK. In the process you will pay a 70 per cent premium. Our stock market is the best performing stock market in the world, with prices doubling since the start of the year as people desperately try to get money out the bank and into something that will hold its value.
This morning, ignoring this huge fiscal crisis, Mr. Mugabe has left for New York to strut on the stage of the UN Assembly. He has taken 70 people with him including his whole family and all his children and even grand children, security staff and personal aides. He will have drawan US$3 million in cash from the Reserve Bank and his charter aircraft has every luxury on board that you can imagine – he gets a full sized bed and a doctor and every member of his entourage will draw allowances amounting to hundreds of dollars a day – dished out like confetti by the Presidents Party. His wife will spend thousands in New York shops and perhaps take a swipe with her hand bag at any shop attendant that does not bow at the waist.
Africa’s problem is that the leaders of the rest of the world will look on in disgust as he takes the stage in the UN and attacks everyone except fellow lunatics like North Korea. The spectre of a leader who has dragged his country down into the gutters of the world, pretending he is somehow a champion of African causes should make every Africa in that great hall, cringe.
I have many friends in Zanu PF but if they do not force this old man into retirement and take over the State and restore our sanity as a country, then they will leave the rest of us no choice but to use what is left of our democratic rights and totally remove the Party from Government. This beautiful country and great people deserve nothing less and then the great attributes of our country, which are now hidden behind the façade created by this failed President will emerge into the sunlight and make us proud to be Zimbabweans again.
Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website www.eddiecross.africanherd.com