How we long for that old beautiful Zim

Letters to the Editor

ON an overcast and stormy day, friends and I set out for the ancient monument. We were excited. It had been very long time since we last saw it. We set out early, none of us sure exactly where to go, but there would be signs, wouldn’t there, this was Zimbabwe’s greatest treasure we were going to see after all.

Built over a period of three centuries, towering, hand-carved stone walls, once an ancient capital populated by about 15 000 people, I knew this day was going to be one to remember.

I had read up as much as I could and had let the ancient story seep into my heart to take me back in time.

As the kilometres ticked past, I tried to imagine what this land must have looked like 500 years ago, but was soon shocked back into the present when we drove through the city.

It was an hour before the banks and money transfer agencies were due to open, but already the queues were massive.

People crowded the pavements, all waiting for money, not Zimbabwe money which has depreciated by 84% since January, but for real United States dollar money.

This has become the enduring image of Zimbabwe, men and women young and old, waiting for money to come from their family and friends scattered all over the world.

The diaspora is keeping us alive: from family there to family here, propping us up, helping us pay our bills and buy our food while our leaders grow ever richer and their opulence gets ever grander.

This is 2023 and I last wrote letters like this in my book Millions Billions Trillions, which describes life in Zimbabwe between 2005 and 2009.

Seventeen years later we are rushing headlong back to that time: queuing for money, power cuts of 18 hours a day, water that comes maybe once a week and inflation that is now 480%. (Steve Hanke, economics Professor, Johns Hopkins University)

Back on our journey, we saw one small sign high up at an intersection which sent us off hopefully in the right direction of the ancient monument.

We were all suspicious about how easy this was going to be, only the day before we had met tourists from Holland who were lost, by nearly 100km, asking us if we knew where the ancient monument was.

After dead ends, potholes, U-turns and asking for directions, tempers were frayed; how could the signage to Zimbabwe’s most treasured monument be so shamefully absent? Isn’t this the country that our leaders say is “open for business” and so desperate for tourists to return to?

At last we arrived at Great Zimbabwe, previously called Zimbabwe Ruins. Up and up and up we went, hundreds of stone steps, huge old trees giving shade but whose roots are clearly damaging the old stone walls, beautiful sunbirds flitting around, spectacular views across the valleys.

Narrowing walkways, towering stone walls on both sides and a sudden coolness gives you goose bumps.

Stop for a minute with me, close your eyes, stretch your arms out, touch the stone walls on either side of you: can you hear the whispered footsteps of ancient stone masons walking along these passages, can you feel the tingling of an ancient time under your fingers?

A spectacular place, magnificent structures, spiritual to its core, generation after generation putting their own interpretation on it to suit their political narrative.

But despite the magnificence you have to ask, who on earth sanctioned the fixing of spotlights to these ancient hand-carved stone walls?

Shameful not to be able to take a single photograph of the stone walls surrounding the Hill Enclosure without a shiny metal spotlight and ugly grey plastic wires in the picture. Why the spotlights aren’t mounted on the ground is a mystery, this is after all a World Heritage Site.

At the end of a long day steeped in history, walking, climbing and learning I couldn’t help but wonder which way next for Zimbabwe as we approach another season of electioneering. Will this Zimbabwe stand the test of time?

We are a country of such beauty, with so many natural resources and so much potential but election promises only ever yield more self-enrichment for leaders and their buddies.

Every day we see the bad but we look for the good: a little boy dancing on the roadside, an old toothless man smiling as he tries to persuade you to buy his hand-made basket, a large-chested woman in a communal land who beams in welcome when you stop and say you are lost and then asks if you can spare a dollar so she can take her maize to the grinding mill.

Aaah Zimbabwe, how we love you!  We live in hope for our beautiful country. - True Patriot

Let’s remember women in the informal economy

THE Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) joins women all over the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, under the theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.

We cannot think of a more befitting theme as the world is still feeling the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that totally transformed how people across the globe interact and conduct business.

For women informal traders in Zimbabwe, the pandemic along with emergency mitigatory measures implemented by government, saw many fall into financial ruin as they dug into their scant reserves to feed families.

Many of them who relied upon cross-border trading lost clientele owing to the prolonged border closures, with some customers defaulting on payment entirely.

About 67% of the labour force in the informal economy are women, yet they are at the bottom of the pyramid when it comes to earning power.

Working in the informal economy often leaves women without any protection of labour laws, social benefits such as pension, health insurance or paid sick leave.

They routinely work for low wages and in unsafe conditions, including risking sexual harassment.

Lack of social protection has long-term impact on women. Fewer women receive pensions and as a result, more elderly women are now living in poverty.

In embracing technology, we at Viset through the Informal Economy Women’s Hub (INEWOH), an entity that seeks to capacitate women and tackle the operational and social challenges they face, are rolling out training programmes to build resilience such as value addition initiatives by way of technology through use of solar driers, climate smart agriculture and waste recycling.

We believe these steps can help bridge the gender gap by addressing challenges such as unpaid care and domestic work, low educational levels, lack of social security and general absence of decent work.

The latter is the main reason we at Viset and the Women’s Hub will continue to be part of the formalisation strategy led by government.

As we reflect and celebrate this day that falls in the women’s month, we call upon government to:

  • Invest in construction, repair and modernisation of informal market spaces.
  • Policy review: replace old colonial by-laws with modern and relevant by-laws that speak to contemporary realities.
  • Ensure safety and security of tenure in vending spaces, deal decisively with space.
  • Provide adequate social security mechanisms for women in the informal economy. - Viset


Not all NGOs are anti-govt

WHAT is all the fuss about the  Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill? Any bad thing when handled or opposed in a bad way becomes worse. 

For starters, not every non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Zimbabwe is operating in bad faith or with intent to overthrow the government.

That notion or allegation by government is too far-fetched and unsustainable if scrutinised realistically. Similarly, not every NGO in the country is operating with honourable intent either.

Some of them are blatantly pro-Western, their principal founders financially and ideologically and equally anti-China and Russia (call it Eastern Europe if you please).

It behoves the NGOs themselves, through Nango I suppose, to introspect (ukuzinuka amakhwapha in vernacular) instead of acting on impulse or on the dictates of group psychology. We are talking about a Bill and the government cannot pre-empt it by arbitrarily naming the “offending” NGOs.

I see a prospect whereby there are certain NGOs that will be declared a national risk if they are allowed to continue their operations in the country. Africans are inherently very poor at governance at every level and in every sphere of human endeavour and I personally utterly reject the notion that Africans can provide effective natural resource governance unless they are doing it for a superpower or superpowers.

What is the motive, what is the object (and not objective) for an NGO wanting to provide governance over a sector of Zimbabwe’s natural resources, of making itself a policing agent on behalf of a tribal community and speaking vociferously and arrogantly against the presence of the Chinese in a mining area? Yes, corruption is there big time in Zimbabwe and must be fought tooth and nail. There are honourable means of “fighting” corruption especially when a government is involved.

There are NGOs in Zimbabwe whose work is highly honourable. They are home-spun, too, although they are funded externally. I have no hesitation in citing a few of them here: Zimbabwe Peace Project, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (the pioneer and arguably the trailblazer of all human rights NGOs in the country).

Msasa Project, Legal Resources Foundation, Gracious Women, to mention just a handful. It is germane to mention here the fact that in particular, women NGOs perform the best. In this sector, women are more focused. Let us recall the ordeal which ZPP’s Jestina Mukoko went through at the hands of her abductors and yet at the end of it all, her spirit remained infrangible. It was once reported that Zimbabwe had more than 300 NGOs.

This is an abnormal situation even if they provide employment. NGOs are an unproductive employment sector: and with more quantity and less quality. A situation such as this compromises State security, democracy, patriotism and political direction.

Too many cooks spoil the broth. Zimbabwe, like all “developing” nations, is vulnerable left, right and centre. Big countries must come and invest and compete with China on the ground instead of using surrogate NGOs behind a fake human rights front. - Martin Stobart

IN response to Zec torches fresh storm, PIKIRAYI says: This year’s election is already disputed. Why is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission refusing to release the voters roll? I have a feeling that they are already cooking the figures before we even go to the polls. What national security issue are they trying to hide behind? It’s akin to hiding behind a finger.

IN response to ‘Zanu PF cell structures in shambles’, PAUL KAPERE JNR says: At least Zanu PF has structures. The so-called biggest opposition party doesn’t have structures at all.

IN response to Holy Ten: Master of double standards ... as he attacks Winky D at home, glorifies him abroad, CHINDAWI GIVEMORE CHAKANYUKA says: Does this boy have a band? I’m sure he does sing-alongs to his song during live shows.

LLOYD MANDIWA says: Holy Ten is a youngster. He probably heeded serious warnings from the powers-that-be and had to publicly denounce the song Ibotso. He should watch his back when he comes back, those guys do not give up easily. Even Winky D should tread carefully. We all know the times we are living in, some things are not worth dying for.

TATENDA DENNIS SHUMBA says: The problem is that Zimbabweans do not read between the lines. Who cannot see that Holy Ten was forced to deny his song? He is fearing for his life as we speak.

IN response to Come clean on US$359k deal, ZCTU tells Mavima, MUNYARADZI PETER MACHEMEDZE says: All these ministers are going to jail this year.

LLOYD MANDIWA says: This corruption has no end and knows no boundaries and no morality. It’s a dog-eat-dog situation out there, but fleecing pensioners of the money they toiled for decades is very wrong. I don’t think I can be at peace with that. How does one sleep in that house?

TONDERAI WUNGANAI says: The death penalty should be maintained for those found guilty of corruption. Surely we cannot be embezzling public funds.

IN response to Top model nabbed over cocaine, FLAVIAN FARAI GOZO says: People are turning to drugs to avoid mental health problems. Mental health illness is real and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

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