- Dear Family and Friends,
- There are some things in Zimbabwe that are so shameful
that it's almost easier to turn away than to witness the reality of some
- Recently, I went to pay my telephone account on the same
day as pension cheques were supposed to have arrived at the local Post
Office Savings Bank. The two services operate side-by-side, in the same
building, on the ground floor and on opposite sides of a common entrance
door. The view in front of me was of mayhem. Literally hundreds of people
were crowded around the entrance to the building and were clearly trying
to get into the savings bank.
- A security guard was leaning out of the window of the
telephone accounts hall watching the growing crowd. I held up my telephone
bill to indicate what I wanted and he shouted to me: 'Just push in!'
- Reluctantly I stepped into the mass of people, apologising,
excusing, requesting passage and all the time showing the crumpled phone
bill so they knew I wasn't trying to get to the Savings Bank.
- It took some time to squeeze, push and squash my way
through the crowd and then I realised that there seemed to be a lot of
people with crutches, walking sticks and even two people in wheelchairs.
When I finally got into the telephone accounts hall, very crushed, battered
and dishevelled I asked the security guard what was going on. He told me
that government pension cheques had not been deposited into peoples accounts
and that all these people were refusing to go away until they got their
money. They weren't waiting for a fortune but for miniscule amounts that
they can barely live on for one week, let alone a month.
- The doors of the savings bank were locked, the employees
sat inside chatting while hundreds of near destitute pensioners waited
outside. Word got around that there was no pension money and they should
come back after the weekend. Men and women in their seventies and eighties,
some as old as Zimbabwe's President, roared and surged forward; glass doors
looked in danger of collapsing, a disaster seemed very close.
- With such shame I looked at the men and women who gave
a lifetime to building our country and who were being rewarded like this.
There was nowhere for them to sit, no cups of tea or glasses of water,
no polite explanation, no apology, no respect for age, not even any empathy
- just a locked door. Grey haired, hunched over and so very thin, our elders
waited in vain.
- Many carried home made walking sticks, knobbled, knotted
and hand carved. Others wore glasses with one lens missing or frames stuck
together with putty; faces were hollow and mouths shrunken, most with only
a few teeth left, none with the luxury of dentures. One man sat bent
over in a wheelchair whose wheels had been patched up with strips of bicycle
tyre, sewn on with big brown stitches. Almost all of them wore clothes
that were long past their best: suits with frayed cuffs and hems, threadbare
dresses with collars falling apart.
- The state that pensioners find themselves in here, through
no fault of their own, is absolutely tragic. Life savings have been wiped
out with hyper inflation and repeated devaluation; assets have been sold
for miniscule amounts in exchange for food and medicines and children,
who could help, are either struggling somewhere in the diaspora or unemployed
and barely surviving themselves. A woman told me her pension is 62 US dollars
a month but her rent is 74 dollars. Another told me her NSSA pension (social
security) is 38 US dollars a month but her medical aid is 48 US dollars
a month, increased from 8 US dollars in December.
- Perhaps hardest of all is the knowledge that if you have
a fall, break a bone or get sick, you're done for. Its a very common sight
to see elderly people being pushed in wheelbarrows or lying on the ground
in the dirt outside hospitals waiting for assistance. At our local government
hospital which is a provincial centre, there is now only one government
doctor serving the whole establishment.
- As Zanu PF leaders continue to bleat about targeted sanctions
that only affect 203 individuals and 44 companies and say "no more
concessions" until "sanctions' are lifted, the madness goes on.
Farms continue to be grabbed, ever more people lose their homes, jobs and
life's work and more people are made destitute because of the greed of
- Zimbabwe's pensioners, like so many others in our population
are in a diabolical state which has nothing whatever to do with sanctions
and everything to do with a decade of mis-governance.
- I end this week with a request for memories and anecdotes
of Imire Game Park in Wedza between the years 1950 and 2000. So much history
from the countryside has got lost in this dark decade and so many people
who were eye witnesses and could remember have gone. Please contact me
at the email address below if you have any stories you would be prepared
to share of this very special place. Until next time, thanks for reading,
- love, cathy
- Copyright cathy buckle January 30, 2010.
- For information or orders of my new book: "INNOCENT
VICTIMS" or previous books "African Tears" and "Beyond
Tears," or to subscribe/unsubscribe to this newsletter, please write