By Cathy Buckle
On the outskirts of Harare the traffic is backed up, nose to tail, for nearly twenty kilometres by six thirty in the morning.
A country awash with cheap, second-hand Japanese cars clogging single lane highways and the smooth flow of traffic held up by police who repeatedly wave off every single passenger minibus.
Money but not tickets change hands meanwhile a rash of traffic offences are happening in plain sight while the same police turn a blind eye. We wonder but say nothing.
In a busy residential suburb of Harare along the roadside where children walk and cycle to nearby schools and people go backwards and forwards to shops, medical facilities and work, a platoon of soldiers wearing full camouflage and carrying rifles can be heard long before they are seen.
Everyone stops and listens to the chanting and singing, wondering if something peaceful or frightening is approaching. As the soldiers come into view, rifles swinging, people move well out of the way. Why must they do this through a residential area and why must they carry guns? We wonder but say nothing.
In the centre of Harare, sirens are wailing. Is it an ambulance or something more frightening you wonder but when all the cars start pulling over, double and triple parking on the roadsides, in the middle of intersections and even pedestrians stop walking, you know it’s the Presidential cavalcade.
Motorbike outriders race in at terrifying speed, jump off and run at you, pointing and gesticulating at any vehicles that haven’t quite got far enough off the road.
Then the limousines come, the support cars, ambulance and then the open trucks filled with soldiers, guns pointing at you, each man sitting with one leg hanging over the side of the truck. Everyone stares as the car inscribed: ‘Zim 1’ passes by. Faces speak volumes but out loud we say nothing.
Just outside of the capital city in the ten or twenty metre verge between a major highway and the railway line that runs parallel to it, where you expect to see short grass and gravel, there is a crop of head-high maize. The plants are dry and brown, the cobs already reaped.
Standing prominently in front of the maize is a metal signboard supported on two iron legs firmly anchored in the ground. In bright red paint, the sign proclaims in large letters: “Demonstration Plot ! Super Seed, Super Yield.”
The name of a seed production company advertises its support of a few lines of illegally planted maize alongside a highway and railway track.
Visibility is obscured and a deadly hazard awaits as vehicles speed past on the open highway and trains rattle by on the tracks; you hope and pray that a child or animal won’t run out of the maize in front of them; if they do they will surely die. How can this be allowed? We wonder but say nothing.
These are the images of our country as elections approach. The signs of slipped law and order, of intimidation, and of plain illegality are clear everywhere.
They come in the same week that we heard the government is drafting legislation to allow it to seize 51% shareholdings of companies owned by white Zimbabweans and foreigners without paying for what the are described as : “enterprises that exploit their God-given natural resources .”
And even to this, Zimbabwe says nothing. After so many years of turmoil, we seem to have lost our way.
Until next time, thanks for reading. Love cathy.