Archive for Zimbo Living

Fair Election

What is a fair election? Is it one where the winner is the one with the most votes or the one where everyone has a vote?

One would hope that in the 21st century everything would be equal and people would be free to do what they believed was right. And yet, here we are… elections around the corner. Very few people care… So many are willing to pretend that it does not exist… Most no longer believe that their vote counts… That their vote will even make a difference.

So how do you continue with your life ignoring something that could potentialy change the direction of your country? How do you continue to belive in a system that has failed you for so long? How do you risk being the one person who didn’t vote for the reigning president? How do you stand up and vote for the same person who has caused so much chaos in the country you love? How do you choose?

I don’t have an answer to any of these questions but I am finding it strange that everyone else are not asking these questions….

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Don’t Lose Your Grip Zimbabwe

Don’t Lose Your Grip has been around for the last 2 years. For Chrisselle and myself, it was a way of honouring our friends memory and coping with her suicide. Along the way we made some amazing friends and helped a few people open up about their mental health. This has been great but in 2013 we decided that we needed to take it to the next level.

On the UK front Chrisselle has been raising money for local charities with her Cupcake & Tea events in Livingston. This has also been a great place for people to find support in their local community while being able to open up about the mental health issues that are so often swept under the rug. Along with the fundraising teas, she is working on setting up local therapy & support groups and planning a charity benefit later this year. All in all, things are moving forward quite swimmingly.

We still have our weekly #TopicsToDiscuss about mental health on Monday’s and eating disorders on Tuesdays to raise awareness and remind people that it is ok not to be ok… Opening up about these serious issues are key in the fight against judgment and stigmas. And of course we still have our #InspirationalSongOfTheDay competitions because the way we see it, whatever you’re going through, someone else has also been there… and they probably wrote a song about it. Music can get through to us when ordinary words seem futile. Reminding each and every person suffering in silence out there that they are not alone is just one of the benefits of our twitter account.

On the Zimbabwe front things are just getting started… We have set up a Zim twitter account so that we can targert Zim specific stigmas and challenges regarding mental health. Every Thursday at 8pm we’ll be having a stigma-busting discussion on twitter called  #TTDzim (Topics To Discuss Zimbabwe) and hopefully every conversation will bring us one step closer to understanding and a judgement free country. We’re also urging our followers to kick off their tweeting day with a #ReasonToSmile and posting something positive about their day or something they are looking forward to on their page on a daily bases. We are currently in talks with a few professionals to help us set up a support line – someone you can call when you are feeling depressed or worried about a friend or need help getting in touch with a medical professional. Help is available, sometimes t is just hard to find… We want to do everything in our power to make support more accessible. And once we have our network of professionals set up, we want to set up a support group in every town.

No one should be judged for the way they feel and everyone should have the oppertunity to get help. Our world isn’t perfect and there is still a long way to go before we reach our Utophia but that doesn’t mean we should give up or stop trying to get there. The power is in our hands and we’re tired of waiting for someone else to be the change that we can be but we can’t do it alone, so join us on twitter or like us on facebook and let’s save some lives one conversation at a time…

Autism Awareness

April is Autism awareness month. Usually I see these kinds of awareness campaigns as a little bit of fun for a good cause and hopefully somewhere along the line one or two people will be reached and that would be a successful campaign. This time around I pushed for a fairly simple project at work supporting the global call to ‘Go Blue for Autism’.

A simple process where all of our staff wear blue every Friday this month and we hand out flyers (which I also translated into Shona with some interesting results) and we educated our staff. I had a lot of conversations with idividual staff members about what exactly Autism is and what they can do to help. I was really amazed by how little all of them knew!! Sometimes I take my experience and education for granted.

So 13days into Autism Awareness month and it’s amazing how involved all of them are. They want to know more and they want to share it with their friends and families and they actually love being more informed. The biggest thing with Autism in Africa (and most mental health issues) is that no one talks about it. No one really seem to know much about it and more often than not, the person suffering is written off by their families and locked away; kept as a prisoner in their own home, simply because no one knows how to ‘handle them’. No has bothered to educate future parents on the very real possibility that their child will not be like every other child… that their child might be different. And by different I do not just mean have Autism or any other mental illness, I also mean that their boy mightlike playing withdolls and that their daughter might grow up not wanting to marry a guy… There is still a lot of forced rules placed on everyone and if your child or your family do not fit this mold perfectly, you must be ashamed? What kind of a world do we live in where a father might hate his own daughter for being gay or a mother writing off her baby because he does not respond like other kids? An uneducated one!

Awareness campaigns are so common right now that it’s easy to start thinking that they are just a way to kill time or make yourself seem more worldly but we forget that these campaigns exist not for those of us who are aware but for those who have never been informed. For all of those mothers who spent days crying because they could not bond with their child. For those kids who were abandoned because no one saw the potential behind their disorder. For everyone who has been made to feel worthless simply because they were not like everyone else.

So do yourself a favour and get involved! Talk about it! Share your experiences and be not afraid to teach others what you have learned…

PS: if you live in Southern Africa join us on twitter at DLYGzimbabwe where we are starting a campaign to talk about mental health instead of just allowing each other to suffer in silence

The Day He Does

So this afternoon we got the news that my boyfriend’s dad had been shot and killed in Ghana… needles to say: we didn’t expect it.

He was just farming. Lending his expertise to a country that needs support. He had been to Afgan and never got so much as a scratch and goes to Ghana for 1month and… this.

What’s so chaotic about it is that half of the town new about it in less than 23 minutes!!! That’s small town Zimbabwe for you! However the plus side is this small comunity stands together like you won’t believe! So for him and his family I am glad.

As a girlfriend I’m just concerned… Whenever you lose someone you love and depend on it’s a huge shock to the system and no two event are ever the same. Not even the feelings experienced are the same and therefoor the reactions are unpredictable. For me loosing my dad was hard and telling the family (specially his parents) was tough and I paused my emotions in order to get through it. The trick is to set up a support system so that when you eventually allow yourself to fall apart, you have someone who can help you get back up.

For me it also took a while to realise that it was real. I occasioanly still have moments where I wake up and forget that he is gone. I think the moment it really became real for me was when I was driving in a car with my aunt listening to Joshua Tree and in the middle of one of my sentences I said ‘parentS’ and realized I would never be able to use that word in the present tense ever again… I just couldn’t… from now on it would have to be my mom. Full Stop.

The good thing is he has siblings so he’s not completely alone and he has someone else his mother could also lean on. But he keeps saying things like “I’ll eat when I’m hungry” I keep wanting to say: you won’t feel hungry for the next 2 weeks at least but you still need to eat. I wish I could take his pain away or show him how it will all be okay but all I can do is give him a hug and be there when he cries.

I just hope he remenbers that even if he doesn’t need me right now, I’ll still be there the day he does ❤

Don’t Lose Your Grip Zimbabwe

Those of you who are crazy enough to read my blog on a regular basis will know that I moved to Zimbabwe this year because I’ve loved the amazing culture of hope since I was 12 years old. You’ll also be aware of Don’t Lose Your Grip and our friend Lacey Crawford.

For those of you who might have missed it: Don’t Lose Your Grip is a charity concert and fashion show aimed at raising money [along with much needed awareness] for eating disorders, self injury (aka cutting aka self harm) and mental health issues such as depression. We’re relying on Musicians to volunteer their music for a good cause and to help us show that charity really doesn’t have to be boring. Our models are ALL normal people who want to help us promote positive body image or simply those who are recovering from / trying to live with an eating disorder. DLYG is aimed at ending the judgement and rebuilding self confidence.

We live in a tough world where you are criticized for believing in yourself and told you are a failure because your hair is the wrong colour or your figure doesn’t resemble Barbie or whatever the latest super model’s name is. In Milan this year, they were using MEN to model WOMEN’s clothes!!! So now we’re supposed to look like men in order to look attractive?! Come on!! This mess the media and our society has created over the ‘perfect image’ is not just leading to total confusion and terribly dangerous eating habits, it is also causing a lot of self hate and building on existing depression.

Cutting, eating disorders and suicide, very different symptoms of the same problem are gaining on us. The problems being alienation and depression; the symptoms: cutting and suicide. Personally I don’t know one single person who does not at least know of 2 such victims. This is a global problem and we are ALL affected! Chrisselle started DLYG because she’s tired of seeing her friends suffer in silence and feel so helpless that they take their own life. And so am I!!!

That is how DLYG Zimbabwe was born. This global problem of ours needs our attention right now! I know that Zimbabwe has a lot of other issues that some may say take precedence and to some extend I agree but that doesn’t mean we can ignore mental health and wellbeing. If we are dumb enough to ignore these problems right now, it will lead to devastating affects we, as a country, have no means to defend against.

Living with disrupted power supply; limited communication with the world outside Zimbabwe unless you use technology from down South; driving down roads where there are more potholes than actual tar left; looking at fields that use to be known as Africa’s breadbasket only to see wild flowers and dirt there instead of maize; walking into any shop in the country and seeing the face of The Man who has forgotten what the word ‘president’ means and being the last of your family still remaining in a country most of the world has written off can be very depressing!! You cannot honestly tell me that you are not saddened by what you see. But the amazing thing about Zimbabwe is its people! The hope that exists in their hearts is second to none! Zimbabwe is a rich country not by monetary standards but by heart!

So I urge all of you, to stand with me and acknowledge that you see the person standing next to you; that you see their suffering [depression]; that you see their cries for help [cutting, eating disorders] and that you help me raise awareness so we can help each other.

Keep your faith in humanity strong,

AM

Houseboat Tips

The last 4days I was on a houseboat with my mom and her boyfriend and a few other people I love spending time with, which is why I figured I’d share some tips and thoughts for any of you considering it at some point in the future.

The most important thing to remember is that whatever you don’t use, you can always bring back so it is a case of ‘better to take more than run out in the middle of a huge lake’. Secondly it is vital that you go with people you like! Don’t tempt yourself with the prospect of throwing them over board and feeding them to the crocodiles. If you have these two things under control, there’s nothing else you can’t fix any way.

Toilet paper and fresh water is pretty important; it’s also something most people tend to forget. Silly things like dish washing liquid and hand soap are also things usually left off the list. Plus spices and the basics like coffee and sugar have a way of slipping under the radar too. Try too plan everything food-related with as much detail as you can. Include snacks and the possibility of fish you caught yourself because you need to remember that there are no shops around the corner when you’re on a boat in the middle of nowhere.

If you’re food is all sorted, you can focus on the drinks. Personally asking me what I will want to drink or even eat in 3 days time is completely pointless as I’ll probably end up craving something else anyway. But generally if you take a variety of drinks and anticipate that you will want to give your taste buds something interesting every few hours, it’ll turn out great. In our case we had dietary requirements that needed to be looked after and other medical things we needed to plan for. As it turns out, our planning went down really well.

We did actually catch a lot fish and even had left over worms who kept trying to escape [and I can’t blame them] so we ended up with extra food we left for the captain and the cook as a courtesy to them. We also took a lot of vegetables because obviously we are all prone to eating high carb foods and way too many snacks when we are on holiday, leaving us quite sluggish but counteracting it with vegetables, water and fruit helped us maintain our energy and excitement throughout. If you’re going to a place like Kariba and you know the sun is on a mission to destroy you, best take vegetables like carrots that will increase your Vitamin A intake. Eating fish [high source of Omega 3] is also a great way to chemically perk things up and for our 4 day trip it was perfect for our 3rd dinner. We were already starting to think in terms of packing up and saddened by the end of our trip as well as starting to get slightly annoyed with the personality clashes accompanied by the confined area of the boat. After eating fish however, we were right back in the party mood.

With food and drink is out of the way, we can get to the serious packing! Basically, cameras are the only electronic device you will really be using. There is no signal on Kariba or at least very little and most of it is from the Zambia side so our roaming charges would have been sky high for extremely bad reception. As much as I love my laptop, a boat is really not the place for it and besides, you have nature and people around you which should take up all of your time. We did use a stereo but that was mainly to scare the baboons away and most houseboats have their own anyway. Mini torches and a spot light came in handy, since used them for wildlife watching and midnight bathroom trips that allowed us to go undetected by the many, many insects of the lake. Speaking of bugs: any anti-mosquito or insect repellent you might require, you’re going to have to take with you, just be sure to use eco friendly ones that won’t destroy the natural habitat. We used citronella oil based wrist bands and they worked really well. However we still slept under mosquito nets to keep the bigger moths away. Sunscreen cannot be emphasized enough! Remember that it is not the direct light from the sun that gets to you, it’s the reflection from the water that really burns you, so please take precautions and be safe.

Check with the owner of the boat about their cooler bags and fridge facilities as you need to keep in mind that you will be going out on the little speed boats too and may want smaller quantities of drinks to be taken with you. The great thing about taking drinks and food in cooler boxes is that you will have a place to put the fish you caught during your trip. You will also need to take your own fishing rods and nets, ext if the boat does not have any. Taking an umbrella for the smaller boat is a good idea but again it is wise to communicate with your captain ahead of time as they may have suitable ones available.

We also used the books available on the boat along with normal notebooks during our ‘alone time’ just too fully appreciate the great nature that surrounded us. We took an extra set of towels to use as our swimming towels and a few extra hats in case the original ones got wet or flew over board, a bit paranoid I agree but better safe than sorry. We each had one warm jacket and the rest of our clothes consisted mainly of T-Shirts and shorts as we spent more time in our bathing suits than anything else anyway. We each took a pair of boots or closed toe shoes so that we could go for walks on the islands and flip-flops to wear on deck but again, we hardly used it as we were mainly barefoot. They washed our clothes on the boat so we came back with clean laundry in our suitcases and could easily have stayed there much longer.

With all nature trips like these it really is about timing. There were other boats there that followed 3 hours behind us and didn’t see any of the animals we did, they even got caught in a storm. So if you want to make the most out of this trip, ask your captain for advice regularly, since he is constant communication with other boats and trust his experience. Make sure you know what each member of your party is expecting out of the trip and try your best to please [or even if you must: disappoint] them all equally. This will just avoid friction and decrease the chances of someone feeling like they got a raw deal. We saw animals and we went fishing and we got a tan, so everyone got what they wanted and even more than they expected.

Feel free to add any of your experiences or tips into the comments as I’m planning to go again shortly and probably missed a few things on this – my first trip.

Loving nature,

AM

Kariba Tweets

Hallo, my name is Aneléne and I am a Twitter addict. I spent the last few days on a houseboat and obviously had no internet connection or even cell phone reception so like a true Twitter addict, I wrote down all the things I would have tweeted had I been connected. Instead of spamming my stream with 60 Kariba tweets, I’m doing it on here instead. Sorry if some of it is a bit dull but those were just the times I really missed my twitter friends.

z  We’re eye level with crocks

z  “That bush isn’t moving” – my mom in really concerned voice

z  Good to know when Push comes to Shove my mom will push me out of the way and shove me down the crocodiles mouth #thanksmom

z  “If the world ended and we all had to live on boats forever it wouldn’t be too bad” “If we could live on this one” #thingsmymomsboyfriendsaid

z  *A good fisherman knows it’s not how deep you go but how you wiggle your worm* #twitterafterdark

z  Cage Jacuzzi

z  *while jumping from second deck of houseboat into crocodile invested waters* Hope I remember how to swim

z  “You don’t need anchors, just a tree” – captain

z  $50 just on ice! Imagine what the drinks cost

z  “I hope that elephant storms that boat” – my mom’s subtle anger towards random tourists

z  Oh, ok… my accent isn’t African enough #fuckyou

z  Hanging like a monkey from a houseboat in the middle of one of the world’s largest dams to get the score of a soccer match #goodkid

z  “Where are we?” –me “Facing North” – my mom’s boyfriend #thanksfornothing

v  How would you feel if I put a hook up your butt?! #fishing

v  Fish foul!

v  Catching shark bait #snack

v  My mom caught an awesome Tiger Fish… till it bit of the line

v  Is it a fish? Is it a crocodile? No… it’s a bird #weirdnature

v  “Alan, wake up! There’s a wild animal on board” *wakes up and listens* then says: “No, that’s just the captain” #snoring

v  “Bird calls are not your forte” bhahaha!

v  See which colour the hair is in the elephants tail #weirdnature

v  “Look! He’s smiling at me” – my mom an elephant eating leafs

v  “The islands use to be hills” #statingtheobvious

v  “The fish is out of water” *panic* “Ok, so we’re having him for lunch”

v  “Attract the elephant with fruit” “Throwing apples at him will not have good results”

v  “Crocodile!” “Where?” *everyone rushes to that side of the boat*

v  “Look at the little elephant” – mom “Where?” –me “I meant elephant” *disappointed*

v  Low blood sugar + crazy good zoom = blurred photos #wildlifephotography

v  Coffee, fishing, brunch, nap, fishing, snacks, dinner, coffee, sleep… and repeat

v  Mosquito nets are awesome and so are the glow in the dark mozzie arm bands

v  Go to sleep facing the water, wake up facing the bar :/ think my subconscious is trying to tell me something

v  Comparing wobbles with my mommy #buttjokes

v  You can see I’ve been out of the photography trade too long: I’d rather miss out on a good shot than miss out on a good memory

v  #ThatAwkwardMoment when you’re on a houseboat and realize your mother potty-trained you with running water

v  Dear diary, today I caught my first Tiger Fish… then I ate it #TheEnd

v  “The Sun is as big as your butt” #ThanksMom

v  Ice cube fight!

v  Like London only has 8 days of summer a year, Kariba only has 8 days of winter a year

  • People keep asking me if my mother got married again, don’t they realize I’m the last person she’d tell?
  • “There’s a hippo” “What hippo? I’m not a hippo” lol
  • The worms who planned their escape last night succumb to bug spray
  • “We are being followed by an unmanned boat” “Marie Celeste… Ahhh!”
  • I’m tanned… when it’s dark… and I don’t stand close to anyone else :/
  • #ThatAwkwardMoment when you think you’ve gotten a tan and then you take off your sunglasses
  • “I thought it was a crocodile… then it fell out of a tree” bhahaha
  • Question of the day: How long can a hippopotamus hold its breath under water
  • #ThatAwkwardMoment your hair is all windblown but you don’t want to fix it because people will realize you looked in the mirror and will expect you to make a habit out of it
  • When you brush your tangled hair and sound like a mongoose
  • When you get tired of waiting for them to bring your coffee and plan your verbal assault just for them to come upstairs with your coffee in hand
  • Just been chased by a little buffalo #WhenISayLittleIDontMeanLittle
  • My monkey-nastics has been rewarded with peanuts
  • Island welcoming committee aka MALE baboons
  • Checklist: Hippo, water tortuous, baboon, buffalo, crocodile, likkewaan, kudu, elephant and sunsets
  • Watching a baboon trying to fish without getting wet #hilarious
  • These fish are only good for cleaning hooks
  • It seems we are boring the baboons #yawn
  • “Being the only two baboons on the island must suck… if they have a fight they have no one to complain to” #SillyThingsSaidToday
  • “Put away your stick” “He’s trying to make a fire” “Wrong stick” #TwitterAfterDark
  • #HowToScareAway baboons: start laughing
  • Dear tourist who were here before us: DON’T LITTER #kthanks
  • I’m the quickest at baiting a hook with worms but refuse to do so as it is cruel #irony
  • Then again these worm’s escape tactics have only lead to hundreds of casualties… #RIP
  • Considering drugging our captain and playing pirate with his houseboat
  • My monkey-nastics to retrieve the results of a soccer match *again* is truly astonishing
  • There is something very filling about catching your own food #fishing
  • A starless sky in the middle of a huge lake is not as scary as I would have thought it to be
  • #ThatAwkwardMoment when you start catching fish with popcorn
  • I’m always the first to start packing…
  • #YouKnowMyMother is bored when she starts reading a book… without her glasses
  • #YouKnowMyMother is excited when she uses all 4 my nicknames in 1 sentence
  • #YouKnowMyMother is annoyed when she has 2 glasses in hand and isn’t drinking from either
  • #YouKnowMyMother is drunk when she starts thinking all arguments can be resolved by her finger-snapping-dance
  • Woken up by the splish splash of jumping fish
  • #ThatAwkwardMoment you realize that even when you stand on your toes, you are STILL too short
  • Spending more time complaining about something rather than taking 5 seconds to fix it #PeopleIDontGet
  • Build a bridge and get over it!
  • The shock when someone says ‘No’ to chocolate before breakfast
  • My all inclusive breakfast sandwiches are the best #JustSaying
  • “A day of waiting and being chased away has been rewarded with an apple” #apeantics
  • People who still don’t know how to read a gas pump #ish
  • Why did the monkey cross the road? Because his butt was warm #dontask
  • Long drive home is being interrupted by tourist pit stops
  • You really can hackle the price for everything… even change
  • #ThataAwkwardMoment you don’t realize you’ve crossed the border between #Zambia and #Zimbabwe
  • Vanilla Twilight by Owlcity is trending! Oh, wait… I can actually tweet that one

 

Yes, I did actually write them with hashtags! If you ever doubt that I love my twitter family just remember that I was on a boat with some of the most important people in my life and I still thought of all of you.

Much love,

AM

Update On The President

Ok, I have recovered from grossing myself out and can now move on from blood diamonds to the uniqueness of the Zimbabwean president.

When I was 12 Robert Mugabe was the only person I hated. Seriously, I had some intense rage issues and if you dared to bring up his name in my presence, I would go all politician on your ass! Just take a second to appreciate the visual of a 12 year old girl [and I’m short and use to be blond] rambling off facts and making complete sense in the presence of a group of educated men 3 times her age with this fire in her eyes that made these ex-military [compulsory at the time] men actually step back. My hatred was pure.

But then I grew up and the more I discussed this topic [and believe me I brought it up in every school paper I wrote, debate I attended and political meeting I went to] I also discovered how easy everyone found it to blame Bob. I’ve always believe “if everyone is thinking alike, no one is thinking very much” so I started listening to the arguments from a “defending the president” perspective. Many years later I now know that I was right to question those who blame Mugabe for everything that is wrong with this country.

He has always been an easy target, after all he is the president so the buck stops with him and if everything sucks, it was ultimately his responsibility. Secondly, he had such a huge following that no one would dare mess with him even though they blamed him for their troubles. Thirdly and most importantly: he made it so easy to hate him. A lot of journalists use the phrase ‘puppet’ and keep saying that the president [and this is true for most countries] is being controlled by investors from other countries and not really ruling the country as such. This is a great story the real puppet masters love! Let’s face it, if you can be patriotic and blame another country for your president or even your whole country’s problems, then why would you look for the real culprit inside your own borders?

Want to know who the real puppet masters are pulling Uncle Bob’s strings? The top five… Yes it really is that obvious and that simplistic. The guys already running the country are the ones pulling the strings behind closed doors too. Dear OLD Uncle Bob is way past his prime and hasn’t had much to do with any real decisions lately. But here’s the beauty of these puppet masters [actual admiration for their sneaky mastery] they have the world so ganged up against Mugabe that even his own people are not willing to die for him anymore. He is truly alone! He has no one who will protect him or even believe him. He lives in fear not just from some rogue suicide bomber who’ll crash into his car or risk taker who’ll pretend to be on the medical staff and bring on his end that much sooner, no he also has to fear the people he put in power. The ones he moved through the ranks with; invited to his wedding and shared Sunday brunch with. And who does a dictator complain to when corruption finally catches up with him? He’s out of options.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because as I’m typing this, there are fierce negotiations taking place at state house to figure out what happens in the event of the president’s death. Most countries have a deputy that’ll take over until elections but there is no way the puppet masters will let that just happen. Frankly I’m grateful for that, because unfortunately a bad leader is still better than no leader and I do not want to be around when all chaos breaks loose. Plus you also have Tsvangirai who’s technically-in-theory-on-paper-suppose-to have control of running this country, which complicates matters further.

If you’ve read my previous posts on elections and Africa’s revolts, you’ll know that I honestly don’t believe this country will magically get better when Bob is out of the way, you need a good leader to back or history will just repeat itself. With the Top 5 calling all the shots and no one even suspecting them as the culprits, they can easily push through the next guy they choose [and it really can be anyone]. They stay in control and continue running this country into the ground while the new president will do whatever they say either out of ignorance believing they are sharing their honest guidance or because he is so grateful for what they have given him or more likely fear of losing what they gave him. I can guarantee you that the new guy will be younger [well, duh there aren’t many people older than Mugabe still in this country] and thus have more time to do the Top 5’s evil bidding before someone will finally put an end to it.

So what is the point of me telling you any of this? Well it is no secret that Uncle Bob is on his way out and I just want to make sure that you don’t celebrate his departure too much… With him gone, the people will lower their guard and believe that everything will get better, which will make it easier for the puppet masters to blindside you and get you to vote for potentially the last president this country will have in your lifetime. All I ask is that you stop looking at the puppet and place your anger where it belongs: on the guys calling the shots behind closed doors. Don’t take what they say at face value and believe that Mugabe is the only evil in this world.

Use your brain and think for yourself so that when you make a cross next to a candidate’s name, you know that he or she is the leader you will get not just the puppet you will blame.

Just sharing my view,

AM

Zimbabwe Mining Update

Well, let’s just jump right in: Mining and the president of Zimbabwe is up for discussion.

Let’s go for gruesome and still slightly shocking, first. The Zimbabwe mining industry is a fickle thing. This country, like most in Africa has several minerals that occur naturally and can be mined. Since the Zim economy has been in tatters over the last decade, investing in equipment required to mine has not really been a priority or even just a good business investment. So, not a lot has happened in the last years, in fact many small mines found it cheaper to close down rather than cover the costs. With sanctions imposed on the country it also put a lot of miners off. Obviously Zim Plats does not fall under this equation, but then again most of their share holders are foreigners and they are really just the exception to the rule. In the last year or so, China’s been getting involved and doing quite well as they already have buyers outside the country all set up so investing here and using cheap labour is in fact a good investment. But none of this is really what I wanted to discuss.

In the last week a mass grave has been making headlines. As disturbing as a mass grave is all on its own, the plot thickens: people were being paid to come to the dump site and take a body to pass off as one of their relatives and go burry them somewhere far away or pretty much just anywhere else! Could you imagine, physically taking a body; putting it in your boot or a wheel barrow and moving this dead body somewhere else? Could you imagine now planning a funeral and all the fake mourning for this fake relative of yours that you are being paid to get rid of? Shows you how desperate people have become for money…

By now you’re probably wondering how these two paragraphs fit together, well I won’t hold you in suspense. Basically these bodies that most assumed were part of a government or anti-government cover up were once miners turned diamond smugglers. Many news papers have been covering this dump site as an explanation for the people who went missing during the last elections. Some were saying it was the government killing those who were going to vote against them; others said it was the opposition party resorting to the same tactics and the diamond smugglers thought they were home free as no one suspected them… until now! What supposedly happened was that these dead guys were being told that they would be paid for every diamond they smuggled out of the mine. The theory that they were told they would be killed [or their families harmed] if they didn’t co-operate has not been ruled out yet. As most of you will be aware: diamonds have come under great scrutiny in recent years due to the smuggling cartels surrounding them, so getting a few of these shiny stones out of a diamond mine is not exactly easy! So what did these resourceful smugglers tell the poor [now dead] miners? Simple, swallow it. And they did… and that is also why they were so brutally murdered. What I didn’t mention earlier about this mass grave is that they have been gutted. Someone actually took a knife and hacked into the body of this person they asked to smuggle the goods out only a few hours earlier. They then dug around in their intestines to look for that ingested pebble. Totally gross and really does give blood diamond a new visual image to work with.

It’s pretty messed up and again: all of it just for a few bucks… Ok, this is a bit gross and gory so you’ll have to wait to hear about the president until this feeling in my stomach goes away.

Sharing my view,

AM

Zimbabwe Farming Update

In honour of all the Independence Day celebrations, I figured it’ll be a good time to give you little update on the country from my perspective. Three major things are mining, the president and farming.

Let’s start with farming. When I got here in November, there were about 100 white farmers left on farms they actually owned. Since then 20 of those farmers I personally know, have been vacated or as locally referred to it: they have been Jumanjied . Obviously it makes sense that there have been others I don’t know about, leaving us with 80 odd white owned farms. I’ve discussed this before but will just recap briefly: the white farmers aka ‘original farmers’ were the ones to put the infrastructures in place and obviously has way more experience on the lands they grew up on than someone who’ve spent their whole life learning a different trade and this is basically why the country’s natural crops are so weak. However it really isn’t that simple. First you have a couple hundred of these ‘land grabbers’ who just like having the property and were perfectly happy leasing it back to the farmer it was taken from. Then you also have a couple of willing-seller-willing-buyer farms that are doing alright, since the guy who bought it actually wants to farm and as he has invested his money in it by paying for it [albeit at a reduced rate] he is more driven to succeed and actually produce crops. Plus, there is a sense of respect towards these buyers from the original farmers, so they are far more likely to share relevant information on the land that will help the buyer produce proper crops. So to say that there are only 80 real farmers left in the country is mistaken but unfortunately that number is so close to accurate that it doesn’t really improve the country’s standing. Zimbabwe use to be the leading country in all things agricultural… in the entire world! They were the best, in farming communities they are still revered and have been bought by other countries in Africa as well as Australia and New Zealand. So to now say that there are [even if you double the number to] 200 real farmers in this naturally rich country, is really dire!

Obviously the situation is not helped by the way in which the hand-over comes to pass. In simplistic terms a guy who is part of the government’s party will say he wants that farm; the party will then go to the land office and tell them what is happening. This is where most of the fighting actually takes place lately: the land office looks after the interest of the land and crops and in general farming and they have recently come to the conclusion that giving great lands, ready for harvesting, to someone with little to no experience is not exactly in the best interest of agriculture. Which is why they are increasingly standing up against the government party and fighting for the original farmer to keep at least a piece of his land. However the government is rarely willing to accept this and the war veterans come out on both side of this argument so it can get complicated. Mind you, at this stage the farmer is not even aware of any of this yet. Yes, most of them live in fear -as do most business who haven’t adhered to the 51% rule- but until that guy comes knocking on their door, they still know nothing. 

So then this representative [or more accurately group of party supporters] pitches up on the farm and tells the farmer he has 3 weeks to move off the farm or he will be removed. By the way, when they say ‘removed’ it is meant in the most threatening manner! Now as shocking and frustrating and aggravating as this is, sadly the farmers have gotten use to it and sort of expect it every day they wake up, so in a sense it is ‘normal’. I don’t know how many of you have ever been on a real farm but if you have, you’ll know that not only are the houses pretty big as in you have a lot of furniture and stuff to get out when you move. Also there are workshops and tractors and all the other bigger equipment that goes with your particular type of farm. Generally there is also a huge amount of scrap that has been gathered throughout the years and kept because it might be useful, that you need to deal with. Besides all of the earthly possessions, you also have to consider the live stock and your workers. It is rare that these new owners continue to use the farm’s workers, which is another reason so many of them fail. Considering all of these things is quite stressful under planned and desired circumstances but since this has pretty much blindsided the farmer he also has the added stress of figuring out where to go. Everything he owned and worked for, his dad worked for and his family has built is on that piece of land. Now it is no longer his. Most of these farmers invest all of their savings into their crops and most of these land repossessions happen right before harvest time. So not only is this farmer being forced off his land that he has invested everything he has ever earned into just so that the new owner can walk in and make an incredible amount of money, he has nothing to start over with. 

And of course while the farmer is trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, the fighting at the land office still continues and generally 10days in they reach an impasse and the party members decide to Clause 17 everything. So now the farmer has 24 hours, not a second more and not even the courtesy of a personal representative delivering the message: just a phone call from the land office. However the final nail in the coffin is seeing this new owner drive up in his brand new D4D and start moving into your house while they have already popped opened the first beer.  It’s pretty depressing to see but then you also get to experience how the community and friends make a plan and somehow help this farmer back to his feet against all odds. No wonder this country has such a strong culture of hope! 

The reason I bring this up is because my mother is coming to visit in 5 days and she grew up in this beautiful country. I’ve had to explain to her that she’ll have to look a little bit harder to find that beauty 20 years on and should be prepared to see once flourishing lands left in total emptiness. Where there once were crops there is now grass and dust. 

There is also another glimpse of hope that comes from the outside world. It’s sort of ironic that so many years after Zimbabwe gained its independence, the country they gained it from is offering to pay up for the suffering that is being caused after they left the country to its own devises. The farmers who’ve had to give up their land can claim back the infrastructure they invested from the British government. All you need is all of your documents and books for the last 40 years. That by the way was not sarcasm. This is a really good thing and great that the British government is accepting responsibility or rather admitting that these are consequences from a war they made these farmers fight 40 years ago against the African tribes. Obviously most farms don’t keep records that well so they’re having trouble getting the paper work done. But again there is hope: a guy who does Lost Documents and can help you find the documents or figure out how to get the numbers to add up. This is also useful for those people who, out of anger and resentment, burned their books when they left the farms. The only catch is that this guy charges quite a few bucks as it really is a lot of work and checking back logs takes a lot of time. However, if the British government keeps their word and pays out, it really will be worth your while.

Ok, this post went on a lot longer than I anticipated so you’ll have to read about mining and dear old Uncle Bob in the next post.

Sharing my view,

AM

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