Catch and release, Zimbabwe style

I am writing this under a deep purple sky where the lightning is spectacular against the dark clouds in the distance. The rains have started in Zimbabwe, bringing relief after seven long dry months, replacing hot dusty whirlwinds with strong fresh damp breezes.

You can see the rain coming, sometimes in slow, quiet curtains whispering across the bush and other times in noisy pounding storms filled with hail stones. Along with the rain has come the return of paradise flycatchers and ibises, and closer to the ground sausage flies, rhino beetles and chongololos (millipedes).

Despite the beauty all around us it was a shock learning how to survive in Zimbabwe again after a couple of weeks away.

No water for eight days and counting, electricity cuts for 10 to 12 hours at a time, massive gullies where rain water has scoured the roads, and authorities who never come to repair the damage.

And then there’s the nightmare of shopping …

World Bank statistics show that Zimbabwe now has the highest food inflation in the world at 353%.

The telltale sign is how many groceries have been abandoned at the tills because shoppers couldn’t afford them.

A few months ago I wrote about groceries being ‘thousand-dollar shopping’. Now ordinary food shopping is more like a hundred-thousand-dollar shopping.

Read: Thousand-dollar shopping in Zimbabwe

A recent government report [quoting a 2022 FinScope Consumer Survey] shows that poverty levels are rising and more than 73% of the population now earns less than US$100 per month, with 61% of the population having to “skip a meal due to lack of money for food” [Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe National Financial Inclusion Strategy II (2022-2026), 31 October 2022].

Brain drain gathers pace …

“I’m done with Zim,” a man said to me this week. “I can’t wait any longer.”

He’s an engineer but is leaving the country because he can’t support his family and can’t even afford enough food for his children anymore.

When I said I hoped he wouldn’t miss Zimbabwe too much, he said he was sure he would stop missing it after a year or so.

I doubt that, but he’s not alone in leaving as the brain drain gathers pace with every year that the state of Zimbabwe continues unchanged.

A Health Services Board report last week said that over 4 000 health workers have left Zimbabwe since 2021 – 1 700 registered nurses left in 2021 and 900 have left so far in 2022.

Doctors and nurses have been pleading for a living wage for years to no avail and they finally end up having no choice but to go.

In bizarre irony to this reality President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a weekly newsletter published in a state newspaper: “We have to competitively reward our doctors in order to guarantee greater staff retention.”

There are now only 3 777 registered medical practitioners in a country with a population of 15 million. Of those 3 777 practitioners, 1 982 are general medical officers, 713 specialists, 250 dentists and 627 interns – all of whom are surely carrying an unbearably massive case load while they can barely survive themselves.

Open letter to the president

Extracts from an open letter written by Zimbabwe’s internationally renowned musician Thomas Mapfumo to President Mnangagwa last week perhaps say it best as to the state of our country five years after the ousting of Robert Mugabe and six or so months before our next election …

Dear President Mnangagwa,

I am writing to you at this desperate hour… I am sure you can feel Zimbabwe going down the drain as a nation …

The services are decaying daily, and the situation is now hopeless. You may try to cover it up, but the truth keeps coming out … People need clean water … Hospitals have no medications or equipment. Medical staff are running away. Power cuts are now commonplace. Urban transport is now disastrous.

Why are we going through so much suffering? What is the end to all this suffering?

Corruption is now going through the roof. You have done nothing to stop this …

All the big fish that are stealing the resources of Zimbabwe are set free by the court system.

The catch and release method is real and thieves are always freed. What example are you setting sir?

What message are you sending to the nation?

(Read the full letter on Nehanda Radio here.)

I end my column this week with a message of thanks to the millions of Zimbabweans out there in the diaspora who have not forgotten us, who continue to support us, encourage us, lobby for us and give us strength not to give up.

Copyright © Cathy Buckle