Dear Family and Friends,

A beautiful but deadly trio of young Lanner Falcons are perfecting the art of survival on these steamy December days under a bright blue sky and a burning sun. The trio wail and scream to each other from the high branches of the deep green shady Msasa trees, alerting each other to birds being flushed, warning of danger and generally causing panic and alarm in the garden. Sometimes they hunt on the crackly, sunburnt grass, catching insects but mostly they perch higher up, watching and waiting for everything that moves from little finches and waxbills to mousebirds and doves. They swoop and descend at speed, dive on flushed birds, chasing, pursuing and catching them on the wing. As little feathers drift down you know a killing’s been made and hardly is one dispatched then they start again, looking for the next victim, on the ground, in the trees, in the air; nowhere is safe. It all feels very much like what’s happening in Zimbabwe at the moment.

Zimbabwe’s Min of Fin presented a 58.2 trillion Zimbabwe dollar budget to parliament last week and there’s nowhere to hide, not for anyone, the government awaits from on high to pick over our carcasses. Everyone is shocked at the levels they’ve sunk to and like everything else, we just can’t believe this will actually happen. Here’s a few of the punitive new things that await us from January 2024.

Passport fees are going up over 60% from US$120 to 200. Vehicle registration fees and fuel prices are going up and highway toll gates are increasing by 150% from US$2 to $5 on ‘premium roads’ and to $4 on all other roads. The cost of everything from food to fuel and anything else that is moved by road will inevitably have to rise as a result. The Grain Millers Association are already predicting that the price of a loaf of bread will increase by 100% from US$1 to US$2 in January 2024.

The next carcass to pick over is apparently home owners, people who work and save for years, take mortgages, borrow money and finally buy their own homes. Home owners are now to be punished for their hard work by something the Min of Fin calls the Wealth Tax which will see private homes being valued by the government and if they say your house is worth over US$100,000 you will be charged 1% of the value every year. This is despite the fact that you already pay rates every month to local council and Capital Gains Tax when you sell your home. The Min of Fin says this Wealth Tax will be used for: “urban infrastructure… roads, water, sewer and community health centres.” I dare not comment, read between the lines.   

Next up are backyard chicken producers and informal traders. They will now have to be registered for VAT and have valid Tax Clearance Certificates before they will be allowed to procure goods (including stockfeed) from manufacturers and wholesalers. This is going to be a disaster for people everywhere who survive on buying wholesale goods and selling them on roadsides or rearing chickens in their gardens. You can hardly go a single block in any direction without an informal trader selling groceries on the roadside or advertising chickens and eggs for sale.   

If you’ve stashed your cash in a safety deposit box because you don’t trust the banks (a widespread feeling here) you’re also going to be done as the Min of Fin is going to give ZIMRA, the revenue authority, powers to open safe deposit boxes, “at any time to ascertain the contents,” this includes safe deposit boxes at banks, financial institutions, security and other companies that offer custodial services.

If you’ve survived so far, why not retreat with a cold drink into a shady patch and read this one last little gem: a US 2 cent tax per gram of sugar in fizzy drinks is starting in January to: “discourage consumption of high sugar content beverages.” The Min of Fin says that tax will be used for: “therapy and procurement of cancer equipment for diagnosis.” Yeah right. In a country where you can’t even get an injection at a hospital without paying for the needle, syringe, medicine and cotton wool swab. Read between these lines too.

Please watch my website and social media sites in the 12 days leading up to Christmas as I share a day-by-day pictorial Thank You Tribute to you, 23 years of long-time, loyal readers in 70 countries around the world who have supported me and my work, my books, calendars, articles and letters. I couldn’t have kept going without you and I thank every single one of you, for reading and caring, for sharing my work with your friends, groups and readers and for reaching out to me again and again with messages, emails and love in your hearts for Zimbabwe.    

There is no charge for this Letter From Zimbabwe but if you would like to donate please visit my website. Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter From Zimbabwe now in its 23rd year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, a country in waiting.

Ndini shamwari yenyu (I am your friend)

Love Cathy 8th December 2023. Copyright © Cathy Buckle

All my books are now available on Amazon and Kindle The hardback edition of my evocative Photo-books: “Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty” (the 2021, 2022 and 2023 collections) and my Beautiful Zimbabwe Calendar for 2024 are available exclusively on LULU Please visit my website for further details, to contact me or to see pictures that accompany these letters