the red soil of hope for a new zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,

“The taste of freedom was on our lips and in our hearts today,” those were my words on the 18th November 2017 when I last wrote to you from Zimbabwe. That had been the day that broke the iron band of oppression and fear that had been suffocating us for 37 years. The day when we all stood together regardless of age, colour or political affiliation; the day we finally said we’d had enough of Mr Mugabe.

After two months away and with the euphoria of the Nov 18th Freedom March still simmering tantalizingly on my mind, what was I going to find on my return to Zimbabwe in late January 2018?

“Hello Mrs Buckle! Welcome Home. I like your writing very much!” an Immigration official said to me as I handed my passport over to be stamped at Harare airport. WOW, I was home and it felt so good!

In recent weeks a delegate at the Davos conference described us as a “different Zimbabwe,” while America’s President Trump called us and others the “s**t hole nations of the world.”

Either way, whatever you want to call us, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see a bright blue sky and feel the warm Zimbabwean sun on my shoulders when I returned to my country after two months away. How good it was to see smiling, friendly people, to feel that warm, welcoming, African handshake: hands, thumbs, hands. How good it was to see that a spark of hope remains and that patience prevails amongst ordinary people, despite how much we want a New Zimbabwe and not just a Different Zimbabwe.

On the hundred kilometre journey from airport to home it was wonderful not to see any police roadblocks. They weren’t hovering like vultures with their pernicious home-made spikes; they weren’t impeding the flow of traffic across the bridge; they weren’t under the big, beautiful fig tree; they weren’t standing in the road pointing at you to pull off so they could harass and harangue you, looking for a bribe. Their absence gave a small glimpse of this Different Zimbabwe and maybe a taste of what a New Zimbabwe, when we finally get there, will be like.

In my first week home I couldn’t get over the feeling that everything had changed but nothing has changed. The banks still haven’t got money, people haven’t got jobs, and everyone’s frantically trying to keep their heads above water, keep their jobs, keep their businesses open.

I visited the family who had been violently evicted from their Rusape Farm after it was seized by an Evangelical Bishop in 2017. While I was away I heard they had been in the right place at the right time; somehow managing to get permission from the new administration to go back to their farm. Spellbound, I listened to their amazing story: invaders evicted when police did their job (for the first time in 17 on farms); government ministers, (who’ve turned a blind eye for 17 years), suddenly saying that farmers with white skin are welcome, that they want all farmers, regardless of their skin colour. With tears in my eyes I watched the video clips of the Smart family being welcomed back onto their land by the farm workers and villagers, and I watched the red soil being turned over by the ploughs and their new crop being planted. Was that the red soil of hope leading us to a really New Zimbabwe I wondered?

Zimbabwe has got a long way to go. Elections are on the horizon. We await democracy, accountability, justice and a complete end to corruption. None of these things will come unless all Zimbabweans, at home and in the Diaspora, step forward, speak out, and break the punitive cycle of 37 years.

I am delighted to announce that my books are now available from an international print on demand publisher with worldwide delivery. Since Zimbabwe increased postage by 400% two years ago, my books have been pushed to unaffordable levels with the postage costing more than the books themselves. The following titles are now available at reasonable rates from : “Can you Hear the Drums,” “Millions Billions Trillions,” “Sleeping Like a Hare” and “Rundi.” My other titles will follow in the coming weeks.

Thank you for following my letters for seventeen years, for supporting my books, for your messages of comfort, compassion and empathy, for never giving up on Zimbabwe and for helping me to keep hope alive. Your messages have given me the strength and courage to keep going. Until next time.

Love Cathy.

2nd February 2018

Copyright © Cathy Buckle.