Dear Family and Friends,

Early in the morning when the clouds are smudged with pink, the dawn chorus fills Zimbabwe’s cool air: robins and flycatchers and the koo-ku-ing of Red-eyed Doves. As the sun lights the horizon a pair of mousebirds take up position at the top of a bush, long tails wet with dew, faces turned towards the sun waiting to catch the first warming rays. You have to just stop and soak in this brief illusion of normal whenever you can because it is soon replaced with what has again become the nightmare of life in Zimbabwe in January 2023. Electricity cuts which last 18-20 hours a day, food going rotten in hot fridges and freezers, water which only comes out of taps every two or three weeks, internet cables dug up and stolen in the darkness of power cuts leaving communications for hundreds of homes gone for days and weeks at a time. We thought we had left all this behind us with the exit of Robert Mugabe but now, a few months before our next elections, we are back exactly where we were. Time, it seems, goes backwards in Zimbabwe.

Driving east on the main highway this week a fleeting glimpse of a guinea fowl hen and a line of seven or eight chicks running across the road and then disappearing into the lush green grass gave a moment to smile. Travelling is a good time to think about where we are going as country and this week Gift Munango, a visiting economics professor at the University of Zimbabwe said the 2023 economic outlook is gloomy. “The year 2023 will be very dire….Zimbabwe is entering a very volatile social and economic period… .” (Al Jazeera) These are words we aren’t surprised to hear at all as we are living in the reality of it. The exchange rate for US dollars is on the rise again, now at around 900 -950 Zimbabwe Dollars for one single US dollar. That’s a bizarre sentence to write, as is this one: a single loaf of bread is now close to one thousand dollars. How on earth do we survive this? 

 Almost as bizarre as a thousand dollars for a loaf of bread is the news that came just before Christmas of 3000 government land reform beneficiaries facing eviction from farm land they were given in Chegutu by the government. The new farmers are apparently being evicted to make way for a platinum project. This same land was seized from commercial farmers in 2000 by the government and so we can only question what on earth land reform was all about in the first place as the vicious circle goes just goes round and round.

Meanwhile on the other side of the country desperate times have resulted in desperate measures and thousands of ‘lithium hunters’ invaded Goromonzi North to dig for lithium. Lithium has become the new ‘gold rush’ in Zimbabwe with reports coming from many places where people are digging up lithium and selling the ore for US$10 a wheelbarrow load. Huge lithium mines are now operating from Bikita to Buhera, Mberegengwa to Manicaland and Mashonaland. Just before Christmas President Mnangagwa opened a new lithium mine in Buhera and soon after the government banned the export of raw lithium ore.  Back in Goromonzi security forces were moved in to control lithium hunters and in one area villagers were banned from mining lithium and then the government gave the mining concessions to Chinese companies. (NewsDay)   

And further north, my feet firmly on plain old earth, I popped in to see a friend who had proudly planted rows of fruit trees and hundreds of tomato plants to help feed elderly people. Devastated I found all his hard work gone, walled off by someone who had claimed the land. He was bereft but was wearing plastic flip flops and shorts and was starting again.

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 7th January 2023. Copyright © Cathy Buckle

All my books are now available on Amazon, Kindle and Lulu with my Beautiful Zimbabwe 2023 Calendar and the hardback version of my evocative Photo-books “Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty” (the 2021 and 2022 collections) on high gloss paper available exclusively on LULU. Visit my website for full details or click here:

Picture credit Mining Technology: Arcadia Lithium project, Zimbabwe