Dear Family and Friends,

Election 2023 is all over. Zimbabwe is stunned, sad, angry and disgusted at the extent of what went on. The criticism of our latest electoral debacle has come from near and far. For the first time in our history even SADC (Southern African Development Community) have criticised us. We have been well and truly shamed after another disputed and highly flawed process. You name it, they did it, blatantly, overtly, there for everyone to see. Here’s a short summary of what the Observer Missions said:  

Inadequate ballot papers created doubt about credibility of the process (SADC)

Widespread electoral intimidation (SADC, Commonwealth)

Delayed opening of polling stations by many hours (SADC)

Restricted freedom of expression through the Patriots Act (SADC)

Names missing from voters rolls or at the wrong polling stations (SADC)

Lack of independence & transparency of ZEC ( Zim. Electoral Commission) (EU)

Unfair and restrictive candidate registration and campaign environment (EU)

Arrest of 39 domestic election monitoring agents (EU)

‘The process fell short of regional and international standards including equality, universality and transparency’ (EU)

‘Interactions with opposition and other activists who said that even meeting SADC [Observers] would likely get them arrested.’ (SADC)

What do you do when even meeting and talking to Election Observers puts you at risk of arrest? Do you shut up or brave up? A question we all had to ask and answer for ourselves as we walked to the edge in Zimbabwe’s Election 2023.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the CCC, have refused to accept the results but are not taking up a legal challenge with the Constitutional Court saying ‘the judiciary is fully and faithfully captured.’ They reminded us that our constitution was amended to accommodate the extension of Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s service after the prescribed retirement age. The CCC also reminded us that a couple of months before the elections all the Constitutional Court judges received an ‘ex gratia payment’ from the Minister of Finance of US$400,000. So what then would be the point of a legal challenge? And what now for Zimbabwe, which way for us?

Putting fuel in my car this morning I asked the pump attendant how he was and how things were for him. ‘I’m OK,’ he said ‘but I’m not happy with this.’ Using words like ‘things’ or ‘this’ are our code words for saying nothing but everything because everyone’s scared to talk. ‘What about the Diaspora,’ I ask wondering if he will join the floodtide of people running to the border to find work in South Africa. ‘It’s dangerous there,’ he says, ‘and they don’t want us. I can die if I stay or if I go.’ We both go quiet for a minute, I can see the emotion on his face. ‘Don’t give up hope,’ I say, ‘don’t ever give up hope,’ hollow words I know but we are all looking for any encouragement we can find or give. ‘God bless you ma’am’ he says when I tell him to keep the three dollars change, ‘today I can eat lunch.’ His parting words tell exactly the story of living on the edge. At the supermarket a young man carries a small white bucket filled with boiled eggs that he is selling to people as they pass by, offering them salt or piri piri to season their eggs. Inside the supermarket the shelves are full but trolleys are empty as everything has become unaffordable. I take a picture of a box of locally made breakfast cereal: Z$23,299.99, it’s just absurd and if you don’t have US dollars, you don’t eat cereal anymore.

This is the reality of a nation living on the edge. Why would anyone have voted for more of this? A destroyed currency, 95% unemployment, 680% inflation, collapsing state infrastructure. There isn’t an answer, just more questions: did we really vote them back into power? We know the answer.

Whispers of ‘secret meetings’ between South Africa’s President Ramaphosa and Mr Mnangwagwa mean little to us: for how many decades have South Africa found ways to sanitize our disputed elections?

So many people took so many risks as they walked to the edge in Zimbabwe’s election but now stand alone and as I write this letter the fallout continues. A few days ago Human Rights lawyers Doug Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi were arrested and detained overnight for protecting their clients from being interviewed whilst under medical sedation; their clients are CCC opposition supporters who had been abducted and tortured.

Thank you for the overwhelming response to my new evocative photobook, ‘Zimbabwe’s Timeless Beauty, The 2023 Collection’ and my Beautiful Zimbabwe Calendar for 2024. (Details are at the foot of this Letter.) I am, as ever, humbled by your support and your love for our country.   

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 September 2023. Copyright © Cathy Buckle

All my books are now available on Amazon, Kindle and Lulu with 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: or here