Sunday, December 7, 2008
Most of us have seen it coming for many months, if not years. It seems like the few individuals who actually had the power to prevent it were the only ones blinded to the inevitable unfolding of events that now see Zimbabwe teetering on the brink of cataclysmic collapse.
Of these, former South African President Thabo Mbeki springs to mind, who just a few short months ago felt comfortable declaring that he did not consider the Zim situation a crisis, as he continued his biased policy of Mugabe appeasement. The power sharing agreement that he brokered is now, just a few weeks on, officially considered defunct as the main players continue to squabble over political power and protocol.
Today, the cracks beneath the long-shattered economy are finally opening, and the people of this dismally failed state are slipping into a yawning abyss. Inflation is estimated at 2.8 quintillion percent - that's 2.8 followed by 18 zeros. Government troops have boiled over into anarchy, expressing their discontent through the riots and raids witnessed in Harare last week. The capital itself has been without fresh running water for a month, and now the deathly scourge of cholera - normally a preventable and treatable disease - is taking hundreds of lives as it slithers across Zimbabwe's borders, revelling in unmanned, unsupplied hospitals.
Zimbabwe's implosion had to reach this stage of mass death and disease before local leaders felt comfortable saying "enough". And only, it seems, because the threat of an epidemic on their own soil has now been felt. While the rest of the world spluttered impotently at the horror gradually unfolding before their eyes, southern African leaders, with few notable exceptions, could not bring themselves to openly criticise the Mugabe regime for fear of offending the despot's status as an African liberation hero.
The "liberated" people of Zimbabwe are now digging for roots and scratching for grain in an instinctive, but often vain, struggle to cling to their impoverished, disease-threatened lives. Last week, the official announcement was made by South African authorities: the Limpopo River is contaminated with cholera. Raw sewage is flowing through the streets. People no longer shake hands in greeting for fear of catching the disease. Aid agencies have warned that, even in the best case scenario, hundreds or thousands more are likely to die because the tipping point has already been reached. The dam has burst. And as the rainy season looms, bringing with it the promise of unprecedented levels of death, there is no medicine or clean water or sanitation - or strength - to stem the flood.
Mugabe claims that the sanctions imposed by his eternal enemies, the Colonial Masters of the West, are solely to blame for the liquidation of his country. However, even other African leaders frown sceptically at the idea that these limited sanctions - which targeted Mugabe and his inner circle, freezing their personal overseas assets and restricting their travel - can be at the root of the cataclysm.
From our position south of Zimbabwe's infested border, we watch helplessly as this humanitarian tragedy that has slowly been unfolding before our eyes for many months, accelerates into a full-blown meltdown.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
It's pretty warm out there today. I don't have air con in my little Golf, but at least I can open the window now. It was stuck shut for a few months, which is not what you want for summer - especially when the air vents blow out hot air all the time...
But it's a beautiful day! And I'm quite hungry now. Maybe it's time for me to get that bacon sandwich ...
Monday, November 24, 2008
After disembarking from the coach, I decided to complete the journey in the manner in which I started it, and eschewed the comforts of a metered cab for the raucous bustle of a minibus taxi.
After a potent reminder of how impossible it is to get yourself and two backpacks from the backseat of a taxi with a shred of dignity, I walked from Shoprite in Main Road Claremont back here to my flat. And this photo is the view from my flat window, bringing a neat photographic end to my trip.
Athough it was such a lengthy journey (over 40 hours of travelling in 3 days) I feel tired but emotionally invigorated. I feel imbued with a renewed enthusiasm for my work, and for Africa in general, and I can't wait to finish my book so I can go on the next adventure!
Meanwhile, I need to chill for a couple of hours, and take that shower I've been thinking about since Springbok...
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The guy that gave me a lift from the Guest Lodge to the bus depot went to Reading University, about 3 years after I left. His brother was in my year. Talk about small world!
Scheduled arrival time in the Mother City is 1:00 pm tomorrow. I hope the border crossing goes smoothly.
Will post again when we stop!
I spent most of last night wrestling with a mosquito the size of a small dog. It was one of those quiet ones that sneak up on you. Every now and then I would catch it feeding on me, but it would vanish before I could get it. This morning I woke up with welts the size of R5 coins on my neck, and without any antiseptic cream I envisioned an itchy return trip to Cape Town!
Then I had the crazy idea to put toothpaste on the bites, and I must say it worked a treat. Swelling went down, and no itching at all. So remember to pack your Colgate if you're heading into mosquito country!
I hung out at the bar last night, but wasn't very impressed with their gin & tonic. It was like drinking a beaker of paint thinner. My friend Sarah can whip up awesome G&Ts in the most rugged of surroundings, so maybe i've been spoilt by her special skills!
Right now i'm sitting on the steps of the Namibian National Museum. A little street boy just joined me for a bit, dressed literally in rags and definitely in need of a bath. He asked me about my phone, and I explained to him what the internet was. He earned N$10 by letting me take his picture. I was struck by his intelligence and fluency in English.
The Museum is a bit of a relic in its own right. They could do so much with with it if they just had a bit of funding. Definitely on the list of potential projects for the MIAA.
Now I'm getting hungry, it must be lunchtime. While I go looking for lunch, I'll leave you with some random pics of the guest lodge and museum...
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Ivan got off at a stop somewhere in the desert about 2 hours before Windhoek, clutching his box of fish. He's a really nice guy, I hope he emails me. He's back home to join his family for a memorial service - 1 year since his brother died in a motorcycle accident. Very sad.
I was met at Windhoek by the driver from the Chameleon Guest Lodge, and that's where I am now. It is crazy hot (being the desert and all), and I would probably be quite irritable if it wasn't for this bottle of ice cold Windhoek Lager. First thing I did was sleep for an hour or two, then wandered into town. Unfortunately, everything within walking distance closes at 1pm on Saturdays, so there were shutters slamming down all around me. If I had more time I might have gone on a safari, or to Walvis Bay or something... Next time ...
Meanwhile, I have no choice but to sit on the grass with a cold beer, and watch the scantily clad bodies frolicking in the pool... :o)
I did get an Namibian SIM card for my phone, but couldn't get the GPRS working. Which is why i'm writing this in the internet cafe. So i'll have to wait till i'm on the way home to post my pictures from my phone.
Meanwhile, I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!
Friday, November 21, 2008
The landscape has changed quite dramatically, having become mountainous with a very jagged horizon. The sun has just sunk below the peaks, and I think we'll be losing the light soon.
The hostess came by with a small plastic cup of coffee about an hour ago, and stopped to chat for a bit. She, like Ivan here, seems to delight in calling me "Mister Anderson". Seems like The Matrix will never die.
I've got 2 books keeping me company. This is my big chance to get past page 7 of Wilbur Smith's "The Leopard Hunts in Darkness". I really love all his books, although the first chapter of this one was pretty horrific. If anyone knows how to rip off an elephant's legs, it's Wilbur.
The other book is an archaeological one - a new publication bearing the fruits of a research initiative at Wits uni. It's called "500 Years Rediscovered", and it is pretty good. And I'm not just saying that because I co-authored one of the chapters... It's in Exclusive Books now folks!
So, evening draws in and i'm resigning myself to another few hours of driving before the next stop. It's quite chilly now, so I'm glad I kept my hoodie with me.
Cell reception is becoming intermittent, but I'll post again when I can. Glad you are with me! :o)
I've got chatting to the chap sitting next to me - a Namibian dude called Ivan. His only piece of luggage seems to be a big box of fish. Hope it doesn't start stinking ...
Managed to sleep for an hour or so, but the loudspeaker booming over my head is gonna put paid to much more of that - the soundtrack to the budget movie they've just put on the TV...
My fingers are uncontrollably reaching toward the xanax in my backpack ...
And so my journey begins!
Somehow I already managed to get on the wrong bus between Claremont and Rondebosch - still in my own neighbourhood. Oh dear, I've got to find my way to Namibia! Doesn't bode well.
Luckily, two lovely ladies on the bus sussed out my foolish mistake, and told me to get off and walk to another bus stop...
Anyway, bus leaves in about 20 mins. I hope its a double decker, so I can sit on top! Quite excited now, while fully aware that the novelty will wear off after the first of many, many hours...
Now, time for a bacon sandwich ...
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Gotta go to bed fairly soon as I have an early start in the morning. Got a bus ticket from Cape Town to Windhoek. Always wanted to see the west coast, but have mixed feelings about "seeing" it constantly throughout a 22 hour bus ride... Most of which will be at night...
One night in Namibia (was that a song?) and then back on Sunday. Wish my iPod was working... A few good books must be taken! And I might even make some progress with my own book while i'm at it! Not sure if these fancy coaches have power sockets for laptops tho... Anyone travelled with Intercape? I saw one of them crashed in the Karroo last week. hmmm .....
Well, i'll try to upload any pics I take, and round about the 7th hour on the bus i'll be ready to chew off my own tongue, so be prepared for another blog out of sheer desperation!'