Only in Zimbabwe
Dear Family and Friends,
Infected by the searing October heat, we’ve had a fortnight of bizarre, sad, and strange-but- true incidents. It started in hot, dry Matabeleland. In a notice in the Chronicle newspaper, residents of Bulawayo city were advised to flush their toilets at exactly the same time every third day. 7.30 pm is the designated synchronized flushing time that the two million residents have been asked to observe every 72 hours.
Apparently prolonged water shortages have left less and less water in the city’s reticulation system which prompted the Council to call for simultaneous flushing in order to prevent blockages and burst pipes.
The Council said the simultaneous flushing doesn’t apply to people with their own septic tanks and that people who have water should also flush their toilets at other times. While the 72 hour synchronized flushing might be one of the most bizarre requests we’ve heard for some time, Zimbabweans have perfected the art of taking things in their stride and then of joining in the laughter at the predictable tidal wave (!) of jokes and skits that follow.
The second bizarre thing to happen came with a notice in the national newspapers inserted by the Minister of Finance. It wasn’t the normal sort of notice you’d expect from a Finance Minister containing information on taxes, duties, levies or interest rates. This notice was to advise people that Ministry of Finance staff had been sent home because they were being physically prevented from getting into their offices by war veterans.
It was with a very distinct sense of déjà vu that we heard this news. The press notice said the operations of the Finance Ministry were being disrupted by demonstrating war veterans who were demanding, among other things, an increase in their monthly pensions from US$160 to $620 a month.
This demand for more is in addition to the bulk payments they each received in 1998 , the free school fees they receive for their children and free farms they got in the land seizures of the last twelve years. The Ministry of Finance crisis had started a few days earlier when two hundred war veterans barricaded the government complex, demanding the 400% increases.
The press statement said that other government Ministries housed in the same complex had also been affected by the war veterans’ barricade including the Ministries of Justice and Legal Affairs, Higher Education, Economic Planning and the Attorney General’s Office.
If it had been anyone else barricading government offices and demanding a 400% increase there is no doubt they would have been bundled off in police trucks but that didn’t happen. Ministry workers went home while the country shook its head in disbelief.
The third thing to happen wasn’t bizarre but tragic. The lead motorcycle rider in the Presidential motorcade was burnt to death after he hit a truck while clearing the route for the cavalcade near Borrowdale village in Harare.
All Zimbabweans have encountered the Presidential motorcade and it’s a frightening thing at the best of times. Everyone’s learnt that you get off the road and stop and you do it right now, regardless of where you are, where other traffic is or who’s behind or in front of you. This latest incident is the fourth involving the motorcade this year.
One man was killed and fifteen injured a few months ago when the police vehicle clearing traffic ahead of the convoy rammed into a commuter minibus. In another incident a vagrant walking in the road was knocked down and killed by a police escort bike in the motorcade and on another occasion the convoy vehicle carrying members of the Presidential guard burst a tyre leaving one man dead and others wounded.
Only in Zimbabwe. Until next time, thanks for reading,
Copyright © Cathy Buckle. www.cathybuckle.com 6th October 2012.