ZIMBABWE PENSIONERS SUPPORT FUND.
I left the warehouse in Malelane early on Tuesday 30 May with Linda & Hannes having done all the preparations for the trip as smartly as they do. A small hiccup with the truck delayed me slightly in Mbombela but I was on my way to the border at about 10h00 am and all went well.
I met our special friend, Attie, in Tzaneen later in the day and he guided me to a fuel depot where I was privileged to meet Mark Andrews of Roma fuels. Mark very kindly donated some diesel for the trip. I’m always well fascinated by ordinary South Africans, with limited Zimbabwean connections, who take the cause of Zimbabwean Pensioners into their hearts. There is no gain for these donors and their contributions to the fund are pure and unadulterated kindness, care & generosity towards old folk far away in another country. How do we begin to thank them?
I arrived in Musina later than expected and spent the evening with the ever beautiful and kind Joe & Hester Joubert. After a great meal and some chats I settled for the night. We’re very grateful to the NG Church in Musina for their ongoing support in locking away our truck, safely in their yard.
Joe got me back to the truck before Tuesday sunrise & I was at the border for 5h30 am hoping for a good crossing. All went well with the paperwork and in just over three hours I was off to Bulawayo.
Over past few years we’ve had tremendous help from Shannon & Rachel Wheeler in West Nicholson. They’ve provided accommodation, food & love whenever we’ve needed it in passing. Today saw an opportunity to repay some of their kindness as I loaded some of their furniture & belongings into the truck for transport to Bulawayo, which is to become their new home. The loading took an hour or two and they escorted me to their new home after plying me with a super lunch & some excellent homemade dry wors as padkos. Bonus!
In Bulawayo Angela & Hannes were as prepared as ever with the boxes for delivery and by late evening the truck was packed & ready to go. I parked off at Coronation Cottages where I had a good sleep after a busy day. (Only after I faked heavy eyelids to get Hannes to stop chatting, mind you!)
I left Bulawayo at about 5h00 am hoping to make my first delivery at Boggies Trust by the promised 7h30. I encountered the first of my 60 plus problematic road blocks on my peaceful morning and my first fine was for travelling 86 instead of 80 as trucks should do in Zim. (I have reservations about their trapping equipment and skills but that’s for another day.)
I broke my very strict anti-bribery moral code at this exchange with the police but considered my faux pas a comedy fee in this case. There is a mighty drive in Zimbabwe to stop corruption because one can’t, of course, have thieves stealing from other thieves so the police are being somewhat cautious. (Pay attention here) The ever kind policeman fined me $20 which I was asked to hand to him before he wrote the fine. I objected just a little but he assured me all would be well. Once he had my two $ 10 bills he carried on the sweetest conversation about South Africa and life there. He obviously liked me loads because after some idle chatter he quickly handed back one of my $ 10 notes and, in a great rush now, said “ You go quickly now, I will let you off this time but be careful!” My long stare at my other $ 10 in his thieving little paw did nothing to deter him and I left there poorer in pocket, conscience & heart.
Not much further along the road another slithering, slimy, rotund policewoman made her appearance. There was no committed offence this time but she pulled me off anyway. After some slick & obsequious chatter she eventually came out with it….. “ H’ow, but the flask is veery ‘spensive in Zimbabwe” My response was quick, venomous & frank and “ Sweetie” was left in no doubt that I would die before handing over my coffee flask. I left with an exaggerated rev of the truck (My exhaust pipe faces into the dirt) and the only harm done was to her silly oversized hair bun quivering in the dust.
I made it to Gweru and all the very special folk there. I repeat it on every trip but these are some of the dearest Madalas in that country. Aunty Ivy was ready with a cup of coffee and a pie for me and I had a special time catching up with all as we offloaded their parcels. Their gratitude is overwhelming and deep and I always leave there with a tear and emotional reward for our efforts. They make it all worthwhile.
My next offload was at Huisvergesig, across town, where I also left the boxes for the Gweru “Outsiders” for the kind individual deliveries by Anna Scheepers. I headed off to Redcliff. I’ve reported on this sad town before. This is now a ghost town, at best, after the eventual total closure of most Industry there. I chatted to the residents there and was really saddened by their isolation and loneliness. Their long days are filled with no more than their concerns and interest within their tiny complex. The excitement of the trucks’ arrival with their parcels is profound and special.
At my next stop in KweKwe the residents of Lynbrook were, as always, ready and waiting with some tea & a mountain of homemade Samoosas, rissoles & spring roles for me to take away with me. I must confess the treats barely made it out of town before I’d guzzled all but a few. The good people of Lynbrook are also always hugely grateful and cannot convey their gratitude to the donors enough. A huge thanks from these very grateful humans.
An hour or two later I delivered to Westview Retirement in Kadoma. I spent some time with the folk there and learnt of the daily issues they have at the home. Linda Stewart has taken charge and we are grateful for her help in getting the parcels distributed in Kadoma. I had a brief visit to our dear friends, Clive & Estelle O’Reily, who have retired from the administration at Westview but who will be forever in our hearts for their unwavering support, in so many ways, over the many years. Thanks again the O’Reilys. Bless you guys into your retirement.
I figured there was enough time to do Chinoyi in the north so I took the shorter route linking Chegutu to the town. It’s not an unpleasant drive and I arrived in the mid afternoon to the customary line-up of grandies from Sunningdale homes and some of the outsiders in their aging bakkies. This is another of the homes that I hold very dear. Many of these great people are stalwart farmers and businesspeople from the district. They are proud and upstanding and so humble in their gratitude. This is a fine collection of former leaders in their communities hanging onto the hope that they may one day be “great” again. They too thank all our donors deeply and sincerely.
Harare wasn’t too far away and I was there by the early evening without much fuss. I did get yet another fine somewhere during today for a broken red emergency triangle. There are just too many roadblocks to remember exactly where it was but it was a fair enough considering the triangle fell into three pieces when I confidently (& perhaps obnoxiously) hauled it out from under the seat. There was another whole one in the back of the truck that I didn’t know about……..
My childhood mate, Lynda (Pushkin) Style put me up again at her home in Harare. She has now fed me, wined me and dined me on several of my trips and I’m massively grateful to her for this. On Friday morning she donned her trucker boots and set off with me to do deliveries around Harare. She drives a mean clip board and doesn’t let a box astray without a firm tick.
At the time of writing my trip report I have learned of the passing of James Hunter who I met on this trip after he helped me so kindly during my September trip when my truck axle shifted. I’m really saddened by your leaving us James but you’re clearly a good and generous man and we’ll call for your help again when we get to the big cloud in the sky. From the Zim Pensioners fund, our sincere condolences to Tracey and your family.
The only drawback of my stay in Harare was an the onset of a inconvenient flu bug that sent me into chills and fever that I was concerned I would spread to all around me, particularly the older vulnerable folk. A right bother with bad timing.
We collected fuel from our now regular donor, Vic Bongiovani. Vic was as sick as I was so, very sadly, we couldn’t meet again on this trip. He was so very kind in sending us off to his depot for a very welcome fuel donation and we thank him again, from each and every pensioner throughout Zimbabwe that sees our truck roll in on his diesel. Big thanks Vic.
On Friday afternoon we did some local deliveries and dropped off various boxes with Mike & Marion Futter who so willingly take our boxes for delivery to Bindura, Soap, the Commercial Farmers Union guys, Mvurwi and so many local Harare outsiders. (These are needy pensioners that are still living in their own homes. Mike & Marion; we are very mindful of the great task that you take on in doing these deliveries and the love & compassion that you show so many charities and folk around Harare. Where does God find all you good people!? A million thanks again the Futters.
On Saturday morning I set off early for Mutare. After a short stop at Borrowdale Trust in Marondera I arrived at Resthaven in Rusape in the mid morning. I love this delivery!! What a cool bunch of Grandies. Always up for a laugh and a dose of positivity amongst the gloom that is commonplace now in Zimbabwe. I was spared the chilies & alcoholic homemade ginger beer that had both my eyes in one socket on a previous trip and I settled for some tea and a specially baked chocolate cake. I was presented with a wad of thank you letters again and wish, as always, that I could delivery these to all the donors personally. Heartfelt gratitude from these good people. You’re a load of fun Resthaven. Thanks for your ever great hospitality and kindness.
I arrived in Mutare at about 13h00 and was met by Des Becker at his warehouse. Des & Sally Bekker have been great Godsend to us and the community throughout the Eastern Highlands. Between all their many duties they perform for the Pensioners in the province they make time to deliver our boxes as far afield as Nyanga, Chipinge and surrounds.
Des and his very willing bunch of helpers accompanied me on the deliveries to Murambe, Strickland Lodge and the EHT Cottages. With my flued up, fevering, shivering ass I was so grateful to have Des in control making sure each oldie got their box. I had to turn down his generous dinner invitation and accepted instead his Nissan and accommodation at Strickland lodge. A tin of Bully Beef, Two minute Noodles, a handful of bright & joyful looking capsules and a healthy dollop of Vicks in the old schnozzle saw me in bed for 19h00. I was going to slay this beast!
On Sunday morning 4th of June I collected more empty boxes from Strickland & Des’ warehouse & got away for about 7h00am. The fever & chills had gone overnight but my new symptoms arrived and I could help wondering, over the next few days, whether there is anything else in my head but liquid? (TMO right there.)
The dreaded link between Nyazura & Chivu (Gonad alley) never disappoints. This is the most treacherous piece of road which was made worse this time by the appearance at Buhera, of the most distasteful policeman in the entire force. This clown has bothered us on several of our trips and I must hold back in my description of him.
He was to stomp around the truck for 20 minutes making up all manner of imaginary faults until I threatened to call the anti corruption line. He backed off but worse was to come when he asked for my documents which I was so sure were spot on. That wasn’t to be. For whatever reason, the Beitbridge border officials had only given the truck three days in Zimbabwe on the temporary import permit and I hadn’t noticed this before. The only light relief came when I arrogantly whipped my spectacles from my top pocket where I had stashed my three toothed bite plate. The plate came out with the specs and landed between his shiny boots. This dude can dance!
I recovered my dusty teeth and left with a $30 fine and much anxiety over what was to become of me trying to get the vehicle back across the border.
At Chivu, the De Klerk family was waiting and I spent some time with them chatting about the bleak situation in this district where so few of their friends remain. (Possibly two or three families) It was here that I heard of one of their workers paying $15 to travel into Chivu to enter the bank queue where he had hoped to draw some well needed cash. After many hours in the queue he was allowed a $ 15 cash withdrawal (in small change); just enough to get back to his rural home, empty handed.
This is the very sad reality for most Zimbabweans where absolutely everything has become a mission. The things we all take for granted; ready cash, our jobs or even a trip to the milk shop, are daily schleps brought on by a dire cash shortage, a ridiculously theoretical economy, and a policeman under every bush.
I arrived in Masvingo shortly after lunch after having some trouble, in the previous few days, reaching Johnny Nel & Dusty Evans, who help us with our deliveries there. I was fortunate that there were some friendly’s hanging around Johnny’s house and they helped me offload all the outsider boxes and load up the empties from the previous trip. I went across town to Pioneer cottages where I left their boxes. I was sad that most of the folk there were on their afternoon nap and I wasn’t able to natter for a bit about life in my old school town.
I pressed on to Zvishvane where I unintentionally surprised John & Lynne D’ewes. I had thought that they had been told of my arrival but they clearly hadn’t. Lynne sprang into action and made me a sizable portion of Avo sandwiches and a well received cup of tea. I must apologise to Lynne here. This is a great lady of order and integrity and being unprepared, in her night clothes, without make-up and a meal was not good enough!
John & Lynne; we’re extremely thankful for your help in that community and you’re beautiful in whichever manner you present yourself. Much love to you guys.
My next stop was at Shurugwe. This is another special bunch of folk; positive & up for a laugh. They too send much love & gratitude to donors wherever you are in the world. I was sad to hear that my friend Joe Petersen had moved to somewhere in Gweru. I will make it my business to find him again before my next trip.
At Boggies Trust, Bruce Chilcott had arranged for me to stay overnight and for that I am always grateful. Bruce has taken over our affairs at Boggies and is doing that with all the love and efficiency that we’ve become used to at this special “home”. Many thanks Bruce for this.
In the morning I was well happy to see Fred Munger who’s not been in great health. Fred had helped us at Boggies for some years and we wish him a speedy recovery. Love you loads Fred.
After loading the empties here and at Huisvergesig I set off for Bulawayo, arriving there at about 10h30. Angela, at the warehouse was ready for me and we offloaded the boxes collected throughout the country for refilling for our next trip.
It is imperative for the Fund to spend every available cent on food supplies rather than overheads & arbitrary expenses and the donations, such as these, that we receive in kind are as valuable to us as any other. A million thanks to all the people that take care of these costs for us and the Pensioners. God bless you all.
I arrived back at Beitbridge at 16h30 under a cloud of anxiety with my paperwork not being right but after a half hearted attempt at extortion and a giggle the customs official saw the error for what it was. I was through the border in about two hours. Thanks be to God!
The new weighbridge on the South African side of the border has become my bugbear and the chaos there delayed me for a further hour. I had not been able to give notice to Joe & Hester of my border crossing and (fearing another surprise) I went on through to Mikado where I bedded down at “Our place”; a fine little establishment south of the town which is most kind to travelling Zimbabweans. Exhausted, I slept.
On Tuesday morning I was up early and excited at making it home to Durban today. I met with dear Attie in Tzaneen to hand over bits and pieces and made it back to Malelane at about 16h00. After clearing the documents etc with Linda I made for home, through Swaziland, arriving back in Durban by 22h30.
I am involved with the Zimbabwean Pensioners Support Fund because I get to see all YOUR contributions in action. I get to hand over your donations of food. I get to see the tears of gratitude that these Pensioners shed. The tears that I shed are yours. I hear their stories first hand. I experience their love and I feel it on your behalf. The warmth of their hugs and kisses are YOURS. I gratefully accept them and revel in them on your behalf. Wherever you are in the world dearest donors, please know that these people are in greatly touched by your donations, your love and your kindness. They know too well that they couldn’t have made it through the horrors of the past many years without you. Each one of you is their beacon of hope. What a very fine privilege for me to be a small part of this mass of goodness. God bless you all.