Well........... This is bound to be the most uninteresting trip report ever! Everything went so well with the authorities for a change.
On my trips I always try to lighten a very bleak situation in Zimbabwe by drawing humour from the Ironies, peculiarities, paradoxes & contradictions that Zimbabwe offers. So do the Pensioners! Amidst the despair, these special people find time to laugh and love, forgive and vindicate in a country that has been so cruel to them.
With the National elections only days away, this trip was somewhat different. I almost missed the rotten, corrupt Zimbabwe that has fed my reports over the past 12 years. There was no Nellie No-smile at the customs desk. Eddie Idiot was missing from the immigration office and throughout Zim all the officials I came across were just sugary sweet. At the 9 or 10 road- blocks I encountered throughout Zim, I was waved through with a smile. Even old Constable “Double-Dome” (Her hair Bun is as big as her head) outside Bulawayo was gone. She has spent years trying to solicit my possessions from me; my flask, my Coke, my jersey....... Now she is no more.
Hannes had decided that we needed to do this trip slightly early, so as to be out of Zimbabwe before the elections, for our own comfort, and it’s clear to us now, that our planned timing for this trip had paid off as there was a perceptible need to please wherever I went.
I left Durban on Tuesday 24 July and spent the night in Malelane before collecting the truck from our warehouse on Wednesday morning. Linda has been convalescing after her Heart Bypass but she made sure that everything was prepared for the trip from her hospital bed. Many thanks for that Linda. We all wish you a really speedy recovery.
Hannes had dug deep into the fund that week to service & repair the truck after several mishaps on the previous trips and I was well pleased that my ride was to be smooth on the two new front tyres. I spent an hour with Hannes discussing the trip and we agreed that he would go ahead and we would meet again Bulawayo.
Hannes & Russell had done two bulk food deliveries to Bulawayo in June to stock up the warehouse there, for the forthcoming trips this year and beyond, so I was to drive the empty truck to Bulawayo to load up and distribute.
I reached Musina on Wednesday night without event and spent the night with my friend, Sven, outside the town.
On Thursday morning I had an early start and I was at the border just before seven, holding my breath, for the palaver that characterises the cesspool that is Beitbridge Border post. How happy was I when I only spent only about an hour and a half in the dreaded “dust bowl” and was sent on my way by about 10h00 am.
Bulawayo was only three or four hours away and Hannes and Angela had, as always, prepared the load for this run, with precision. Angela has gone from fund recipient to most capable helper in the Bulawayo warehouse and I’m always hugely thankful to her for her excellent organisation of the load.
I decided to press on to Gweru on Thursday night, after loading up, so that I would have a head start to reach Harare by Friday night. Boggies Trust in Gweru received me with the same special hospitality that they always dish out with so much love and gratitude. Bruce Chilcott had prepared a room for me (with the most blankets that I’ve ever seen on one bed!) and the super special Aunty Ivy Davies had made me the two hugest hamburgers I’ve ever seen on two buns. I’ve said the same on each trip. Boggies Trust epitomises the warmth and comfort that Zimbabwe offers guests and I’m always very grateful for their great kindness. My night at Boggies was only spoilt by the news that Sandra Woodcock had passed on suddenly a few days earlier. R.I.P dear Sandra; your mates at Boggies miss you already and concede now that you were the fittest of them all!
On Friday morning we offloaded the boxes for Boggies and I went on my way by 7h30. At Huisvergesig, across town, the folk were waiting for me already and I helped them transfer their goodies into labelled plastic bags so that they could let me have my boxes back. As thoughtful as ever......
I was running slightly ahead of myself when I got to Redcliff later in the morning but the residents at Herbert Lee cottages were as happy as ever to see the truck. Their little team helped me offload their boxes and we made time to catch up on local news. The great proud Redcliff is a now a sad, depressed little village with a tiny local economy sustained by the few remaining residents. The steelworks are now long gone and a few former workers now hover there in hope.
At Lynbrook home in KweKwe, an hour later, Margot Gilby and her special ladies were ready and waiting. This is another of the homes that I can’t get enough of. They are truly the most delightful bunch of folk! A tiny table is always prepared on the lawns for me; laden with tea and juice and sandwiches. I could be in Buckingham gardens! It is here that the two most sprightly 90 something year olds in Zimbabwe lurk. Inspiration in bucket loads when you chat to these ladies. I want to marry them in my next life!
On leaving Lynbrook a packet of the most delicious samoosas appeared on the seat beside me and I could help thinking “Who’s feeding who here? I ate them with a heavy heart and a tear that I don’t believe came from the spices.
At Kadoma, the usual fanfare waited at Westview Trust when I arrived. Clive and Estelle O’Reily have been stalwarts in this community and their ongoing involvement with the grandies there must be mentioned again. They have been deeply loved friends of the fund for very many years and have stepped far and beyond to make our trips around Zimbabwe more comfortable. I have been there, in years gone by, when they have squashed as many as 20 or more helpers into their previous home; journalists, musicians, helpers and friends, without a moments reservation. Their hospitality was no less on this trip as they sat me down and fed me a great curry (and a sneaky beer .....I admit.)They’re a nation a feeders, these Zimbabweans!
Refreshed and humoured I went on to Chinoyi and, having phoned ahead, found the folk at Sunningdale Trust waiting for their turn when I drove in. We offloaded into the cottages and the “Outsiders” from around the town lined up their bakkies to fetch our meagre offerings.
It’s at Sunningdale Trust where I always find the most tangible evidence of the despair in Zimbabwe. There’s seldom, if ever, outright complaining about their lot ( throughout Zim) but behind the stories & tales there’s a great tragedy in their hearts. The former grand farmers, businessmen and community leaders in this town sadden me most for some reason? They’re smart, they’re articulate, they’re highly embarrassed and now they’re broken. Never meaning to cavil, they boast with snippets of their previous lives with pride and I can sense that they’re trying to excuse their predicament. How dare anyone, anywhere, steal a man’s dignity in this way! How does one convince men like these that we know it’s not their fault! Oh man... I drive away in tears again.
I arrived in Harare in the early evening to..... darkness...again. My very dear friend, Pushkin Style had, once more, offered me her home for the night. She was enjoying a break in England while I was to do her work for her! During my previous several trips through Harare, Pushkin has become my helper and clipboard operator (name ticker) and I sorely missed her company this time. A million thanks again Pushkin, for your home and car, and love and willingness to help as you always do.
On Saturday morning, 28th July, I started with our now customary fuel collection from the very, very fine Vic Bongiovani at Concrete Structures in Harare. Vic has, over the past few years, been hugely generous in filling the trucks with fuel on our every visit. I spent some time chatting with Vic on this trip and found a man filled with love and compassion for Zimbabwe and the old folk, in particular. How do we ever thank you Vic? We simply couldn’t operate without the enormous generosity of chaps like you. For every drop of fuel that you provide for us another Grandy can eat and sleep in comfort. Thank you so very much again.
Harare is full of wonderful people! I got to the Futters in the late morning. Mike and Marion are yet another Zimbabwean example of how to serve your fellow man. These dear people receive all our boxes for Bindura, Mvurwi (sp), Mazoe, S.O.AP, the Farmers union and all the Harare outsiders. They store these boxes at their home and, with devotion, deliver or distribute the boxes to a hundred or more needy folk around Harare. Your commitment to these people is profound, the Futters. Thank you so very much from us all.
I left Harare for Rusape shortly after midday and did a quick stop at Marondera for one Pensioner. At Resthaven Cottages in Rusape there was a great old Zimbabwean gathering under a big shady tree. After offloading their boxes I was invited to spend an hour or two chatting to the good people there. This is another home that exudes gratitude and kindness. I was lucky to escape the alcoholic ginger beer that I was fed there on one of my previous trips. I made it to Mutare safely.
The list goes on with great and caring people that help the fund throughout Zimbabwe. Des Becker was at his complex, with his team, when I arrived to deliver the boxes for Strickland Lodge, Eastern Highlands Trust, Murambi Cottages, S.O.A.P., Park cottages and the outlying areas Chipinge & Nyanga. We simply couldn’t operate effectively without the help of people like Des & Sally Becker in these far out communities. They too have spent very many years in tireless and resolute service of the aged community throughout the Eastern Highlands. We thank God for them and their helpers. I can almost see the planning in heaven....”Right..... Let’s leave the Beckers in Mutare to look after everybody in need!” I’m so sure that that’s how it happens?
In now familiar fashion, Des & Sally treated me to a great meal at the local Portuguese club and I was sure I may explode for more feeding! They had recently built a new cottage on their property and I was honoured to spend another luxurious night with them. I owe you soooo big the Beckers. Your care for me, and the other fund guys, over the past many years has been very special. Thanks you so very much!
Hannes & I had discussed the extra distance travelled when we do the route from Mutare, via Nyazura, to Chivu. It is a great sadness that Piet & Frieda de Klerk are the last remaining recipients in the actual town. They kindly distribute a further 6 boxes for the fund to other pensioners in the district. We have needed to consider another way of getting these boxes to Chivu on occasional trips so as to minimise our expense. The reality that we are faced with is that the fund is not entirely based on food distribution but also on contact and present and physical reassurance that the oldies are not forgotten and that people throughout the world care about them. This has got to form a crucial component of what we do. Whilst we will find another way from time to time we will not forget you people of the Chivu district. Paul & Michelle de Klerk, in Harare, have so kindly offered to help when they can with this area and we’ll take each trip as it comes.
To that end, I used the Birchenough route to Masvingo on Sunday morning and arrived somewhat ahead of my normal time. Johnny Nel was waiting for me at Pioneer cottages. We offloaded all the boxes there, including all the Masvingo outsiders. I spent some time talking to a resident at Pioneer Cottages. A man that has repeatedly tried to end his life. Fuelled with drugs and alcohol he alienated himself from his family 25 years ago. This Dude was bad! He’s been clean for many years but is now paying the dearest of prices for his wild life and he seeks no sympathy or pity but to those of you that pray out there, please pray for comfort for Mr X from Masvingo. He’s a good old chap who made all the wrong choices.
After offloading I went ahead to Zvishvane where there are still a few pensioners in the Mimosa Cottages. Lynne & John d’Ewes, our support the town, provide my breather after this long day. Mutare to Gweru is a long stretch and they are well what I need en route. Always have an excellent laugh with them and I’m always ready to conquer the world when I leave there. Thanks so very much guys for what you too do for us in poor old dear old Shabani. You guys are just great xx!
In Shurugwe, my next stop, I always feel as if someone has ripped my heart out. This once magnificent town is a veritable den of iniquity. The ornate buildings spill their drunken contents onto the pavements and streets on late Sunday afternoons and it’s probably the only part of Zimbabwe where I don’t feel entirely safe. Muus cottages, just up from the main street is a merciful destination once you’ve wound through the town. The great folk at Muus are always eternally grateful for the arrival of the truck and I can never help feeling cruel and uncaring when I can’t bundle them all up and take them with me, out and away from the hellhole that Shurugwe has become. Again I cry.....
I spent the night back at Boggies Trust where I was blessed with a visit from my cousin and her husband. Thanks for doing that Fred & Kotie. I needed a distraction and it was great seeing you guys.
I left early on Monday morning to meet Hannes & Angela back at the warehouse in Bulawayo to drop the empty boxes. We spent some time together and I left for the border at about noon.
The border was very kind to me again and I got through in about two hours. As I wasn’t too tired on this day I pushed through all the way back to Malelane where I spent my last night before heading home. I got back home on 01 August and was able to watch the post election violence unfold in Harare in my wake. Please pray for our beloved land guys. Something has to give?
This is not a political or Economic commentary page and we’ll never fully understand the complexities of what’s going down in Zimbabwe. I can’t explain the cash crisis or the banking complications, the exchange rate or the price hikes but what I can be sure of is that these old people are not out of the woods. There is still an unthinkable desperation in the smaller centres and Pensioner communities through Zimbabwe. Please know, deep in your hearts, that the food you see in the new Spar or Pick & Pay along Borrowdale drive is absolutely and utterly out of reach for most of our Pensioners. Many are solely and silently dependent on what you, our kind donors, can spare for them. They are proud people and to ask for help would be unimaginable for them so we, at the fund, ask on their behalf. Please don’t give up on these dear old people. If you can’t help to feed them, please spare your dearest prayer for them. From the deepest reaches of each Zim Pensioners heart they thank you for your love and support. They told me make you understand their gratitude.
Thanks Guys. God bless Zimbabwe.
Head Office Contact details:
Director - Fund Raising & Awareness for the Zimbabwe Pensioner Support Fund
(C) 079 6082676
(T) 013 7900934
Fax to Email - 086 267 8499
Section 21 Co Reg. 2007/034036/08; NPO Number 096733; Section 18A PBO No 930031642
Director: Hannes Botha
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