The tenacity and resilience of these special Pensioners left behind in Zimbabwe is just friggen astonishing! These are people that laugh in the face of adversity. I try to laugh with them but find myself closer to tears than laughter. This trip confused my emotions more than ever. The pit in my stomach was constant. I was sadder than usual but laughed more than usual.
The desperation was profound this time around. On top of the political turmoil, runaway economy & prohibitive prices we had to delay our trip by three weeks. We considered the situation earlier this year too volatile to risk the truck and then one thing led to another and I couldn’t get away until 03 March. I deeply regret that because it bought home, again, that we simply cannot delay getting food through to Zim. I saw the effects at every home.
In Gweru, on my first day in Zim, one old guy laughed like crazy while telling me that he only had a can of veggies left on his shelf. Another pensioner, standing close by, laughed even more as she said she had had a can of 4 whole sardines. She had eaten one for each day leading up to my arrival and had one left for today. I laughed with them but my heart was screaming utter sadness. This is just not right!
At my next home in KweKwe, on the following day, another old charmer chuckled too as she told me her daughter (in Australia) had asked what she’s been eating. “Beans, Beans Beans!” she laughed. I’ve no doubt that she’d have told her daughter that she’s only joking but I know she simply wasn’t........
These remarks and comments set the tone for the rest of my trip. I was accompanied in the truck this time around so my tears were stifled and suppressed. On my lone trips I can blub away quietly after every home visit. This time I couldn’t. Perhaps the suppression explains the hollowness in my stomach throughout Zim?
I want to deviate slightly from my normal trip report to write about how special these ballies are in Zim. These are the stalwarts! They’re the reason we all hanker back to our motherland. They’re the reason we’re the “Whenwe’s” of the world. I’m always taken by the humour amongst them. There’s a joke to be heard about every new challenge that they face. These are not the whinges & whiners that one would expect under their circumstances. They face up bravely and strongly to all that’s thrown at them. These are people of great courage. The torment, sadness and frustration that they will be feeling must be unthinkable. They’ve been stripped of their earthy stuff but they hold high with pride & dignity.
I’m always intrigued too by the solidarity of ordinary Zimbabweans. A little old lady told me at one home on this trip, that she had sent her man helper off to the fuel queue with her measly $ 20 in the hope that she could get a drop of fuel to run her essential errands. He came back some hours later with somewhat more fuel than she could have paid for. She protested; she had not a cent more to give! The extra, he said, is his gift to her. He had “made a plan”. We cannot forget, in our travels, the great love and respect between the old folk and their carers & helpers. We must thank our God for those, on the ground, that care so deeply for our Pensioners.
I have another story about an old guy in Bulawayo who has been an immense help to the fund for many years. He’s lent us his car when our truck had broken down; he’s put us up in his home when we’ve had nowhere else. He’s driven deliveries to homes around Bulawayo and has constantly put himself out for us. Hannes ran into him the other day. We knew that he had lost his leg to Diabetes recently but imagined that he was at home taking it easy. Well...... he was not to wallow in self pity. Hannes was surprised to see him driving? They greeted and he struggled his way out of the bakkie to reveal an upturned, cut off and padded plastic bottle on the end of his stump. In the neck of the bottle was a makeshift aluminium pipe that served as his leg! With that creation, he could keep driving himself around (Perilously, I imagine?!) His “walking” was equally spectacular. He would simply place his stump on his wheeled walker and push himself along, at speed, as a child would on a push scooter. This is the stuff these Pensioners are made of; grit & determination. I was well pleased to learn that Hannes has returned his many favours and made a plan for his friend in Bulawayo.
My most poignant visit this time around was to Resthaven in Rusape where we dropped their food boxes on Friday. Apart from my hugely enjoyable chats and laughs that I always have at this home I was given, yet another beautiful gift by Heather Van Buuren, the hugely talented Zimbabwean watercolour artist who still lives there. The Pensioners express their gratitude in so many ways and this is just one of them. The paintings now hang in my home, for my small contribution, but I savour them remembering that they’re for the efforts & contributions of all our donors and friends throughout the world. Please have a look on www.heathervanbuuren.com. Her paintings are truly beautiful and will transport you through all the great beauty that is Zimbabwe. (And for those who simply invest in art, buy these paintings! I have no doubt about the investment value of these works. They’re just excellent!)
Our great visit at Rusape was dampened by the news that three of their residents had been attacked by local thugs recently. For a few bob and some bits and pieces they had been brutally beaten. The baddies had been caught and will be well dealt with (unlike S.A. really?) Again, they found laughter in the muddle because the husband of one victim had slept in his chair throughout the attack. This is how these old folk handle their plight; with dignity, humour and courage. Please pray for their protection? We super love these guys!
We drove away from Rusape with the Everly Brothers “let it be me” on the radio. I could still smell a mix of granny perfumes on my shirt. I shed another quiet tear.
The many trips last year took a bit of a toll on me and my business at home in Durban so we were quite desperate to find a helper driver this year. We’ve been really lucky to come across Dave Austen (an old KweKwe boy) who is going to take a load off me. Apart from being a skilled and licensed driver, Dave is obviously familiar with Zim and has great compassion for the country and the grandies there. What a bonus! He travelled with me throughout Zim, learnt where all the homes are and took notes of the little nitty gritty things that help us along the way. I’ve no doubt that Dave will be a great help and, for my part, I welcome him to the team.
The trip was uneventful, in terms of travel, this time. On Monday, when we left Malelene, we had a small hiccup with the rear axle but we made a quick repair in Musina and were good to go again. Our border crossings were mercifully quick this time and, in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen Beitbridge border that quiet in the last 13 years. I wondered if the economy has been so drained and tired lately that imports have all but dried up. What is to become of our beloved country?
We crossed the border on Tuesday 05 March and loaded up in Bulawayo in the late afternoon. The only spook today was when I overreacted to a dog being beaten by its owner on the roadside between Bulawayo and Gweru. Without much thought for Dave I slammed on the brakes and nearly put him and all our cab luggage through the front window. By the time I had recovered all our stuff the bastard perpetrator had moved some way off so I could only manage a distant scolding rather than the preferred punch in the teeth!
After a very comfortable night at Boggies trust we spent Wednesday delivering to Huisvergesig, Herbert Lee cottages in Redcliff, Lynbrook home in KweKwe, Westview in Kadoma and Sunningdale in Chinoyi.
In Harare, on Wednesday night, I spent the night with my dear friend Pushkin Style and dropped Dave with John & Leonie Herbst. Charlie Piers looked after the truck again overnight. On Thursday we delivered to the Mike & Marion Futter in Greenside. They were to do the Harare outsiders, the CFU, Rotary, Bindura, Kariba, Mazoe and SOAP for us. The Chivu Boxes were left with Paul and Michelle De Klerk for delivery to Chivu surrounds. We collected fuel on Friday morning and went on our way to Rusape, Marondera & Mutare where Des & Sally Becker would deliver SOAP Mutare, Murambie home, EHT Cottages, Nyanga Outsiders, Strickland Lodge and Chipinge.
On Saturday morning we went on to Pioneers cottages in Masvingo where we delivered their boxes along with all the outsider boxes. It was then on to Zvishavane Pensioners and lastly Shurugwe. We slept over again at Boggies Trust and made our way back to South Africa on Sunday via Bulawayo where we collected more fuel and dropped all the empty boxes. I dropped Dave back in Malelane on Sunday night and I got home to Durban on Monday night 11 March.
It remains only for me to praise and thank, again, all the magnificent people throughout Zim that help us on our trips.
Linda at the Malelane office works tirelessly on her fundraising efforts, administration and preparing the food and trucks for the trips. It’s a mammoth task that she and Hannes undertake and I can’t imagine sometimes where they find the patience to work with the many authorities, here, in South Africa and in Zim. These are special people!
Finding safe overnight homes for the big old truck is always an issue and for providing this we thank, hugely and eternally, The NG Church in Musina and Charlie & Glynis (sp) Piers in Harare. It takes a weight off us to know that the truck is secure wherever we leave it.
Accommodating ourselves is always a concern too. We have so many offers throughout Zimbabwe from the very kindest of people but one hesitates to impose such on people. We have, however found the most welcoming overnight homes with Joe & Hester Joubert in Musina, the Boggies Trust bunch in Gweru, Clive & Estelle O Reilly in Kadoma. John & Leonie Herbst in Harare, My friend, Pushkin Style in Harare and the very special Des & Sally Becker in Mutare. These are folk that put us up on every trip with great and apparent pleasure. We are so truly grateful to you all for resting our tired bones.
It happens often that I do an entire trip through Zim without spending a cent. I am fed & watered incessantly at every stop. Zimbabweans are feeders! The irony is profound.
The volunteers that distribute the Funds food boxes throughout Zimbabwe are great and special humans. Hannes has an excellent team of helpers in and around Bulawayo that help him. In Harare, the unstoppable Mike & Marion Futter take upon themselves all the Harare & surrounds deliveries at their own expense & time. We’re talking a huge number of boxes and the complicated and involved process of phoning around and administering the process.
Paul & Michelle de Klerk in Harare have taken over our delivery to Chivu; our greatest thanks for this guys.
Des and Sally Becker in Mutare are the pillars of the Mutare and Eastern Highlands aged community. Without hesitation they deliver our boxes to that entire district, also at their cost & time. It’s simply an enormous task that they undertake with love and caring. These are fine folk.
In Masvingo we have Val Hundermark of Pioneer Cottages who has offered to take over deliveries throughout the town after the passing of Dusty Evans. Thanks tons Val.
In Zvishavane, John & Lynne D’ewes have so kindly helped us with distribution in that area for years. How very kind they are.
How do we thank these people for their kindness & generosity? The savings for the fund are massive in not needing to do deliveries to the smaller centres and the very many individuals and outsiders that we support.
Our ongoing fuel donations from Ken Connolly in KweKwe, Vic Bongiovanni at Concrete Structures in Harare and Colbro in Bulawayo make each of the trips possible. The Fund is massively grateful for this fuel at a time when fuel is at a great premium in Zim. Every cent that is saved on diesel feeds another Pensioner. How truly thankful we are.
At each of the homes throughout Zim there are helpers and good people that take a load of our huge task. A million thanks to you all.
With every trip new hardships evolve and the fund is never far from desperate to keep up with the huge costs of buying the food on both sides of the border as we’re allowed to by the Authorities. We’ve been forced to buy much of the supply in Zimbabwe and that has put immeasurable strain on the fund. The costs; duties, import permits & Levies, VAT, ZIMRA, you name it, all have a little plunder at whatever monies come in before we can even buy food for the Grandies. But we have to keep up the work. There cannot be a let-up with looking after the old folk in Zimbabwe.
I’ve waffled on through this report, covering all bases, in the hope that something I say will bring home the reality to a reader of the desperate plight of the Zimbabwe Pensioners. As we all know; there is no social security at all in that country and without your ongoing and kind donations these people will surely perish. Leaving these folk out in the cold will never be an option and it’s my earnest prayer that wherever we are in the world we will remember and spare a dime or a prayer for these special folk “back Home”.
I have promised the pensioners, wherever I go, that we will thank all the donors deeply and sincerely, on their behalf, for your great kindness. Their gratitude must be etched into all of your hearts.
God Bless Zimbabwe.
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
Alone we can do so little, together we can achieve much more!!!!
Director: Hannes Botha
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