It was an interesting trip this……. The election honeymoon is over, the economy plummeted right before our eyes, the Police are back at their roadblocks (Only partly supervised by the military) and there is a dark mood of despair amongst the folk that we spoke to. Many of these poor people are saying they simply don’t have it in them to go through the 2008 crisis again. Many are expecting a worse bout this time around. How much more can they take?
Most of the ordinary folk have not had hard physical cash banknotes for several months and depend on electronic transfers from phone to phone and other, somewhat sophisticated, methods of moving money( figures really) from person A to person B.
I won’t delve too deeply into matters economic or political here but suffice it to say that these poor dear people are in huge trouble in the coming months if somebody, somewhere, does not pull a great big bunny out of a hat. Our greatest fear is that the more economic pressure there is on the kind helpers, on the ground, in Zim the more at risk the Pensioners are. There came a time in 2008/2009 when good folk in Zim were too pressed with trying to help themselves and could not help the Pensioners. Oh Lord let us not go back there…….
My darling, enduring wife, Elza, came along again on this trip and her deep love for the old folk and her super ambassadorial skills made for a really pleasant journey…. almost holiday-ish. To share a 5300 Km trip with such a positive human is truly special. Thanks Darlin’
We had an easy start in Malelane while we waiting for some last minute repairs on the truck and left there at about 8h00 a.m. on Wednesday 03 October. The day trip to Musina was ordinary and uneventful. We again spent the night at a friends lodge outside Musina and left for the border very early on Thursday morning 04 Oct.
We were quite positive when we got through the S.A. side, with some ease, but the dreaded dustbowl awaited us on the Zim side. At first it seemed like the normal expected wait but after several hours we were told that the ZIMRA couponing system was down and they couldn’t release any trucks into the country……..
After a four hour wait we were guided through to “inspection” where I pulled a bit of a sneaky to see us away and out of there by about midday. (No admissions here but it was morally legal)
The chuckles at our cheekiness were cut short when we got to Mikado, halfway to West Nicholson, and encountered our first (unsupervised) police roadblock. After watching the two policemen in attendance soliciting beers from the car ahead of us, it was our turn. I was made to open the back of truck by one alcohol reeking clown and was ordered to hand him a bottle of (rather expensive) wine from my cooler box. That was not going to happen and I told him so. Wine is a mans castle! (I’m sure that’s an expression?)After some backing & forthing he settled for two Castle light. Not happy…..I would later get my revenge….. read on.
Further roadblocks on this stretch were innocuous and we got to the warehouse in Bulawayo at about 16h30 where Hannes, Angela and her eager team waited to load us up for the rest of the country.
I’ll digress here to say that I have thanked & detailed (in my previous trip report) all the brilliant folk throughout Zimbabwe that help us, so very much, on all our trips, in so very many ways. I’m going to keep this report shorter by not detailing the excellent work that they each do for us. From accommodation, to being fed, to distribution and fuel support etc; you guys are all too much of special humans and we’re as grateful to you as ever for your help. A million thanks as always.
We went straight on to Gweru on Thursday night to get an early start on Friday morning and the beautiful folk at Boggies Trust were waiting for us, in the freezing cold, when we arrived. We had to chase them all indoors lest they all freeze to death on us! Aunty Ivy Davies again made us each a great big burger which scuppered the ridiculous Banting diet that we’ve both been on; Thank you Aunty Ivy for restoring reality to our lives.
On Friday morning we offloaded the Boggies boxes with Bruce Chilcott & Babs Coetzee at the whip. The bleak weather gave us a chance to hand out some special beanies that had been kindly donated to us in Durban. No colour coding or fashion discussion was heard as the old dudes adorned their heads in pinks & baby beige. That’s how we left one of our favourite homes; Warmer and happier.
At Huisvergesig, across town, Lena and her crew were ready to receive their boxes and we were done quite quickly after a chat and a laugh.
Our next stop, later in the morning, was at Hurbert Lee Cottages in Redcliff. The locals have taken to calling it “Deadcliff” because this town has all but died in the past several years. This once bustling hub of Zim production is now a sad and derelict town waiting for better days. Even the long awaited Coke, (Not Cola) plant is now caught up in political squabbling.
We went on to another of our favourite homes, Lynbrook, in KweKwe, where our customary tea and samoosas waited on the lawns for us. What fine folk these are…. Despite our protests they muster together to make sure we are fed and watered for our onward journey. They have so little themselves and yet care so deeply for us. We learnt, with sadness, that Ms Judy Skipwith had passed away recently. RIP Ms Skipwith.
It was at this home where we discussed the need for Calendars for the old folk. How had I missed this vital detail in all the years? Older folk need calendars for so many reasons. Bits of reminder paper just don’t do it when you’re over 50 ish. (You forget where you put them!) I know that. I live by my diary/calendar and would be Norman Nowhere without it!
We have put out an appeal for calendar donations for the pensioners for 2019 and have had a tremendous response since we returned. It is our earnest wish to include one in each of the Christmas boxes leaving in December. Thanks so much to all who responded to this appeal.
At Westview home in Kadoma, Clive & Estelle O’Reilly met us and, once again, took us into their home for a great meal and a laugh after we’d offloaded their boxes. You guys are tireless in what you do for the people in this home. Thanks again The O’Reilys .
Later that afternoon we got Sunningdale Cottages in Chinoyi. We had called ahead because so many of the folk in this town are still battling it out in their own homes and need to bring their old trucks to collect their boxes. I say it again…….. I’m always more saddened in this town for some reason? It’s the pride I feel in these people. Was that district formally very successful? Perhaps it’s that? They’re highly embarrassed at their plight.
One resident told us of the day, some years ago; when she stood in front of the bank teller she’d waited days to see. Her $ 630 000.00 pension that she and her husband had saved throughout their lives was now worth $30! “Just keep your bank statement Madam” she was told. “Maybe one day you can get your money back”
What goes through your heart and your head when you’re faced with that? How wretched that must be! How do you face another day?
And now, here she is, taking a charity box from people far away. You needn’t explain Mrs. X ; and you should, most certainly, never be embarrassed. We are so sorry……
We pressed on to Harare with heavy hearts and found a sleeping spot for the truck with the very kindly Charlie Piers. Many thanks again Charlie for looking after our truck: We’re super grateful to you.
Pushkin Style was, again, at our beck & call; feeding & housing us for the night. We had a great evening catching up with our old friend, Michelle Alderton, and I got to drink my nice wine that Mr. Policeman had thought he could ukweba from us !
Thanks so much again dear Pushkin. Your home is becoming our home from home and we’re hugely grateful.
On Saturday morning, 06 October, we went off to our special fuel donor, Vic Bongiovanni at Concrete Structures. There’s no end to the kindness you’ve shown the Pensioners of Zim, Vic. Our enormous thanks to you, again, for your fuel donation. We couldn’t do these trips without good people like you.
At our next stop the very special Futters; Mike and Marion were waiting their turn to receive the boxes for Mazoe Valley Trust, Harare Outsiders, The Commercial Farmers Union and Malvern Trust – Mvurvi. The willingness of this couple to do all this distribution for us is astounding. Thanks again The Futters. You guys are champs.
We left Harare in the early afternoon to do our deliveries at Resthaven in Rusape. It was on the way there, when we stopped at a roadside store, to get some drinking water that a very kind man pointed out that someone had stolen our fuel cap while we were in the store. We had been told at Sunningdale that the fuel shortages had sparked a spate of theft and several of the cars at the cottages had been emptied. Luckily we were too quick for them and lost no Diesel.
We experienced the great kindness of Zimbabweans at this roadside stall. The man who helped us had quite the shiniest ebony forehead and nose that I’ve ever seen, and from it he bellowed with laughter as we related to the craziness that is Zimbabwe. Talking of the local drivers he told us that the accepted take on overtaking on a blind rise or corner or double white line is “ You can see me coming, you’ve got brakes, use them !!” I’ve yet to be brave enough to trust that philosophy.
Thanks for the laugh Mr. Roadside man. Even though your used cable-tie didn’t work, your kind and generous heart did. Such kindness nibbles away at our perceived differences and hints at the way we could all live happily in Zimbabwe with a common purpose.
At Rusape we are always welcomed with a spread of tea and treats and the gratefulness at these cottages is tangible and real. We offloaded our boxes but had to put one back on the truck. Mr. Roger Georgel had also passed away. RIP Mr. Georgel. Bless your soul. Thanks for your love Rusape folk. It’s always a pleasure to stop by there.
We had planned a little rest outside Rusape and Pushkin joined Elza & I for a night at Hidden Rocks, This is still quite the most perfect and beautiful spot to take a break from the long road. We spent the night under the
stars and nattered into the night. After a good laugh we squeezed into our tiny rondaval to rest for the night. One of us snores like a Bulldog at the porridge but I won’t say who? Thanks for a great giggle girls.
On Sunday morning Pushkin said goodbye and we made our way, slowly, down to Mutare. Our very special & dear friends, Des & Sally Becker met us at Des’s complex and again offered to do the distribution for the Eastern Highlands; EHT Park Cottages, Murambi, Strickland Lodge, Nyanga Outsiders, Chipinge and SOAP Mutare. Thanks again for this Des & Sally. The load that this takes off our meager resources is immeasurable.
In all their thoughtfulness the Beckers had put together a surprise meeting, at their home, for Elza and a cousin that she hadn’t seen for over 40 years! How very special that was! We spent a perfect evening reminiscing with these good people. Thanks Millions again The Beckers.
On Monday morning we had an early start again and took the Birchenough route to Masvingo as we had dropped the Chivu boxes in Harare with Paul & Michelle De Klerk who had offered to deliver those for us. This is huge saver on time and fuel and we’re very thankful.
We got to Masvingo slightly earlier than expected and the ever helpful Johnny Nel and his team were at Pioneer Cottages to help us offload.
One of the things that make these trips so worthwhile is the interaction with the vastest array of characters that I would never have had the honour of meeting. Johnny Nel, a quiet, unassuming chap, with a self confessed and questionable background is surely one of the most special people on the planet. It saddens me that I’ve spent 12 years on these trips and have never delved into this interesting & caring human. Having invited Elza & I into his very sparse cottage, he shared with us his interests & hobbies that left us humbled and quite wobbly. He has so little of his own and yet he makes recycled cardboard airplanes and toys for children at a home in Bulawayo; scraping together materials from wherever he can find them. The most delicately painted and decorated toys, each with a tale to tell. Knowing these folk is part of the privilege of doing these trips. These are people of rare and great substance!
We left Masvingo for Zvishavane in the early afternoon and did our delivery with Lynne and John D’ewes for the few folk left in the town. Thanks again John & Lynne for your help. It’s always great seeing you. Our Banting diet went further out the window with your teas & cake Lynne. Thanks for that! xx ( And thanks too for the beautiful “ Maltese Cross” Lilly….She’s growing beautifully)
Our final delivery was at Muus Cottages in Shurugwe where the good people there were waiting with their wheelbarrows, to cart away our small offerings. I’ve written before about this desperate town. Nothing has changed and I can’t help feeling massive sadness and even some anger when I drive through there. Unthinkable destruction…
Back at Boggies Trust the good folk there had our room ready and waiting and yet another plate of food arrived from Ivy Davies. This formidable woman finds time to make us food between baking 9 cakes, every morning, for the local markets! “Tu Maximus!” Mrs. Ivy Davies. Thanks good people of Boggies for your love & care of us.
On Tuesday morning we set off to Bulawayo to drop the empty boxes and after a refuel we made off for the dreaded border.
It was today that I had my revenge on the beer thieves of last week. On reaching Mikado the same roadblock was there, but with many more senior policemen this time, and overseen by many military fellows. As we were pulled over I was loud and deliberate. “Your two constables took my beers last week on Thursday at 13h26. I have more. Do you want more for me to pass? I can pay you in beers again!” I announced for all to hear. Frantic they were! Through gritted teeth the Policewoman tried to usher us through super quickly as I pressed my point. What a load of fun seeing them scurrying about, like deer in the headlights, trying to shut me up. I do rather hope that they have their comeuppance for nicking my beers.
Beit bridge and our return crossing was, thankfully, a breeze and I think we were through in about and hour.
We decided to press on through, back to Malelane so that we could get back to the office the next day, and arrived there shortly after midnight.
Wednesday was a few hours’ drive back to Durban and all was good.
To all you praying folk out there; please pray super hard for Zimbabwe at this time. This is a time of great desperation in our beloved country. Fuel queues, no Cooking oil, no flour, no sugar and no cash. Prices in the stores have spiraled out of control and it feels to me like many ordinary folk are simply not going to make it this time around.
The old folk of Zim are in a perilous situation. Without help from the outside some of these people will perish. I promise you; that the few pennies that some get together, here & there, are simply not going to pull them through. Most of these Madalas are very proud Zimbabweans and, I suspect, won’t share their desperation with their families & friends abroad. They “Don’t want to bother them”. I’ve heard that too often. Please look out for that?
To our donors throughout the world that so generously keep our trucks full and on the road; how do we thank you enough? Please know that we are constantly told by the Pensioners that we need to be sure that each of you is thanked profusely & sincerely from the bottom of their hearts. It’s a great sadness, common to so many of them; that they aren’t able to show their gratitude to you all personally. A million thanks to you all!
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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