PENSIONERS SUPPORT FUND
TRIP REPORT - MIDLANDS
After a few false starts I left Durban on 01 December 2014 for the Christmas
run to Zim. Amongst other very generous donations from good people, like Toefie
Grobler and Andy Van Rooyen in Zululand, I
carried the Christmas gifts that were, once again, so kindly made up by the
ladies at the NG Kerk and Hervormde Kerk in Port Shepstone. Each year I’m
intrigued by the great love and empathy that this Afrikaner community has for Pensioners
so far away in Zimbabwe.
We are hugely grateful to them for these gifts. In many cases, these are the
only Christmas pressies that some of our Pensioners get and they just weep with
My trip to Malelane was uneventful and I arrived there at
about 19h00. I was greatly pleased that Hannes had, again, made sure that the
trucks were all packed and ready to roll on Tuesday morning. I met with Attie
there. He had come down from his new home in Tzaneen to fetch his truck for the
big haul. This was to be my first trip alone in the truck and, after quite a
year, I looked forward to some thousands of km of “think time”.
On Tuesday 02 December we left Malelane at about 5h30 and
headed for Beitbridge. The trucks were heavily packed so the going was somewhat
slower than usual. We established en-route, that there was a delay in the
border crossing paperwork so there was no rush. We stopped off at Atties
special little Hidey Hole outside Tzaneen where he squirrels his donations. We
packed 3 tons of corned meat into my truck and, after an hour or two, carried
on to Musina arriving there in the early evening. The NG Kerk was, again, kind
enough to have us park our trucks on their grounds and we were fetched and put
up by Joe Joubert and his super special wife, Hester. Atties wife, Liz and her
mates, Santie & Joy were there to meet us. They were to join the trip on a
“meet the Pensioners” mission. I learned later that they had had a great ride
After a pleasant evening and great meal we collapsed in many
heaps all over this hospitable home. Great folk these!
On Wednesday morning Hannes confirmed that there was a hold
up with our paperwork. As always, the goal posts had shifted and there was now
a demand for permits to carry soap and biscuits!! Have you ever?? Hannes and
the clearing agents set about correcting the documents while we twiddled our
thumbs around Musina. We had some repairs to do on my truck locks so Joe, very
kindly, took care of that too. During Wednesday evening our clearance came
through from the Zimbabwe
side and we were told we could approach the border.
We left Musina at 5h00am on Thursday morning, bright and
confident that all would be good for a great border crossing.
The spring in my step was short lived as we went through the
border weigh-bridge half an hour later to find that my load had shifted on the
trip up and I was about 800 Kg’s overloaded on my back axle. I was ordered to
surrender my passport and documents and despite my protests, was handed a fine
of R 1500.00 for my troubles. I was told I needed to shift the load forward
before I could go through. On opening the truck I found that many of the Bully
Beef shrink wraps had wriggled apart and a great big pile of individual tins
were the result. Between Joe and I we shifted the load forward, tin by tin. On
the second trip over the weigh-bridge I was still over on the back axle and on
the third attempt I was told to move a further 60kg’s! (About a quarter of the
weight of the Officials’ butt, I calculated)
With almost an hour and a half wasted at the weigh-bridge we
arrived in the dreaded dust bowl where we learnt that a new issue had arisen.
One of our listed homes didn’t have the required charity or welfare numbers and
this would have to be sent to the border before we could cross……….
Thursday was long and slow and hot and dusty and the Customs
people confirmed that we were up for inspection again in the “naughty corner”.
At about 20h00, they came to fetch us and we were escorted and squeezed into
“The Pound” where we were to wait our turn for an inspection. The promise, by
an official, that we would be out in an hour or two was, as it happened, a lie
and we readied for a night in the trucks.
On Friday morning, 05 December, we were made to unpack a
path down the side of our load so that Her Graciousness, the inspector, could
view our load with maximum ease. Despite our quest for shade many of our food
parcels would stand in the searing sun for several hours until her Muckship
could arrive. I have described our “inspection” in disgusted detail on another
forum but here I will simply say that we waited 16 hours for Ms.Smiley to
glance into my truck as she swooned by. Me done….! On Atties load she opened
ONE box and stared blankly at a tub of Redro Fish paste. Inspection complete!
This being an official report, I will keep my opinion
We finally left the border at about 13h30 on Friday
afternoon and made for Bulawayo.
Driving away from Beitbridge border post is always my pleasure. I have also
written graphically elsewhere about what I think of that little hell-hole.
We arrived in Bulawayo
at about 18h00 and went directly to the warehouse, where Hannes has been
gathering stock over the past year. His very able helpers were ready for us and
we set about unpacking both our trucks into the stock pile and repacking them
with our loads for the homes. We decided, during the evening, that Joe would
join me on my truck as we were now running a few days late and he needed to get
back. Attie was to do the Eastern run through Mutare while I did the central
trip up to Chinoyi. We finished our packing at about 01h00am and went off to
Coronation Cottages for a very welcome sleep.
Saturday 06 December; Joe and I were up again at about 4h00
and set off for Gweru. The beautiful folk at Bogies Trust were ready for us
when we arrived. Everything, short of dancing girls! We were treated to juice
and cake and a bag of great biltong made its way into our cab, anonymously. The
Gents also adamantly refused that we should lift a finger to unpack their boxes
from the truck. I was physically restrained so that this quite determined and
remarkable troop of septuagenarians and even octogenarians could unpack their
own boxes from our truck. “You have carried this all the way from South Africa
for us, so we can jolly well take it off the truck ourselves” I was told……..
This is the stuff that heartbreak is made of. Thank heavens for sunglasses,
behind which we can weep….
We offloaded at Huisvergesig in Gweru next, before going off
to Redcliff. All the Grandies there were at a special lunch so, sadly, we
didn’t get to see any of them, choosing not to interfere with their meal that
we understood was supplied by the Redcliff community.
At Lynbrook in KweKwe we
were so welcomed again, with home-made Samoosas and juice set out on the lawns
for us. This is surely another of my favourite homes. The folk here are so
hugely grateful to us and the donors and go to extraordinary lengths to
demonstrate their gratitude. A truly special bunch of humans these. We were
taken off to a local fuel depot where we were given 200 litres of diesel,
kindly donated again by Ken & Beda Connelly.
It is really only with these great acts of generosity and
kindness that we can keep these trips going and we are hugely grateful to these
Our next stop was Westview in Kadoma. We dropped off their
boxes and I left Joe there, with a relative, while I made off to Sunningdale
home in Chinoyi with the last of my boxes. I arrived at Chinoyi just after
17h00 and spent some time chatting to the folk there while we offloaded their
boxes. I was quite keen to get back to my resting place in Kadoma before sunset
but so enjoyed the chats that it was somewhat darker by the time I headed back.
I arrived back in Kadoma at about 20h00 and was so well accommodated by Clive
and Estelle O Reilly. These good people have put us up and fed our various
drivers and helpers for many years now and deserve the greatest of thanks for
their hospitality. I was invited to join them at the local club for some drinks
but I just couldn’t muster the energy. (A move I really regretted, as I so
enjoy a good Zimbabwean club pub!)
On Sunday morning I collected Joe at Westview and we headed
south again. We made a decision then to head straight for the border as there
was no particular need for us to stop back in Bulawayo.
We reached Beitbridge at about 17h00. All was reasonably
quiet and we held the promise of a speedy crossing but that was not to be. I
was told (for my first time ever) that the truck was to go through the X ray
machine to ensure that it was empty, as per our manifest. I’ve done these trips
often enough now to know that “empty” means exactly that and that the 5
unclaimed boxes in the truck constituted a load. (My stupid misjudgment!)
It was me and the Customs official again! He would not
accept my explanation and insisted that we go back into the dreaded “pound” I
might have popped a valve at this point!
We were eventually escorted back to the container depot and,
long story short, we were searched and released at about 10h00 pm. The South
African side was equally hostile and we were searched again, twice, there.
Getting back to Joes’ house in Musina was an absolute joy!
I left Musina at 6h00 on Monday morning, less anxious than
I’d been in a week knowing that nothing could go wrong…….
A few Km’s out of Musina I had a blow out on the inside back
wheel of the truck. Fortunately, there are two wheels per side and I was able
to hobble back to Musina after a ridiculous attempt to get the giant nuts off
myself. I waited for opening time at 8h00 and the very kindest Man, Boeta, (from
Hi Q, off the main street) helped me and did the repairs for free! (A million
thanks to this good man. Please use him whenever you pass that way?)
I think it was about 10h30 when I left Musina again. I had
hoped to make it back to Durban
but decided to stay over at the warehouse on Monday night so that I was fresh
for the final run on Tuesday. All went to plan until Tuesday afternoon, when I
had another blow out on my Caravelle near Mtubatuba in Zululand.
What a laugh! It was a quite a relief to get home late on Tuesday……….
I’ve tried to write my report as positively as possible but
this was not a good trip for me. Probably my worst ever! What it does, however,
is strengthen my resolve not to let these border people get to us. We will not
give up on these old folk and we’d be well pleased if all our donors could hang
in there with us. The rewards are immeasurable for me. The joy that it all
brings these Pensioners, seeing their faces and feeling their love and
gratitude makes it all so very worthwhile. These beautiful people are so
grateful to all you donors and know very well the sacrifices you make to keep
them alive. You give them more than a meal: You give them the knowledge that
there are people all over the world who give a hoot about them. These dear folk
need hope and our support. Please, let’s not give up on them at any cost……………..
We will not be moved, Mr. Border man!
God bless you all.
Linda Botha has not set their biography yet