After a slight misunderstanding on the trip commencement date I left Malelane Tuesday 30 January.
Dropping your last born at University in Pretoria for the first time and then doing a trip to visit the Pensioners in Zim is emotional suicide but, as always, well worth every single kilometre for the joy & comfort that it brings the old folk “back home”. Their love and gratitude is immeasurable.
The trip to Tzaneen was uneventful and I arrived there shortly after midday. I met with Liz Botha as we’d arranged for me to leave the truck at a mall and then go off to the local hospital to see our dear Attie who had been booked in there a few days earlier. Sadly, when I met Liz she said it may not be a great idea as Attie was heavily sedated and needed all the rest he could get. We spent some time chatting and both had a good old cry and I went off with a really heavy heart.
With Attie being unable to drive for the past while, since his collapse in Harare, we have been quite desperate, at the fund, to find folk that can help us with the driving work. Despite many appeals we had not managed to find volunteers and, of course, this is quite understandable considering the trips take approximately 10 days, which most working people can ill afford. Although I am self employed and licensed to do the driving for the trips it’s become impossible for me to undertake more than two or three trips a year. After a lengthy search for alternatives we came across Russell Johnson, from Modjadjiskloof in Limpopo, who has kindly offered to help us for a small fee. Very sadly, Russell lost his wife during last year and needed some new direction and purpose to mend his heart. He had lived in Zimbabwe for many years and has the great love for the country; a clear requirement for the work that needs to be done. We are fortunate too that he has the correct licence to carry out the work.
The thought of spending the next 8 days cooped up in a small cab with a complete stranger was, for me, desperately daunting. The best I could expect was amicable conversation & good hygiene! My fears were unfounded. Russell was more than I had hoped for and proved to be great company for the entire trip. I was well pleased......
One of the main purposes for this trip was to show Russell the operation; where to find the homes, border procedure etc and to introduce him to the role players throughout Zimbabwe. He listened and noted well and I’m confident that he will quickly endear himself to the folk up there. He has much love and compassion to offer and I wish him well with future trips.
I collected Russell at Modjadjiskloof and we made our way to Beitbridge, We arrived in the early evening and dropped the truck at the NG Kerk where they have, for many years, kept the truck safe overnight. We are extremely grateful to them for their help.
Our dear friends, Joe & Hester Joubert put us up in their home for the night and we spent a perfect evening eating and catching up. Thanks millions, again, the Jouberts, for your great kindness, excellent food and accommodation. We are always so grateful and indebted.
At about 6h00 a.m. on Wednesday morning we set off for the dreaded border post and were met with a mountain of trucks on the same cross border mission. My heart sank......
With some fancy footwork (wheelwork, I guess) I manoeuvred the truck to the front of the enormous “queue”...... bunch! and we were through the border in about 4 hours.
The trip to Bulawayo took about 3 and a half hours and Hannes, Angela & helpers were waiting and prepared at the Warehouse to load us up immediately. I had mentioned to Hannes that the trip would need to be a quick one as I needed to get back to my business in time for year-end books & preparations. Loading up and heading straight off to Gweru would give us a good start the following day. I’m very grateful to Hannes and Angela for their understanding and good work to get us back on the road.
We arrived at Boggies Trust in Gweru at about 18h00 and again were warmly awaited by the gang there. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: the people at this home are from the very top drawer! Their hospitality, love and gratitude is true and deep and it’s always such a pleasure to spend time with them.
We are very thankful to Sandra Woodcock her great kindness and for always having a room prepared for us, Ms Ivy Davies & her dear daughter, Heather, for your splendid burgers & curry and the very kind Bruce Chilcott for his tremendous contribution to our efforts there. By many accounts Bruce is a pillar to many of the folk in this home and deserves all the respect and recognition he gets. The residents are hugely grateful for his great willingness to help, no matter what the issue, despite his own health matters. Thanks you so much Bruce for what you do for the older residents of Boggies. You’re a very fine human!
We did the offload in the early morning and headed off to Huisvergesig for their delivery. We left Gweru to meet with the residents of Herbert Lee rest home in Redcliff. We chatted a while with the good people there and were at our next delivery in Kwe Kwe by 10h00 a.m.
Lynnbrook Home in KweKwe is another of my favourite homes and the residents there are always ready with our tea, snacks and a laugh. This home is a true measure of the positivity with which the elderly in Zim see their lot. The lunacy of the Zim situation and their daily struggles always provide the humorous foundation for their jokes & stories. I never leave Lynbrook without great chuckle and moist eyes. Thanks for that Lynbrook.
Our next stop was at Westview Retirement in Kadoma. We were very pleased to see that Clive O’Reily has made a great recovery from his December hip operation and he and his special wife Estelle entertained us for an hour or so with some tea and an unusual home-made milk tart. This was a milk tart that was half baked when the electricity failed and finished off with a gas flame thrower thing! Another good laugh with a tasty ending. Thanks again the O’Reilys & team for your help & hospitality.
We arrived in Chinoyi slightly earlier than they had expected but once the bush telegraph was activated the folk there streamed out to collect their boxes. We had come through a severe thunderstorm near Chinoyi and our usual parking for the truck was somewhat soggier than normal. It was too late by the time we realised and the truck was well sucked into the mud. After a few attempts at digging and rocking the lorry we realised we were our efforts were futile. In true Zimbabwe style a tractor appeared in minutes, on order from one of the older
residents, and in a flash we were hooked up, extricated and sent on our way. This is the nature of the beautiful humans that are Zimbabweans. No fuss & trouble. Just a chuckle, a wave and a jibe at how doff we were to park there in the rain!
We arrived in Harare in the late afternoon and headed to the home of Charlie Piers in Borrowdale. Charlie had, very kindly, offered for us to store the truck on his property overnight. We are hugely grateful to you Charlie. The truck is always a security issue when we get to Harare and being able to leave it in safety is a massive relief. You did us a great favour and we’re very thankful.
It was time for Russell and I to part ways for a few hours as I went off to visit my dear friend Pushkin Style and he was fetched, fed and accommodated by John & Leonie Herbst. The Herbst family have been great friends of the fund and their support for us, whenever we’re in Harare, is special and well appreciated. Many thanks again John & Leonie. It’s great folk like you that make our trips bearable.
A special thanks again to friend Pushkin for your great help whenever I’m in Harare. You’ve been invaluable for the past many trips Pushkin. A million thanks! (I will get to pay for my own dinner one day!)
Russell was very kindly delivered back to me on Friday morning and we set off early to Mike & Marion Futter where we delivered the Boxes for the CFU, Bindura and the “outsiders” in Harare. I’ve written extensively about these great people and the work they do in the needy communities of Harare. You’re good people, the Futters; and we can never thank you enough for your help with our deliveries.
One of the biggest running expenses at the fund is fuel for the truck and for that reason we are always massively grateful to Vic Bongiovanni at Concrete Structures. Vic has very generously donated fuel to the fund for the past three years and without that help our trucks may well have ground to a halt. Thank you millions again Vic! We couldn’t operate without good people like you.
After our fuel collection we left Harare for Rusape. The trip was easy and we arrived to the great spread of sandwiches & treats that have become customary at Resthaven in Rusape. You guys are the best, Resthaven. Will I ever be able to persuade you not to feed us so generously? Thank you again!
Des & Sally Becker were waiting for us in Mutare. Once again, there was nothing that they wouldn’t do for us. Des offered to do the local deliveries to Park Cottages, Murambe, Strickland Lodge, Nyanga, Chipinge & all the Mutare outsiders for which we were again very thankful. We spent a very special evening with the Beckers and their special friends at the local Portuguese Club and were luxuriously accommodated, again, at their beautiful home, for the night. The work that Des and Sally have done in the retired communities of the Eastern Highlands is quite remarkable & I pray Gods for greatest blessings for these tremendous people.
We left for Chivu on Saturday morning along the dreaded Nyazura link which has deteriorated even more with the recent rains. We arrived at the De Klerk home three hours later shaken to our cores. The best thing about this leg of the trip was the absence of the despicable little excuse for a policeman that has made it his business to harass us on successive trips through Buhera. It is my earnest hope that he has been caught at his evil little game and well punished.
The de Klerks were not home to receive the boxes for the Chivu residents but their garden staff have become familiar with our visits and helped with the offloading of the six boxes.
We also had no joy in reaching Johnny Nel in Masvingo to prepare for our arrival and we found out later that his cell phone was/is broken. (I have another one for Johnny if anyone can help me get it to him in the soonest while please?) He was out when we arrived at his home in the early afternoon but we were kindly helped by his friend with the offloading of the boxes for the Masvingo outsiders and Pioneer lodge. They too have become familiar with the process and thankfully knew what to do.
It was during this stop in Masvingo that I received the very saddest news that my dear friend & co driver, Attie Botha, had passed away in Tzaneen an hour earlier. The next few hours passed in a blur. I was so filled with regret that I hadn’t seen him on the way up to Zim. It is surely the strangest of human emotions; that need to see someone “one last time”. I had missed that opportunity......
I have had the privilege of a beautiful friendship with Attie for the past 11 years and I know that my trips will never be the same again. Attie brought the greatest of joy to the Zimbabwe Pensioners for many years and he leaves a massive void in the hearts of these people. Our friendship was and unlikely one and I’m blessed that I knew the man behind the “Pastor”. Thank you Dear Attie for never judging me in our spiritual differences, my cursing at the border-post and my love of beer, wine & song. You were a special friend before anything else. I will miss you desperately. I will never hear you say “Cheers my Buddy” again.
Lynne D’ewes is our pillar in Zvishvane. We delivered our boxes for the local residents and she fed us, as usual, with her special sandwiches. Thanks Lynne & John for all you do in this community.
At Shurugwe we delivered our boxes in record time as a huge dark storm approached. The delivery was like a wheelbarrow derby and our pile of boxes disappeared into the cottages in a flash! Walking sticks, walkers and pacemakers didn’t stand a chance against the weather!
Our deliveries completed we arrived back at Boggies in the early evening to spend a restful night before our big trek back to S.A. on Sunday.
On Sunday morning we were up early to load our empty boxes at Boggies and Huisvergesig before we headed back to Bulawayo to offload all the empty boxes that we had collected along the way. The offload was quick and we made off for the border, arriving in Beit Bridge at about midday. The crossing was uneventful and we were through in about three hours. I had Russell back home in Modjadjiskloof in the late afternoon but declined his offer for me to stay over. Fuelled up with Red Bull and like a horse back to the stables I decided to press on back to Malelane where I arrived at midnight.
I had a good, short, nights sleep and headed home to Durban on Tuesday.
I like to end my trip reports with a profound something to draw attention to the desperate plight of the old folk in Zimbabwe but there was nothing actually remarkable about this trip. My thoughts on this trip are simple enough. No road blocks, a great reconciliatory mood and a return to the warmth shown between people of different cultures and persuasions. The feeling on the ground is good but I have a great fear that people around the world, our donors and sponsors will begin to believe that all is forgotten, forgiven and rosy in our beloved Zimbabwe.
This is not a political piece and I’m not a Prophet of Doom but I need to say, with great desperation, that nothing, ever, will bring back what these old folk have lost in their beloved land. No amount of compensation & political change can restore what they had. Many or most of these folk are victims now and forever more of a ghastly tragedy that cannot be reversed. Please do not forget and forsake them in the midst of all the euphoria in Zimbabwe. With increased costs and a massively failed economy they need you now more than ever before.
I carry a message of deep and sincere gratitude from the old folk in Zimbabwe. Wherever I go they ask me, in great earnest, to properly convey their special thanks to you all for your love & kindness.
God Bless Zimbabwe.
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