If it wasn’t so sad it would be comical. Between Bulawayo & Louis Trichardt (Mikado) we saw 9 or 10 broken, stacked, well overloaded trailers, at the roadside, all with collapsed axles and wheels, or in some way disabled by their massive loads. I don’t believe Mr “Venter” had these volumes in mind when he designed these vehicles. He couldn’t have foreseen that the lack of mechanical mastery, a skimpy knowledge of basic physics, a great determination and appalling desperation would combine to ultimately test his equipment at this level.
It’s clear that the utter desperation in Zimbabwe has bred (or accelerated) a huge new informal import industry. These huge, unstable food towers along the roads are testimony to the ongoing tragedy that has and is playing out in Zim. They stand like roadside monuments to the political & economic failures in our beloved country.
Massively inflated food prices in the stores and unrelated or even irrelevant wages have driven the “haves” to pay runners to bring in much needed foods from South Africa, at a fee. The “have little’s” are depending on their historic hardships to bring in a morsel here and there and the “have nothings”, like many of our Pensioners, are just sitting tight, waiting for the kindness of others to fill the emptiness in their stomachs. The emptiness in their hearts is unthinkable and we do what we can to feed that too……
We sit at the border post, after 10 hours, discussing the idiocy around us. We’ve been placed in a highly secured “container depot”; our Christmas crackers and meagre offerings for the desperate old folk in Zimbabwe are under scrutiny again. Just beyond the high walls, huge piles of undocumented, unchecked and undeclared food and goods are filtered through the informal queues with a back-slap and a laugh, and perhaps a few quid, to blind the powers that be. After 18 years and hundreds of trips, excellent paperwork and an impeccable record we are still subjected to these mindless “searches” that seldom amount to any more than a glance into the back of the truck. Even after the actual goods and the paperwork have been compared & verified a period of 3 hours follows while we wait for “release forms” to be signed. We don’t want special treatment but can’t help wondering what sort of vindictive, incompassionate force is at play while our products wilt & melt in the searing heat? We know, and remind ourselves, that our anger and discomfort is miniscule when compared to the ongoing angst that the Pensioners suffer every day of their lives; at a time when they should be enjoying the pleasures of retirement.
Our moods improve as we watch and chuckle at the circus around us. The nose pickers, the slovenly saunter, the humungous backsides inside the tightly spanned uniforms (I can’t breathe as I watch), the pencil inserted in the ginormous hairdo (probably never to be found again), the dismal parking strategies, the waving of arms & the faces of undiluted confusion. We have got to find humour in all this, and we do……..
Someone had told us that when you’re very hot you should hold a damp cloth to the back of your neck so we soak our collective hypothalami and laugh ’til we cry.
Our Christmas trip started in Malelane on 27 November after our drive up from Durban. A restful night at Bush Babies outside Musina, on the 28th, was to prepare us for the dreaded border crossing on Friday. It occurs to us that this border post has always been a joke. I have family pics from the 70’s showing queues of cars right across the bridge. Remember Mr “Copper knob” on the S.A. side that searched each and every vehicle for Biltong (that I suspect he scoffed himself) and old “Goggle box” with his bottle bottom thick glasses and belligerent attitude snooping in your every cavity. I remember that he was the one that tried to make old Mrs Wright throw away her bananas……In defiance she sat on the steps and gobbled up the entire hand (8 in all!)
Now, in the eleventh hour at the crap-hole that is Beitbridge, they’ve released us and we’re able to carry on to Bulawayo. It’s 17h00 and we know that travelling on the treacherous Zim roads at night is foolish but we’re now running a day late so we press on. The trip takes us four hours and we reach the warehouse in Bulawayo just after nine. Bulawayo is in total darkness, as expected.
Exhausted, we find a little B&B in Hillside and Hannes deposits us there for the night.
Hannes and Angela had been busy all week packing the food boxes and preparing them so that our load could be added in on our arrival. Linda & Hannes had carefully selected a collection of special Christmas gifts for the old folk and these, with the crackers, were quickly packed by Angela and her team before we’d even arrived at the warehouse on Saturday morning. After loading the final boxes we make for Gweru at about 13h00……
We’re always happy to see the great folk at Boggies Trust. These are people of substance and we love and laugh with them while we offload the truck. They’re hugely happy with their Christmas boxes and we get some tasty burgers from Aunty Ivy Davy to take away with us. It’s at this home where a resident, fraught with leg, lung & heart issues, is barely able to walk but bakes a dozen cakes a day for the local market to make ends meet. The courage and tenacity we see at these Zim homes is often overwhelming and I well up when I see that she’s hobbled across to the truck, from the safety of her unit, to show her gratitude. Another old chap is there too. In the past he’s prided himself in walking to the truck on his hardy bare feet. Today he is bent over and slipper clad but as humorous and upbeat as ever; his immaculately groomed and made up missus holding him steady. My chest tightens with emotion……
Zim has had a smattering of electricity in the past many months and we realise the dire implications of these power cuts when we hear that an extension cord has had to be run from adjacent buildings, across the lawns of this home, to one of the units, so that a lung “ventilator” machine can keep a resident alive! Can one’s life really depend on an old patched extension cord draped across a car park? It most certainly can in Zimbabwe.
The stench in Gweru in unbearable! Later during our trip we’re told that because the electricity is off most days none of the sewerage plant pumps are working. It’s the same in every small town we pass. You can smell the towns before you see them. We roll up our windows in every town…..
We left Boggies Trust and delivered at Huisvergesig next and then made our way up to Hubert Lee home in Redcliff. I tested my truck reversing skills here as residents found a smarter spot to offload. After some hesitation, I did it and it worked. These Ballies love a new adventure to soak up their boredom and I was happy to oblige.
Redcliff showed some action today?? A smoke stack billowed smoke into the air! Don’t know what it is but it’s surely the most productive activity that I’ve seen in this economically extinct town for many years.
At KweKwe the folk are always ready for us with some juice & cookies and it’s always great to see these good people. I’m sure it was here where we heard of how two of the residents couldn’t decide whether to buy two spinach leaves or three on their last outing to the shops. If the rain allows (and it hasn’t this year) I should buy a million spinach seeds to scatter far and wide across that property so that this need never be a dilemma to debate again. How sad?
Dear Estelle and Clive O Reilly in Kadoma watered, fed and accommodated us in their fine home adjacent to Westview home on Saturday night. Thanks tons guys for your kindness & friendship. Your commitment to these old folk, this community, the Zim Pensioners fund and us personally has been just immeasurable over the past 18 years. So many thanks!
On Sunday morning we offloaded Westview and headed for Sunningdale Trust in Chinoyi. We didn’t get to see many folk there as they were in the middle of their Harvest Thanksgiving lunch. Knowing the distraction we would cause we chose to quietly sneak in and out. These fine people are always so massively grateful to the donors and the fund that the hugs, kisses and greetings alone might have taken all afternoon.
We got to Harare in the late afternoon and dropped the truck with our very kind friends, Charlie & Glynis Piers. They have, for the past few years, looked after the truck for us on their property. Keeping the truck safe with our precious load is a huge responsibility for us and we’re hugely grateful that they can help us with that. Thank you millions also, for your offer to put us up. The generosity of you Zimbabweans is just awesome!
Our dear friend Pushkin Style did us the greatest kindness again by leaving a car for us to use in Harare and opened her home for us to overnight in as she was away in the U.K. We’re so thankful to you Pushkin. How do we thank you? Our intention was to pay a long overdue flying visit to my cousins tonight but after a clean-up and quick bite we tucked in and had a great nights rest.
On Monday morning we collected the truck and made our way to the ever ready Mike & Marion Futter across town. These very fine people have, for many years, stored and distributed all our boxes in and around Harare: the CFU guys, SOAP, Harare Outsiders, Kariba, Mazoe Valley Trust etc. They tirelessly contact each of these recipients and, at their own expense, ensure that every box gets where it’s going. Thanks again, the Futters. What would Harare’s desperate community do without you?
We left the Chivu boxes with the very kind De Klerk family in Harare and we’re super thankful to them too for their help.
Our other hugely grateful thanks go to Vic Bongiovanni at Concrete structures. Vic has, for several years now, donated hundreds of litres of fuel to the fund. We simply couldn’t feed the number of Pensioners that we do without kind people such as these. For every drop of fuel saved we can feed more folk. Thanks tons Vic!! Bless you guys!
We did a quick delivery at Marondera and arrived at Resthaven in Rusape after lunch to the customary spread of treats and tea that they put out for us. You’re a special bunch Rusape! Thanks as always for the great laughs.
Des and Sally Becker in Mutare are the special comfort on our trips. These great people are stalwarts in the Eastern Highlands with a finger in every benevolent pie throughout that district. Thanks so very much again, the Beckers, for your great kindness to us and all those around you. Your Christmas party, in our honour, was just super special and we couldn’t thank you enough. What you do for the fund is immeasurable and we sincerely pray that all good things come to Mutare and your community as you wish they should. Much love to you.
With Des and Sally offering to do all our deliveries throughout that area again, we were able to get away early on Tuesday morning and got to Pioneer Cottages in Masvingo after lunch. It’s always good to visit this town; our High School town, and an added bonus this time was much laughter with one of our ex teachers, Mr Juggie Millar. Sharp as a pin and hugely funny, it made our day.
Lynne & John D’ewes at Zvishavane were away In Harare, so our stop there was brief. Thanks as always for your help in that area. Missed you guys!
Next, we delivered to Muus Lodge in a very sad and derelict Shurugwe and got back to Gweru in the late afternoon. Thanks Babs and Bruce for organising our room for us again. Super grateful as always.
On Wednesday morning we collected boxes at “The Huis” and got back to Bulawayo by about 9h30. After a quick drop of all the boxes we collected more fuel from the ever generous Colbro, for our return journey. Thank you so much to those guys too for this huge offering.
We reached the border in the mid afternoon and were well lucky to be through in quick time. After some debate and with some pressure mounting to get back to our business in Durban we decided to head back to Malelane for an overnight and back to Durban by Thursday; somewhat weary but super grateful that we could play this small part in the lives of our special and beloved old friends in Zim.
As we all move into 2020 our dreams, hopes and wishes are varied and many. We wish for love or success, or money, or a fine holiday or great adventure. Amongst my many wishes, my greatest is that the Pensioners of Zimbabwe find some comfort and joy in the turmoil that’s become their lives. I wish for them some respite from the hardships that have enveloped them. I know that there are thousands or millions around the world that wish that for them too. I pray that the wisest throughout the world will see and act on the grave injustices and that somewhere, somehow the wrongs can be righted for all in Zimbabwe.
To all our donors throughout the world: These old folk weep in gratitude for all your contributions whether in cash, kind or simply in your prayers. Thank you from the depths of each and every heart that you support. A millions thanks to you all.
God Bless Zimbabwe!
Daniel & Elza Koekemoer