On Monday 2 May 2022, after a short meeting Dave Austen, the paperwork is in order, and we’re ready for the trip. The ZPSF truck leaves Malelane for Musina at 08:00. I, Johan Schultz do the last-minute shopping and get on the road by 10:00 in the bakkie. We both have an uneventful drive and arrive in Musina at about 16:00. We refuel before parking the truck at NG church, thanks Tannie Rina for opening for us on a public holiday. Your help is much appreciated! Then we’re off to Aunty Hester and Colleen Joubert to spend the night. We have a small braai and a very good chat and update on some news. Of course, a lot of memories shared of Hannes, stories, and adventures. Thanks for this, we had some tears and a few laughs. Auntie Hester wants to jump in the truck and see the old country, you’re welcome anytime. We were off to bed after a shower, as we intended to get to the border as early as possible, not knowing what to expect, as the border was recently opened for normal traffic.
The following morning, Tuesday 3 May we leave for the border at 06:00 after a cuppa with Aunty Hester and getting the traditional “Padkos” (snacks for the road). At the border it’s the usual, just with busloads of people added… the small vehicle terminal area is in the process of being built, at first sight I thought this was going to be a nightmare, lots of people and buses all over the place. It looks like some people stayed over for some time. The area was littered with plastic. Cleaners are busy clearing up. The inside of the terminal was empty, clean and new, what a sight, looks very professional and organised. This was the new terminal building for the cargo vehicles. The only snag with having the two vehicles in the border at the same time was that we had to use both terminals, one for light vehicles and one for the truck, so we processed the truck first and the bakkie followed. In each terminal, all the departments are under one roof, and this made things easier in the sense that you had them all together, but you still had to be checked by every department and if money had to be paid, there is only one pay point, so you walk up and down from department to pay point, back to department for a stamp and then the next department…. Still time consuming.
Having sent the truck on its way, we search for the next office and repeat for the bakkie. The small vehicle entry is still the same, except there is some building debris to negotiate between temporary structures and pathways and roadways under construction. By 11:00 we were both on the road, with the truck having a healthy lead. Dave went straight to the warehouse to load as the boxes for the first half of the deliveries was waiting for the truck.
The bakkie was stopping at the drop off points on the way to Bulawayo, picking up empty boxes. First stop being Makado Ranch, thanks for the coffee and chat, Paxie. By the time I got to Bulawayo in the bakkie, the last few boxes were loaded, the truck was full to the brim and we were off to Coronation Cottage to prepare for the start of the deliveries the next morning. The plan was to go as far as Harare and then do the second run to Mutare, the load being too big for one truck. As men do, we had a fire going again and Dave braaied while I tried to set up the drop offs for the next day. The internet was down, and we had to try normal calling which is costly as no messages were going through. In Zimbabwe everyone uses the Wattsup, if that is down, or the Internet signal fails, you are an island, very isolated and all comms non-existent. Eventually we managed to reach everyone and got the word out. Sleeping place organized, thanks Estell and Clive in Kadoma and John and Leonie in Harare. After supper and an avocado from Irene we were off to bed. This was set up to be another interesting one, I was planning on seeing all the contact people to ensure they know that the ZPSF will continue after the passing of Hannes.
Up early at 05:45 on Wednesday 4 May and on the way to Boggies Trust in Gweru for the first drop. Driving into the sun on a misty morning. Passing Shangani in the mist remembering the Shangani Patrol and how the lion became prey. That must have been terrifying in this thick mist not seeing the attackers. And on the flipside a stroke of bad luck….. 50 km before Gweru we have the misfortune of a flat tire on a loaded truck! Dave and I jumped in and got to work. Using two jacks to lift the loaded truck, while answering frantic calls of “Are you lost, you should have been here an hour ago!” followed by offers of assistance. Using the clever recovery tool on the truck, we had the spare on and were on the road in no time.
At Boggies we were welcomed with open arms by most of the residents (it was very fresh morning, and some guys did not come out of their rooms). Everyonel we saw offered sincere condolences for Hannes’s passing. Big thanks to Babs and Bruce taking care of our admin and Mrs. Juul for the coffee. I had a quick chat and a tear with Kate and Fred Munger, Fred was Hannes’s Sargent in the bush war and had lots of kind words for Hannes, what a gentleman. Riki from Huisvergesig met us at Boggies and collected the Boxes for Huis and the outsiders, thanks Riki and her Landrover squad. This saved us another stop in Gweru as we had already lost some time with the wheel.
Then we were off to Redcliff and Herbert Lee. As always greeted by Carol Ferreira and the guys assisting in the offloading. Dave chatted with the people and there was a lot of condolences for Hannes. That went quick and we left to see the oldies in Kwekwe. We dropped off the boxes at Lynbrook and had some juice with the folks. Everyone happy to receive the boxes and talking about the inflation and the rise of the cost of living. There was a lot of little stories and condolences for Hannes. People in general seem to just get on with life from day to day, despite the situation they are in. Everyone joking and seem happy with each other. The roads are filled with school children and pedestrians and life goes on as normal. It is unbelievable that all still seems normal while one knows how hard it is to get by.
On the way to Kadoma we saw three young ladies scooping up maize that had fallen from a truck. The sheer desperation in collecting spilt maize from a roadside was a reflection of the daily struggle for survival in Zimbabwe. We got to Westview in Kadoma after 5 o’clock and were welcomed by Uncle Chris Ferreira and Danie Hartman. We decided to offload the next morning and we had a beautiful curry for dinner by Clive and Estelle O’Reilly. We watched some IPL cricket and had a talk about how things are in Zimbabwe. We went off to bed in the Guest Cottage in Westview.
Thursday 5 May we got up early and were at it after a cuppa coffee. At 06:30 we rounded up some help and offloaded the truck. Some of the residents stand around and complain about the inflation and soaring prices. People find it very hard to get by and there is a feeling that the steady decline is a forbearing for a total crash of the finance. Then we had a hearty breakfast with Clive and Estelle. Here we were told how the inflation was affecting the general population. The minimum wage is fixed in Zimbabwe dollars and equivalent in us dollars is about $7.50, an amount that can change daily. The home in Kadoma has a special levy to staff to ensure their well-being. Three of the rooms here is sponsored by ZANE as some residents get their pension in Zim RTGS (dollars) and just cannot afford the rent. Diesel prices in Chegutu vary from $1.59 to $1.78 per litre in USD.
We arrived in Chinhoyi at Sunningdale where Johan Haasbroek and Bill Bowie were waiting. We quickly offloaded with the help of Bill, Johan and Uncle Ben Naude. The recipients started to arrive, first Jan Stander and Jill Flanigan on her scooter, followed by a rush of oldies. The boxes were distributed in no time. We then went for lunch with Johan and Bill at “The secret garden”, thanks so much guys for sharing your hide out. When going on the deliveries in the truck one misses the little gems hiding in the towns as all seems so dilapidated and a good place to have a meal is mostly missed by outsiders. It’s good to have a local show you that there are still some good places to see. The garden was quite busy, and I noticed that most patrons were younger. Johan mentioned that a lot of younger farmers were upcoming and there was a sense of positivity in this. Bill informed us that the oldest resident on the list in Chinhoyi is 94 years old. Her father must have been one of the original pioneers. What a story she must have. We were on the road again to Harare where we will spend the night. We offloaded the truck into John and Leonie Herbst’s garage with their help. John cooked up a hearty chicken stew and had some 2 M beers from Mozambique, I cannot remember when last I had this, a real treat, thanks John. John showed off his fish breeding program he set up in his swimming pool. He uses this to stock some of the dams around Harare. After a last cup of coffee and we had a bath and bed.
On Friday 6 May we were up at 06:03. Leonie made us coffee, and then ticked of the recipients’ names on the list, and we checked all the boxes. John gives me a quick lesson in casting with a bait caster reel, (I have one but I am too stupid to figure it out). We agree that the next visit will happen with me arriving on a Friday and spending a weekend here with some R&R on a dam. Dave was already sitting in the truck waiting and I had to say a quick bye or be left behind. We were then off to Concrete Structures for the diesel donation, thanks so much Vic for the support! Without you help we would not be able to do what we do. We have fairly quiet trip back to Bullies picking up as many boxes from the drop off points as possible.
On our way back while in Redcliff collecting the empties a resident praised us for our impeccable timing. As the pantry becomes desperately empty, the truck arrives to save the day. Words like these makes the heart warm and the eyes wet. The gratitude and thanks are from the heart. That makes the hard work worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth the while. We arrived in Bulawayo just after 16:00 and settle at the cottage for the night. Dave cooked a hearty wors and egg dinner and we chat into the night, discussing the rest of the journey to commence on Monday. We will spend the weekend in Bulawayo preparing for the week ahead.
On the Weekend of 7 and 8 May we spend Saturday offloading empty boxes, relabelling and packing for Bulawayo. We managed to get half the Bulawayo boxes done. On Sunday we visited Willem and Caroline and had a quiet evening in front of the TV just reflecting on the trip so far and mentally preparing for what is still to come.
On Monday 9 May we have a later start to the day and had to go to Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) to renew our route coupon for the second leg of the deliveries. At about 10:00 with the updated documents in hand, we upload, refuel and are on the road to Masvingo and Pioneer Lodge where we will spend the night. Late afternoon we arrive, and we are welcomed by Sheleen, Errol and Daryl Edwards. The staff assist with offloading while Johnny Nel sits in a corner at a distance giggling. We had just missed a birthday tea party. I catch Aunty Rose in her wheelchair at the home care entrance sneaking a smoke.
Daryl tries to explain the minimum wage situation and it is beyond me. All I got was there was another jump in the inflation today, it is unaffordable, and they have a plan. An old lady goes past and all she said was thank you our saviours, you’re just in time, bless you saviours, bye saviours….and she was gone. What a weird heart-warming interlude, I didn’t even have a chance to get her name. This is the impact these relief parcels have on most of our recipients, a life saver. The staff dished out and move all the boxes in no time and we were shown to cottage 20 where we would spend the night. I was still boiling the kettle for some coffee when dinner arrived at the cottage. We were spoiled with fried chicken and chips from the kitchen, delivered to our cottage, properly spoilt. After dinner it was time to bath and bed. Tomorrow we’re off to Rusape and then Mutare.
On Tuesday 12 May we were off and on the road by 06:30. The most scenic of the route. Passing smaller trees and rocky outcrops with trees growing out of them, gradually increasing in size as you proceed towards THAT bridge. Birchenough bridge, a masterpiece of its time , soaring high above the forests fringing the wide Save river. It is indescribably beautiful. Anyone who has never seen it, add it to your bucket list. We by-pass Mutare, over Christmas Pass and head for Resthaven in Rusape for the deliveries. We’re met by Tony Anderson-Morsehead and he quickly organize a brigade of people to assist in the offloading. After offloading we attend the usual tea party in the library that was set up by all the ladies. We’re bombarded with questions and updates and stories and spent an hour listening to all. Thanks, so much for the warm reception and Sheila for the chat. It was really very good to see you all again. I haven’t been in Rusape for about a year and had a lot to catch up on. Everyone here once again is thankful for the parcels, contents and timing of the deliveries. The comments and stories are mostly about Hannes and Attie and the good old days, complaints about inflation and how hard it is to make ends meet. I noticed how the tea party “goodies” have become mor sparse and handmade, not the lavish affair we used to see. This is understandable and greatly appreciated. Hannes once told me that you never say no, it is rude to say no. The oldies give what they cannot afford in thanks for what we do, to refuse will be an insult, take with a smile and gratitude for this is all they have to give.
We then set off to Mutare and got there early afternoon. Des and Sally Bekker had the team in place, and we were off loaded quickly. Des took us to Strickland Lodge where we were given a room each for the night with a warm shower, a rare commodity for us. We freshened up and Des picked us up just before 18:00 for supper at the golf club along with Mr. and Mrs. Toby Micklethwait who delivers the parcels in Nyanga. What an awesome evening discussing the history of Mutare. When ordering, some of the items on the menu are not available and other items frozen and with the power cuts take longer to prepare, so we order what is available. I notice that the patrons in the restaurant all do the same with no quibble, in any other part of the world this would have been an incident of notable proportions, but not in Zimbabwe, this is just how it works. The general patience of people is astounding, or they have been trained to just have this kind of patience and acceptance to avoid disappointment. The food received was fantastic, what was available was done to perfection, thanks for that. Thanks for the company and lesson learnt. Another gem found in Zimbabwe, thanks to the locals. Des dropped us off at Strickland and we agreed to leave in the morning for Bulawayo at around 06:00.
Wednesday morning, we set off for Bulawayo contemplating taking a short cut across the centre of the country to Bulawayo, saving almost 100 km. We decided against this as we had no idea what the condition od the road was. Everyone we asked, from Masvingo, Rusape and Mutare could tell us when last they used the road, but there was current news on the road condition, thus we decided to cross the bridge again, using the road we knew. We got back to Bulawayo early afternoon, unloaded the empty boxes, refuelled at Colbro Transport, another lifesaving angel in the background… thanks Terrie for the help. And the loan of a wheel to replace the one we lost on the road to Gweru.
Dave was set to leave the next morning for SA and home. I would stay behind and tend to the Bulawayo deliveries. Dave left the following morning, had an easy passage across the Beit Bridge border, followed by a roundabout trip through the back roads of Louis Trichardt to avoid demonstrations and ended staying over at the wonderful Three Bridges next to the Elephants River. Dave and the truck were safe and sound home on Thursday afternoon. Thanks, Dave, for the trip and helping with the deliveries, you are a star.
Meanwhile back in Bulawayo Angela and I started the deliveries and received heartfelt condolences for Hannes, the founder of the Zimbabwe Pensioners Support Fund. Hannes had always done the Bulawayo deliveries himself; this was his hometown and personal baby. All the recipients were like family to him and an important part of the deliveries. This was going to be a hard run. I was accompanied by Angela Engelbrecht who assisted Hannes for many years, she knows all the recipients and acts as the GPS for the deliveries, our compass in Bulawayo. We started with the homes and kitchens, thereafter the outsiders in their own homes.
We started in the southern areas and worked our way through the city. Having coffee when offered and spending some time with the oldies. Reta Wythoff hand-made a sympathy card that we took around the town for people to write in. Rob Enslin, a single man was asking me to advise on how to bake bread or supply recipes on other uses for maize meal, as he was an absolute disaster in the kitchen. The poor man adds water and boils everything. I have some homework to do.
The general feeling, I found was that the current rate of deterioration in the money value is similar to the total collapse they experienced in the past. People cannot afford basic commodities as all moneys are received in RTGS (Zim Dollar). What is available is just unaffordable. The price of electricity was increased by 10-fold and was due to increase soon, no one knew by how much. The price of fuel in Bulawayo fluctuated between $1.69 and $1.88. if one takes into account that $1.00 USD is valued at $350.00 RTGS and the basic pension is about $1200.00 ($ 7.15 USD) you get almost 3 litres of fuel for your pension…. I do not know how people still survive. These rates and prices change daily. At this stage everyone takes life one day at a time and survive by helping each other. The sense of community is still unbelievably strong. If it was not for our donors and the work we do, there would be no hope or future for most of the oldies still in Zimbabwe.
I did the deliveries and listened to the stories, complaints and ideas for future, there is still hope that things could get better, and life will be better, no one knows when, but it could happen, some day. Over the next few days, I visit all the people and have the same discussions and every one is in the same boat, waiting and hoping for a change for the better.
I conclude and do the last deliveries on Thursday 19 May 2022. On Friday morning I leave for SA and deliver the last parcels on the way to the Border. When done it feels like the road home is downhill… there is no stopping and home is in sight. I arrive back in Malelane after about 6000 km travelled and 17 days on the road. What an emotional and draining ride.
Thank you to all the drop off points, Gweru: Bruce, Ricki and Babs.
Kwekwe: 2, Margot and Ken.
Kadoma: Clive, Estelle and Del.
Chinhoyi: Johan and Bill.
Harare: John, Leonie and Michelle.
Marondera: Mike and Peter.
Mutare: Des, Sally and Toby.
Rusape: Roy, Tony and Sheia and Gang.
Masvingo: Shaleen and Daryl.
Shirugwe: Colin and Martha.
Esigodini: Laraine and Anna.
Bulawayo: Angela, Colin, The A team, Hannes Jovner, Leila, Ann and Dawn, Edith, Irene, Marie, Maj. Dominic Nkomo, Bev Lander and Louise Campbell.
Musina: Tannie Hester, Colleen and Tannie Rina.
Malelane: Linda Schultz, Michelle Dehrmann, Johan Muller and Dave Austen.
Last, but by no means least…. our donors who make our wheels turn and the fill the boxes with love, food and hope.
Thank you to Hannes L Botha, Founder of this organisation. May you rest in Peace. We have it from here Dad.
Head office South Africa contact details:
Linda Schultz – email@example.com – (C) 079 6082676 (T) 013 7900934
Johan Schultz – firstname.lastname@example.org – 082 4979328
Section 21 Co Reg. 2007/034036/08; NPO Number 096733; Section 18A PBO No 930031642