I left Malelene on Tuesday 27 November after some faffing there; trying to get the phone charger working in the truck. Linda had tried her best to get the air-conditioner repaired but had run out of time so I anticipated, and dreaded, a hot December trip. I wasn’t to be disappointed.
Beit Bridge, the following day, 28 December, was 41 degrees from mid morning so I spent my 12 hours there sharing the condensation drippings, from an overhead air-conditioner, with a flock of parched pigeons; them drinking the drops and me having them drip on my sweaty nape. The truck stood alone in the dustbowl like an oven on max. I despaired for my precious cargo of sweets and chocolates for the Old folks Christmas treats. I just knew they would be liquidised by the heat.
The border story, this time, was that the ZiMRA systems were down so they couldn’t clear the trucks. It was rather suspicious then that all the other trucks with their multi-million dollar loads were bypassing my little Mickey Mouse offering of Christmas treats for old people?? Deliberate? Who knows?
Never to mind…….They escorted me off to the Container Depot by late afternoon and another few hours passed while I waited to be “searched”. This familiar search process eventually came after 19h00 and played out, as usual, with the official merely glancing into the back of my truck while I squished a liquidised bar of chocolates through my fingers to make my point. There’s yet another new process, now in place, whereby the approval to release me must come from Customs back at the border buildings. Another hour is therefore added to this already convoluted search rigmarole.
I eventually got out of there at about 20h00 and set off for Bulawayo, thankful that I didn’t have to sleep in the cesspool that it is. I tell of these border irritations not for condolence or sympathy but rather to strengthen our appeal for your help with the old folk. We’re not a typically top-heavy charity scooping the cream from the proverbial top. We are making certain, at all uncomfortable cost, that your generous donations and kindnesses reach those for whom they are intended in most cost effective way. There’s a much bigger and sadder story for the old folk in Zimbabwe and our little discomforts and inconveniences should pale into insignificance when compared to theirs.
As God would have it for the next four hours, the donkey riddled, potted road to Bulawayo was lit up by lightning as if I’d ordered a flash per peril. I could have sworn that each time danger approached there was a series of sheet blazes that seemed to show me the way. Perhaps a bit of my wild imagination but so what…..It saw me through safely and I got to Bulawayo sometime after midnight. I didn’t have the energy or inclination to wake Hannes at Coronation Cottages when I got there so I curled up across the front seats and slept through ‘til the morning. (He talks too much in the middle of the night anyway… haha)
The following morning, 29th November, we busied ourselves at the warehouse. The very able Angela had spent the previous weeks preparing all the boxes for the Christmas trip and we were to add in, from my truck, all the fine special goodies that Linda had so carefully selected for the oldies. The chocolates had semi-solidified overnight but I can’t be sure they were as even and fancy as when they started their journey? Thanks Mr Customs Plod…..
The box packing and sorting took most of the day and I was ready to go by the mid afternoon. Boggies trust in Gweru, had, once again, offered me a bed for the night and I reached there in the early evening. My arrival there was a bit more dramatic than I’d cared for…… In my effort to not drive the big old truck over the newly planted lawn across from Boggies front gate, I cut my corner too fine and clipped a curb stone, instantly tearing a hole in the sidewall. A right bother when I just wanted to curl up in my bed……
We decided to leave the tyre until the morning and, in the greatest display of Zimbabwean kindness, Thursday brought with it a flurry of help, orchestrated by the very kindly Bruce Chilcott and Gill Fulton who’s very willing son, Allan, rushed over, before the sparrow, to sort my nonsense out. I was really grateful to Allan and Tim Van der Merwe of J.R Goddard construction for their special help. Many thanks guys. I want to drink with you sometime! Owe you big time.
I couldn’t have chosen a better town, or facility at which to mess up. These Boggies humans are my super best!
We (they) replaced the tyre and I was away early enough to Huisvergesig, across town, for their delivery. I was in Redcliff (Deadcliff) by about 10h00am to do the delivery for Hubert Lee cottages. All is not well in this sad community and I really do pray that someday, somehow, the life and vibrancy returns to this derelict village to restore it to its former economic greatness.
I was equally saddened when I arrived at Lynbrook home an hour or so later. One of the oldest and dearest residents there had passed away just days earlier. I will so miss my chats with Ms. Beda Ashforth. At 91 years old; humorous and sharp ‘til the end; an amazing woman that I reckon they will all miss deeply at this home. Earlier in November they had also lost Ms. Estelle Hageman and I’ve learnt today that Jenny Thedvall also passed away last week. Please keep these folk in your prayers and pray earnestly for their comfort. They’re all the finest of people.
At Kadoma, another hour later I delivered to Westview home and, in the now familiar fashion, was treated to a brilliant lunch with Clive and Estelle O’Reily. These very good people are still taking the greatest care of the folk in this town and I’m always so grateful and entertained when I have my little R & R with them. You’re good people Clive & Estelle. Your community will be so thankful for you. Bless you guys.
I pressed on to Sunningdale Cottages in Chinoyi and got there in the late afternoon. As usual, all the bakkies were ready & waiting for their boxes. This is another super special place for me. Each of these residents and outsiders (not in cottages) are the greatest of humans and I can but imagine what it must have been like to live in that town “back then”. There’s a genuine thread amongst these people that I’ve never put my finger on. Really not sure what it is but they’re all just excellent people. They’re dignified & proud and hugely grateful to you all as donors.
I left there and headed for Harare arriving in the early evening. Charlie & Glynis Piers were again waiting for me with cold beers and a willingness to look after the truck for me overnight while I stayed over, again, with Pushkin Style at her home. Thanks so many millions for your kindness and hospitality guys. Leaving the truck somewhere safe at night is always a huge affair for us and I’m always thankful that you open your beautiful yard for me. Pushkin, you’re a star for looking after me again, even with a full house. It was so good to see your Robyn & John and I was mightily comfortable on the Study floor. Love you guys’ loads.
I was up and away early on Saturday morning (I’m sure I’ve skipped a day somewhere??) to get yet another fuel donation from a great friend of the fund, Vic Bongiovanni at Concrete Structures. Vic has donated fuel to the fund for the past two years and we are enormously grateful to him. I say this on every trip but Vic; we would battle to do these trips without you. For every cent we save on diesel we can feed more of the oldies. Your donations are invaluable to us and we’re so very thankful to you.
I had an hour or two to spare while I waited to do my delivery to the Futters in Greenside so I killed some time at a coffee shop off Enterprise Road. It was my first spend in Zim since the US$ slumped (or didn’t slump?) and I was foxed and bewildered when the bill came. “Will that be US$, Rand, Swipe, Bond or Eco-cash?” My US$9 coffee converted to Rand and paid in US$ was then US$7 converted to Rand via the US Exchange rate (That the Government says is the same value as Bond……but it’s not?) WT?? I really missed Elza at that moment. She’s always been my exchange converter when we travel ‘cause I only just made ‘O’ level maths! How do ordinary Zimbabweans wade through all this?
I just held out a clump of cash and the man took what he needed……………………..
The Futters were out of town for this delivery but their loyal helper was there to accept my delivery. I dropped all the boxes for S.O.A.P, the Zim Farmers Union, Bindura, Mazoe and Harare Outsiders. We are also sending several boxes to Kariba now, via the Futters. Welcome to these new Pensioners from Kariba.
Thanks so very much again Mike & Marion Futter for doing all our Harare distribution and for all the really special work you do for so many, in need ,in that city. You guys have a special spot in the hereafter. That’s for sure…..
Down the road in Greendale I dropped the boxes for Chivu with Paul & Michelle de Klerk. Leaving the boxes with them has changed my life! I have always dreaded the link road between Mutare and Chivu and they’ve relieved me of that. We’re really thankful to you guys. That round trip also saves us a fortune in diesel. We do so miss our teas with Piet & Frieda de Klerk in Chivu but will have to, and will, do social calls there from time to time.
I got to Rusape in the early afternoon after a brief stop in Marondera to visit a friends’ father, Mr. Jimmy Stewart at Borrowdale Trust. He hadn’t been well for some time and sadly passed away later in December. R.I.P. Mr. Stewart. I really hope that you got to enjoy your cake & chocs at Christmas?
Things were devastatingly quiet at Resthaven Cottages in Rusape. Most of the residents were at a Christmas lunch given to them in the town so I missed the banter and laughter that I’ve become so used to there. Stu Taylor & Hillary Wynne had stayed behind to accept the boxes and feed me my tea and I was really grateful to them. I’ll have to catch up with the rest of these very fine people in February.
When I got to Mutare late on Saturday afternoon, Des Becker met me at his warehouse as he always does. He offered again, to do the deliveries throughout the Eastern Highlands for Strickland Lodge, EHT Park cottages, Murambie, S.O.A.P Mutare, Nyanga & Chipinge. This is a massive area to cover with deliveries that would cost the fund dearly to do. Des & Sally Becker have, for several years now, undertaken this duty, at their own expense and time, without a blink. How amazing can people be in that country! How do we even thank them for their ongoing work in that community?
Des & Sally have also put me up in their home, for many years, with all the trimmings of a luxury lodge. Thanks so much for what you do for me and the fund. I love you guys millions; your stories, your humour, your easiness and your kindness. Thank you!
I set off to Masvingo on Sunday morning, laden with padkos from Sally, and arrived in Masvingo after lunch. I was tired today, for some reason; perhaps the heat? I told Elza, on the phone, that I could have a lie down under a Msasa tree and let the flies crawl in and out my nose. I doubt I would have noticed. I resisted & pressed on.
Johnny Nel, at Pioneer Cottages met me and we were joined a while later by dear old Dusty Evans who crapped on me again because I hadn’t told him I was coming today. It was the last time Dusty & I would squabble. Our love/scrap friendship was to end when he passed away later in early January. This legendary man, who represented Rhodesia in Baseball and Boxing, had fought his last fight. I’ll miss our scraps Dusty and I’m well pleased that I never challenged you in the ring. R.I.P.
I spent some time at Pioneer, chatting to the residents and was off to Zvishavane by mid afternoon. One of my favourite stops is with Lynne & John D’ewes. They’ve been a huge help to us in Zvishavane over the years. Lynne has lived in the town for, something like, 60 years! She has a treasure trove of funny stories to tell about the townsfolk over the years and I am always thoroughly amused out by the time I leave there. All you ex Shabani folk out there; I know all your stories! (All tasteful, kind and funny)
Thanks millions again John & Lynne for your help, your excellent lunches & sarmies & your love.
I got to Shurugwe in the late afternoon on Sunday and the residents there were all waiting, as they always do, at the front gate. With their wheel barrows fired up we emptied the truck of my final delivery and after some banter & chats I was away to Gweru for my last night of the trip in Zim. Poor old, dear old Shurugwe; what a dismal mess it’s become. The pride of Zimbabwe lies squalid & derelict; historic buildings and facilities unkempt & filthy; how pitiful.
Boggies Trust and all the very good people there put me up in their spare cottage again. I had a good laugh with the folks and passed out early for my long trip back to Malelane on Monday.
On Monday morning I got away early to deliver all the empty boxes back to Bulawayo. I met with Hannes & Angela and, after a brief report-back, I left for Beit Bridge.
My return crossing wasn’t bad at all & I was back in S.A by about 17h00. I was slightly delayed when an unknown truck apparently reversed into me in the parking area on the S.A. side while I was processing my documents. As expected, nobody could (or would) identify who the hit & runner was but I did manage to establish that it was a “Kojack” truck. I have since found out the correct pronunciation, but they were equally evasive when I called their offices. 12 years with the Fund and I had to have two of my three “accidents” on this one trip. Quite a bother….
I arrived back in Malelane after midnight and Linda had kindly left my vehicle out so I was able to get to my room quite quickly for the big pass-out. On Tuesday morning I headed back home to Durban via Swaziland and arrived back with my family in the evening; tired, as always, but with a beautiful comforting sense of achievement and a happy heart. I just flippen love those old Guys & Dolls.
How do we even begin to thank all our donors and the caring folk throughout the world that keep this effort afloat? Our (approximately 1350) Pensioners in Zimbabwe may well have perished, under the pressure, in the past many years if it wasn’t for the great kindness of you all. They thank you, deeply and sincerely for your money, your love & your care for them. Tears of gratitude well up in their eyes as they consider their fate and they ask us, on every trip, to be sure that we adequately thank you all and this we do. Our greatest thanks!
The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated at a terrifying rate in the past two weeks and we must pray so earnestly for protection and comfort for our Grandies there. How much more can they take?? Shops are now financially off limits to most of them and the mind boggles to think how they’re to make it through the next few months or years when they don’t even know how they will make it through the next week.
Wherever you are in the world; please don’t forget about these special people in the country that we love so much. For those who cannot afford to donate in tangible ways, please donate your love & support by making your host citizens aware of the tragedy that is Zimbabwe. Bring pressure to bear on whoever will listen and influence, to restore sanity in our beloved Zimbabwe.
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