Saturday 13th June 2020
The ZPSF Nissan UD 90 Truck left Malelane for a double trip around Zimbabwe. The Driver was myself with Frans Schultz, my son as my co-pilot.
We left Malalane at 6:40 after we checked the tire pressure. Had a quiet and uneventful trip until we got the message from Linda at HQ that the que was about 10km long at Beit Bridge. We mentally prepared ourselves to sleep in the que. We arrived at Musina around 17:40 to park the truck at the NG Church where Tannie Rina the administrator was waiting for us (A BIG THANK YOU for the weekend help). We repacked a few things for the border crossing and to make more space in the truck for the sleep over. We waited for Hannes to get there at 19:00 when we bought some KFC for the next day’s food. We spent the night at Joe and Hester where we enjoyed some hot coffee and soup, being from Malelane we were freezing.
The next morning was an early one (03:00) and we expected to be in a good position in the que and get into the border at a reasonable time, but….when we arrived, the que we joined was about 2 km before the weigh bridge before Beit Bridge. The line was moving very slow the whole day and lunch was cold KFC…Dinner is chocolate, chips and cold curry but, luckily, we had a flask full of hot water and made a hot cup of coffee. At 19:30 there was a sudden big move towards the gate. We were standing still so long that we were preparing to sleep not moving, suddenly the line started moving, the truck would not start and so we scrambled for the chain. Hannes in the bakkie pull-jump started us with his vehicle. We had another big leap forward and could see the gate of the border. Just before 22:00 we got into the Border post and with some creative movements, made our way thought the SA side in less than an hour. On the Zimbabwe side, there was a COVERT 19 testing station and they had an issue with us being two in the vehicle. After showing all out paperwork and explaining we were transporting COVID 19 PPE for the Pensioners and having a letter of expediency from the Zimbabwean Department of Ministry of Trade and Commerce they allowed us to enter the Zim side of the border post. We joined the line for the Weight Bridge and after being weighed we finally just after 00:00 settled in to sleep in the dust bowl.
At about 02:00 we were woken by three people in uniform and flash-lights in our faces… demanding to know why we were 2 people in the truck. Tired and confused we showed our papers and explained our mission. After some time they threatened to arrest Frans and Quarantine him, I suggested we then leave and return to RSA, they refused and asked if we had any spare PPE, I said we only carried bulk and our cargo quantities correspond with the manifest and could not give them anything, they then left and we tried to get some more sleep. In hind-sight I think they were Border Security, a bizarre encounter. We were up at 6:00 after some sleep and we had a quick cup of coffee. Robert, our agent arrived, and now it was time for the paper work… we had a smooth start but then things went south at the customs where the counter gave us trouble about not having the Essential Service CIPS form up to date and we needed a Permit to be more than one person in the vehicle. Linda at HQ came to our rescue and we discovered that the CIPS paperwork was no longer needed under Lockdown Level 3 and the email Linda sent to the Border Crossing Agents was sufficient as a “Permit” by the company to have more than one person in the vehicle. We showed this to the Home Affairs Officer and our Passports were stamped, we were now in Zim. Now for the Load to be sorted, we had a letter of rebate and the paperwork was cleared. We got into the que and was sent into the waiting area for CONDEP, which meant we were to be physically searched. The waiting area was full, and we knew we were in for a long wait. How long only time would tell. We were there for about 4 hours when suddenly, we were called to the gate. This was good as the process that would take long was to be called. At the gate our papers were perused, and we were cleared to go. A bizarre event, it must have been the PPE we were carrying that made the authorities assist us. We got to Bulawayo around 18:20. We stopped at the warehouse and left the truck for the night. We spent the night by Caroline and Willem Nel where we were treated to a hot meal and a comfortable bed.
We woke up to an alarming message that said the town would be on full shutdown due to the police and military forces entering the town and demanding that the people stay home. We spent the day at Caroline and Willem’s house not doing much for the whole day. Lockdown….Zim Style.
Woke up to a cold morning to hoping to get to the warehouse to unpack the truck and split the PPE into the smaller spray bottles for the boxes and reload the truck for the trip. We were already 6 weeks late and recipients were in dire need for their parcels. We left Willems house and got to the warehouse very early before the police and military would be active. We started unpacking the truck and after that we started putting the hand sanitizer into the smaller bottles for the personal PPE. All the boxes were still open and had to be packed with the PPE before closing and loading the truck. After lunch we started with the final check of the boxes before closing and stacking them in their homes. We were done for the day. For dinner we had soup and vetkoek at the Nel residence.
Everything in the city was back to “normal” with the regular roadblocks all around the entry and exit routes to the CBD. We carried on with the packing and prepared for the second load, started to lay out and pack boxes. Angela, Frans and the Byo team had a busy day as they were just preparing boxes and checking name lists for the trip. Myself and Hannes went out in Bulawayo delivering PPE supplies to Leila Hunt at Edith Duly and some of the Byo Outsiders. At about 17:00 we called it a day and clocked in at Caroline’s for dinner and we had Lamb curry with rice. Caroline was spoiling us, cooking while baking cakes.
We got up bright and early to get the bakkie loaded for our Bulawayo Kitchen drop offs and COVID 19 PPE’s. Our first stop was Railsteen, we met up with Major Auxcilia Maware and we gave her the PPE’s and food supplies for the kitchens. The care parcels would be dropped later by Hannes. They were so thankful. Our next stop was at Barbra Burrel where we met up with Bev Lander (The Administrator) and we had a cup of tea and chatted with the old folks all huddled in front of the fireplace. We then went to our third and final stop at Queen Mary where their administrator was waiting for us. We dropped off the food boxes and the PPE. We talked a bit and then we came back to the warehouse to start packing the truck for the round trip. The final lists were checked and Frans and the Byo team loaded the truck for the first round trip. After the truck was loaded, we cleaned up the warehouse and went to Angela’s for coffee and cake as it was her son, Nathan’s 20th Birthday. Then off to the Nel house where we were staying over.
We were up early and myself and Hannes picked up an open LDV from PJ Bakkes who kind-heartedly lends his vehicle to the ZPSF for deliveries around Byo. We left the vehicle at the Byo warehouse and packed all the special boxes and did the final prep for the truck that was due to leave on Monday. Sunday was an off day.
Myself and Frans left Bulawayo at first light and so the trip started. Our first stop was Gweru where we were greeted with open arms at Bogies Trust. Babs Coetzee, Bruce Chillcott, The Mungers, Aunty Ivy and most of the people in the home were there to greet and help us offload the boxes. We had the boxed lined up and showed the guys how to use the sanitising knapsack and the mix used for the sanitising. After a short visit, Bruce checked the boxes and we were off to the second stop in Gweru at Huisvergesig. Here we were met by Mr Kashula who was assisting in dropping the outside boxes and the Huis Staff. Here we noted that the house was in lockdown as none of the residents came to greet.
From there we drove to Herbert Lee cottages in Redcliff where we were greeted with open arms unloaded the boxes and got a few photos of Carol Ferreira and the rest of the guys that helped off load the boxes. From here we drove to Kwekwe where we were greeted by Ken Connolly, Margot and Grant who arranged the offload. Thanks for all the help, once offloaded there was coffee and we had a little chat under the tree. A welcome break from the long hours seated. We drove to Kadoma again a welcome greeting by eager faces that were just so eager to assist us with the offloading. Here it struck me in the gratefulness and eagerness people here are to receive the morsel we drop off. We are so spoilt in our own comfort, almost oblivious of the hardship and strife of these elderly people in Zimbabwe whose hard-earned pensions are worthless. While I offloaded with the help of Chris and Danie, Frans and Estelle had a chat with everyone while checking the lists.
Next stop was in Chinhoyi where we were received by Bill Bowie and Johan Haasbroek at Sunningdale homes. After a loooong…. day we parked the truck on a downhill as she was still giving us grief starting and we spent the night with Johan Haasbroek and were treated to a proper home-made “Sunday” meal with sweet potatoes, rice, chicken and all the frills. The sweet potatoes were harvested from Johan’s neighbours garden.
We got up early morning to a breakfast at Dominie Johan Haasbroek’s house with a cup of coffee and eggs on bread and options of cereals. After that we walked through the grounds to the truck. We were greeted all the way by the residents. Some on their way to drop off their doggies at the doggie creche…yes, the animal kids have a day creche. Hester Coetsee give us a jar of homemade marmalade as a thank you gesture for the deliveries. Dominee Haasbroek tried to take credit for that one as the Grapefruit was from his garden. These oldies live so close and everything is shared between them, a tight knit community that support each other for sanity and survival. We got a warm welcome from all of the recipients at Sunningdale when we arrived at the truck in front of the Main Entrance. The atmosphere was that of a fate or some form of community gathering. People were sharing coffee and having biscuits in the chilly Chinhoyi morning. We offloaded and Bill and Johan took charge of the offload and things went smoothly. We helped some folk to carry their parcels to their vehicles. I met an elderly lady that introduced me to her mother (90) and father (94) what an awesome sight. We gave out double boxes and everyone was shocked and in disbelief of the double rations. Dominie Haasbroek gave a quick speech and prayed for us for safe passage on the road. We then left for Harare. About 20km down the road we had a diesel problem. I requested in Chinhoyi that the valve between the two diesel tanks get opened to make sure we reach Harare with the diesel on hand. Someone closed the valve and we ended up with an air lock in the injectors. We rounded up some local boys to push the truck up and down the road to no avail. Then suddenly out of the blue a driver in a super link stopped and towed us for about 5 kilometres until the airlock was released. Then we were off to Harare, an hour behind schedule.
Our first stop was at Concrete Structure where we pick up a donation of diesel. On arrival we were met by Vic, the owner who had his Electricians check the truck batteries for the starting problem. It was spot on lunch time and we had to wait as there was a diesel truck filling the tanks. As we were sitting in the truck, suddenly a guy knocked on the window and presented us with lunch. Vic had arranged for us to have a warm meal of a steak, a green salad, and a roll. What and unexpected surprise, thanks Vic for the Diesel and lunch.
After refuelling we had to figure out how to deal with the Harare deliveries. The previous drop off point was Marrion’s place and she is no longer able to assist us due to ill health. To Marrion & Mike we THANK YOU for ALL THE PAST YEARS OF ASSISTANCE.
We dropped off the Kariba boxes at the Stadium from where Mark will assist in getting them to Kariba, thanks for your help. Then we had to find John Herbst place. We were to spend 24 hours in Harare and hope everyone would / could collect from the truck. We called Linda at HQ… I was in a flat spin. This could go pear shaped quickly, but we had to make it work. Linda contacted Daniel Koekemoer, the most experienced driver in the ZPSF at this stage. Daniel gave us his Cousin, Michelle’s contact details. Michelle was in, she would assist where she could. I felt a level of relief. Thank you!!! This was my first solo trip as a driver, and I was so unsure of what to expect. Then we were off to John’s place, here we met Leonie Herbst, John’s wife. She took it upon herself to assist with the Harare deliveries and distribution. She and Michelle knew each-other and we set up to meet the next day. John arrived and we had a braai and some “cold drinks”. During which Leonie started planning deliveries and routes and checking name list, this ladies mind was in overdrive and I knew she was on board…. After a hot bath we got some sleep.
We were up and at it bright and early, unpacked the truck and stacked the boxes in order for distribution. Some folks that Leonie had contacted the previous night arrived to collect their goodies. Michelle arrived and the two ladies sorted out who was going to do what, this pair would sort Harare’s deliveries. We had what we needed, a central drop off. Thanks to John and Leonie Herbst and Michelle. Thanks to Daniel for the lead and Linda for always being so resilient.
We left Harare just before 12:00 after bullying Leonie into helping us kick start the truck as we pushed it in her yard, and were off to Marondera where we drop off two boxes for Mike and Peter who meet us at a garage, and then to Rusape (Rest Haven Cottages). At Rusape, we had to wait at the Gate to get permission for access. The Committee has locked the home down for the COVID-19. Once we were granted access and were met as always by all the residents with a spread of home-made sweeties, cakes and a hot cuppa. After having a lunch and visit, we were off to Mutare, this is one of our biggest drop off points. We had a good drive there and arrived after dark and got lost in Mutare…again. Des came and fetched us from the Main road and took us to his warehouse where the truck slept and we went to his house where Sally, his wife was busy preparing supper. We had a hot meal, a cold beer and a good chat. After a hot shower we hit the sack.
We were up early and were treated to a full breakfast and hot coffee before we were off to the warehouse to offload the truck. Des had his team in, and the offload went smooth. Lists and distribution of PPE’s double checked and changes to lists and requirements updated. The empty boxes were reloaded and by 11:00 we were on the road to Masvingo via Birchenough bridge after a push start from Des’s guys. In Masvingo we found that Pioneer was also still in lockdown. We talked to Val Handemark who told us she has not left the home for about 2 months. They were isolating everyone for their safety, I thought this a particularly good idea. Paul, one of the outsider recipients was at the gate and received his box at gate he was not allowed onto the property. We greeted one of the residents at a distance through a window. Then we were off to Zvishavane. We were running extremely late and clearly learning a lot of new lessons on time management. We were due to travel in the dark at the rate we were visiting everywhere, driving at night is something we try to avoid due to animals sleeping on the roads for warmth. We met Mrs. Lynn D’Ewes at her gate in Zvishavane and offloaded the parcels, she had some sarmies for us that we had to take to go with a stern promise of a visit on the second run. We were then off to Shirugwe where we arrived just after dark. There everybody was so excited to see us and all I can say is there were many ladies trying to assist whilst talking at the same time. Organised chaos at its best (I am still a man, one thing at a time). It was good to hear that Geoff was doing much better after his stoke and was at home and has started walking with some assistance. Val Gouws was at his house assisting him, and the rest of the residents were there to assist us offloading and in no-time we were on our way to Gweru. We arrived a Bogies with a warm welcome and a homemade burger and chips made by Aunty Ivy Davis and Daughter Heather. We talked until late and had coffee and then dived into bed.
We left Bogies to collect the empty boxes from Huisvergesig and then departed from Gweru. We got back into Bulawayo at around 10:30. We stopped at the warehouse and left the team to unload the empty boxes and reload the truck with the 2nd load of boxes, while myself and Hannes went to extend the travel coupon for the Truck at the VID department in Byo. As the Truck was classed as commercial and extension would only be valid for 7 days, meaning we had until Saturday 3 July to exit Zimbabwe. We then saw that the TIP also was due to expire on Monday 29 June. We still had a week’s work to do and needed the paperwork to be updated, so myself and Hannes went to the local ZIMRA office to update the paperwork, but due to the COVID-19, the office of the Import Permits was not functioning. We had no choice but to drive to Beit Bridge to update the TIP. We then loaded the ZPSF bakkie with the deliveries for the Byo Outsiders living on the road towards Beit Bridge with the idea to do these deliveries on the same trip.
Myself and Hannes were up early to get to Beit Bridge and deliver the outlaying food parcels on our way to the border. These were off loaded at West Nick and Gwanda. When stopping at Paxies place, we heard that all the cattle feed they have collected had been stolen the previous night, Paxi was waiting for the Police to arrive. We arrived at Beit Bridge at about 12:00 and the extensions were processed by 14:00. We then headed back to Byo. We stopped in Beit Bridge town for some food and I could not believe that two meat pies and two cold drinks cost $400(Zim). When we arrived in Zim, the price of Petrol was $24(Zim) on 23 June, when we woke up on 24 June, the price per litre was $78(Zim) per litre, a 250% increase over night. We got back to Byo just as it was getting dark, we had a warm supper, bath and bed. In Zimbabwe one never knows what you are going to wake up to.
We slept in a little, went to the warehouse and made sure the packing was up to date, got the delivery lists from Angela, Made the changes as received from the first run, collected fuel sponsored by Colbro, Thank you for assisting us in these trying times. Without every last little bit of help from all our donors, these trips and parcels would just not happen.
We rested for the rest of Sunday and mentally prepared for the next few days, this was going to be a hit and run to get the deliveries done and out the border before the TIP and Coupons expired. If we didn’t make it, ZIMRA could impound our vehicles. The plan was to leave on Monday, reach Harare and stay over, day two up to Mutare, day 3 sleep in Gweru and Thursday back in Byo to leave on Friday, leaving 1-day spare for any unforeseen Zim emergency.
Left early the morning got to Gweru where we offloaded at Bogies and Huisvergesig, met with the same guys as before, there was a lot of bantering and joking about receiving a second food parcel so soon. Then we were off to Redcliff. Here we met up with Carol and the residents who helped offload the food boxes and reload the empty boxes.
In no time we were off to Kwekwe. In Kwekwe, Ken Connelly tried to convince us to join in a lunch and we reluctantly had to decline as we were on a tight timeline. We had a quick cup of tea and biscuit under the tree, here we were told how the COVID 19 was affecting the school kids. Those that have the facilities as smartphones, internet and computers can still to some extent receive work and do some learning, but the rest and majority of school kids are sitting at home and for them this year would most likely be lost. People are despondent on how the value of the Zim dollar has dropped once again and it seems the country is repeating a financial crash once again.
Then we departed for Kadoma where Johan Haasbroek, Chris and Danie was waiting. We bypassed Chinhoyi as we double delivered boxes there on the first run. Johan is the area Dominee and covers the whole district. When we got there, Johan had prepared port trotter curry, that would’ve been a sin to refuse, so we had a quick lunch and what a treat that was. While we were eating, Johan had his chef guard the truck outside the house. After lunch, we headed for Harare and hoped to offload before dark. We arrived in good time and offloaded with the help of John, Leonie and James. Then it was time for a braai and some “soft drinks”. Leonie explained her plans with the Harare distribution, we will update the lists and between her and Linda at HQ they can update and streamline the paperwork. The end goal is for the truck to drop and go at a central point, the truck is too big to make the individual deliveries. Leonie is a star. We were still talking in the lounge and noted Frans had faded and I found him asleep …. tired after a gruelling day. John organised some hot water and I had a warm bath before bed.
We were up early and had to get to and offload in Mutare before dark. No time to get lost…. First stop Marondera. Mike was aware we are on the way and this was a short stop at the garage. We met Mike, offloaded for him and Peter and were on our way. Just after the Garage is the last roadblock leaving Marondera and we were pulled off for an inspection when one officer decided to issue a fine for a smooth tire. The price was $400.00 Zim Dollard, about the value of $4.00 US or SA R80.00. The fine had to be issued at the Police Station and we had to pay in Zim Dollars. At the Police Station the officer was going from office to office and no fine was being written. I explained to him that I had no Zimbabwean money as it was worthless, and I could pay in US or SAR. After about 90 minutes of to-and-fro I was cautioned and told to leave. We dropped the officer back at his roadblock and continued our journey towards Mutare. The rest of the trip was fairy straight forward and the next stop was at Resthaven in Rusape. Tony, Sheila, Hilary, Jen and Stu the boerewors roll specialist met us. After offloading and a quick cup of tea, we were back on the road to Mutare. As clockwork, on arrival, Des was waiting with his crew to offload the parcels, bag the parcels for the Eastern Highlands Trust and reload the empties. Before dark we were done and on the way to Des and Sally’s for the night. We are ever grateful for Des and Sally that have taken care of the ZPSF visitors over the years, you guys are awesome.
Wednesday 1st July 2020
We got up early and Sally, knowing we were on a tight lime line, had prepared a Breaky ready to go with beacon, egg and honey toasties. What a legend, the Mom away from home. Des sent us on our way after Frans and Des push started the truck again…. We were on the way to Masvingo where Val at Pioneer Lodge was waiting for us. This is the longest run without stopping in the truck via Birchenough Bridge. At Pioneer we found Val, offloaded and were soon on our way to Zvishavane. This time we had made up enough time to visit at Lynn’s and have tea and sarmies in the lounge not the driveway. After a good hour visit and chat we were back on the road to Shurugwe and the treacherous mountain pass with the worst road in Zim. On the plateau just before Shurugwe we could see the open cast mining all around the countryside. A really horrible thing to see. We got to Shurugwe in daylight and off loaded while we were able to see everyone. Thanks to Cathleen, Carol, Ann, Lena and others that helped to offload the boxes. Soon we were on the way to Gweru and arrived in daylight where Bruce was waiting. We had a good visit with Aunty Ivy and Heather before supper and got to bed fairly early.
We were up early and Bruce assisted in loading the empty boxes and then we stopped at Huis where we got the last of the empties before heading back to Byo. We had a good trip to Byo and off loaded at the warehouse, took stock of the empty boxes and packed them into storage. We were done with the trip and went to Caroline’s to rest up for the road trip back to Malelane the next day.
Hannes, Frans and myself left Caroline and Willem’s before light and set off to the warehouse. We all left Byo as daylight broke and set out for the border. The crossing went without any delays and after crossing into SA Frans joined Hannes in the Bakkie and headed out. I brought up the rear in the Truck.
All got safely back to HQ and the vehicles were stowed for the next run, not knowing when this will be, but we had managed to deliver a double load and the folks should be ok for a while. In the meantime we wait as see whilst the powers that be decide when and how we will be allowed to move, one thing is for sure …WE WILL BE BACK.
Special Thanks to:
Linda at Malelane HQ for always being available to help from afar and have all the documents in order before we leave on the trips.
Hannes, your patience and guidance at the border is inspirational.
Frans for joining me on the trip. I am proud to have you and to have shared this experience with you.
Leonie, John and Michelle for taking Harare under your wing and helping the ZPSF in our mission.
Johan Haasbroek (Kadoma), Des and Sally Bekker (Mutare), Bogies Trust (Bruce and Aunty Ivy in Gweru), Willem and Caroline Nel (Candy, Juan and Anthony in Byo), John and Leonie Herbst (Harare) for feeding us and giving us a place to rest during the trip.
Colbro and Concrete Structures for the fuel donations in Zim.
Every person we came in contact with for your open hearts and welcoming smiles.
Thanks for the opportunity to meet you all.
Head office South Africa contact details:
Linda Schultz – firstname.lastname@example.org – (C) 079 6082676 (T) 013 7900934
Johan Schultz – email@example.com – 082 4979328
Hannes Botha – firstname.lastname@example.org – 084 5893221
Section 21 Co Reg. 2007/034036/08; NPO Number 096733; Section 18A PBO No 930031642