Visit Home December 2009

Posted on 19/01/2010

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There are a few disclaimers I feel I must state before embarking on this little ‘write-up’. In any order really but – I love my family, my country and my God. I took this same and typical life philosophy with me when I went home as I attempted to ‘really’ observe the daily life issues many Zimbabweans deal with. I must also state that I went home on a ‘fact finding mission’ as I am planning on moving home this year. I needed to know if I ‘could really hang wit it’.

By virtue of the family and the  project currently underway my trip back home was always going to be ‘a working holiday’. I landed on a Wednesday afternoon (5:30pm-ish) and headed straight to work, passing through one spot to greet the staff and catch up before heading home for dinner. I promised Mum I would be home for dinner on the 16th December and true to my word I was home for dinner.

The next day was Thursday and I had a few meetings to attend once again with staff and management as I was brought up to speed with the overall business, business conditions and the general welfare of everyone. I spoke to everyone dedicating 25/30 minutes to each staff member to find out how life was going, how their families were doing. I learnt a great deal from these chats. Some of these guys have worked for the family for over 10 years now and have seen me grow and become who I am today. I make it a point to remember their individual stories e.g. their family structure, wife’s name (mistresses name where applicable), children and their details – how many and what stage they are at in their lives, etc. As usual the guys are shocked at how much I still remember. I take an interest in these small and yet important things.

The first day was spent gathering information and observing. My ‘other’ first point of call was the supermarket – to assess how full they really were and what percentage of these products were domestic vs. South African/imports. I needed to know what USD$1 could buy you – what does it mean to the average person on the street. Transport from Chitungwiza/Norton to the city is USD$1 whereas it’s USD$0.50 within Harare. There’s an interesting transaction going on with transport actually, one can pay for this using Zim dollars @ $3 billion, Rand @ R5 or USD$0.50. I found that very interesting that in all the reports I’ve read no one ever mentions the Zim dollar aspect…so yes it’s still in circulation. I compared supermarkets from Arundel Spar, TM in Nelson Mandela Ave, Queensdale Spar and several supermarkets in the high density areas namely Highfields, Glen Nhora, Budiriro in an attempt to get a proper feel for what is going on and how people are really surviving. One thing I have to say at this junction though– the majority of these news reports are fictitious nonsense meant to paint a doom and gloom scenario of life in Zimbabwe. Most people I spoke to (and I spoke to a lot of different people) compared Christmas 2009 with Christmas 2008. The 2008 Christmas was hard for everyone even the 2% at the top. Inflation was a real problem in 2008 e.g. someone going kumusha during the Christmas break would have to budget for increased transport costs for the return leg. In other words, the trip there would cost $50 billion and the return leg would now be $100 billion – all in a matter of days! Yes the situation is not yet 100% by any means but there are some massive improvements overall. Yes the wealthy continue to be wealthy however the balance is improving ever so slowly. According to Biti, the country has been broken down into 3 classes: –

3% – upper class,
12% – middle class
85% – lower class.

Yes I did see this when I was home however I also saw changes that will eventually move some of the 85% into the middle class. Personally this middle class is my main concern. These are the guys that prop up an economy with their savings and more importantly their spending habits.

The other aspect to this trip involved the fact finding mission – where is this country going and what can I personally do to help to rebuild? – This is of course in line with my ‘I love my country’ stance mentioned above. Too long now we have stood on the wayside screaming ‘help Zimbabwe’ when in fact most of us have done very little to assist. It doesn’t take that much to assist really and I have many examples.

Stay tuned for Zim update part (ii)

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Posted in: Zim