A land of great divide

2010-09-04 13:52

While one half of Zimbabwe lives large the other has no food.

I leave Joburg in the ­early morning to go to Bulawayo.

A friend wants to go to Gaborone.

I have time to kill and agree to drop him off en route.

The Ramokgwebana border is packed on the Botswana side, but there is no one on the Zimbabwe side.

It takes me 20 minutes and I’m off to my home town.

The first thing that strikes me when I go to the shops in our neighbourhood, Morningside, is that the roads have been fixed.

No more potholes. They now use the same rate as South Africa for the rand exchange to the US dollar.

The highest you pay for the US dollar in Bulawayo is R8.

On Monday I go to Mpilo Hospital to visit a relative.

Mpilo used to be the biggest hospital in Zimbabwe and the name means life.

But there is no life there.

You hear horror stories about the place.

They have tried to fix it up though.

It may be looking better than two years ago but the hospital is not what it should be.

People hang their washing outside the wards because it lacks facilities.

It smells of burning pap and cabbage.

On Tuesday my children and I drive to Harare.

We get to Gweru and go to Chicken Inn.

That is where the changes start.

The rate there is 1 to 10 to the US dollar.

I feel cheated but can’t do anything.

We stop at the Kadoma Ranch Motel, where you can tell that things are getting better heading ­towards Harare.

We arrive in the capital city. There are big cars there.

You may think you are in South Africa.

The difference, of course, is that these cars are fully paid for as there are no credit facilities in Zimbabwe.

I stay with an uncle in a suburb called Sentosa.

He is a bachelor who lives in a five-bedroomed house with two bathrooms.

He recently bought a Land Cruiser and a Caravelle.

He complains about his ­clients not paying him?– he supplies hospitals with medical equipment that he buys from South Africa.

The first night he takes my children and I out for dinner in Milton Park after which we go for drinks at a place called Bolero in Chisipite.

As you walk into these ­places you know the people in them have money.

The US dollar is abundant in Harare. People live large. They have the ­money.

After all they live in fully-paid-for houses and drive fully-paid-for cars.

On Wednesday we go to our rural home of Buhera, just outside the town of Chivhu.

Life there is different from the city.

At least they are not ­suffering like the people in the rural areas of Matebeleland who have to go to Bulawayo for whatever they need.

At Borrowdale Brooke I go to the Spar and it is like I have walked into a Spar in Sandton.

The goods are pricey.

For example, nappies that we can get in South Africa for a reasonable price are US$45 (about R450).

But business is good here.

After all it’s the playground of the rich.

Electricity is still a problem but everyone works around it.

Most households have ­generators.

It’s amazing how, in one country, one part is doing so well and in the other part there is no money at all.

I must add that the dirtiest money in Zimbabwe is the US$1.

This note goes through millions of hands in one day, especially at tollgates.

Driving back to Bulawayo on the Friday, I suddenly feel helpless.

Even if the shops are full, people don’t have money like in Harare.

Oh, but they are survivors. People are more positive and upbeat.

Many will be making the great trek home in the next few years.

I am thinking of making that trip and hopefully there will be something worthwhile for me to do to keep food on the table.

 I hope there will be space for all of us who have left.

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