For me this country exercises its magic each year in April/May. The rains
are over but we still have green grass in many areas, there is water in the
rivers and streams and crops are drying off in preparation for harvest. At
the same time temperatures are dropping fast and the days are shorter,
nights crisp and clear with brilliant star-lit skies that stretch forever.
Humidity is near zero.
It is also the time when our aloes work their magic - suddenly blooming
where life seems only hard and unrelenting. There is just something about
the pale yellows, pinks and reds that typify the winter flowers of our
aloes. Perhaps it's the backdrop of gray granite and bright yellow grass;
perhaps it's the little sunbirds in their bright colors. Perhaps it is all
of these things taken together, for me, it is what I call May magic.
With the air still clean and reasonably free of the smoke and dust that
comes later, the light at this time of the year also often casts a spell
over the veld. The vast stretches that spread out in front of us at an
escarpment, the evening glow that seems to illuminate all life with special
significance. That time in the evening when the sun retreats and the moon
rises, when the Hueglins Robin sings from his hiding place and then the
quiet cry of the Nightjars takes his place.
Just the other evening I sat on the stoep and listened to the evening sing.
A thin sliver of a new moon rose with the evening star cupped in its curves,
so bright that it positively twinkled at me. This is better than a Disney
fantasy I thought and it is all ours for free!
Somehow there is also magic in the Lowveld. Although I have spent much of my
life on the Highveld, it is the Lowveld that has always symbolized the real
Africa. Here the environment is colder, hotter and more arid. Here the trees
must fight for life and bear the scars of that struggle. Here the colors
somehow seem so much more vivid; by contrast the winter Europe is a pale
shade of gray and its summer green. Here the variety of life is vast and
bewildering - a thousand species of birds, animal life from the smallest
shrew to the great gray ghosts of the Elephant. Everything in abundance from
insects to snakes and reptiles. Life is never taken for granted; everything
knows life is a precious gift to be enjoyed everyday.
Ever since I was a small boy growing up on a Matabeleland Ranch, I have
expected winter to arrive on or about the 15th of May. This year was no
exception. An artic front came across the Cape, spread upwards and inwards
and if we had any moisture in the atmosphere, brought snow and ice. In the
Lowveld, with zero humidity, it simply froze our birdbaths and garden pipes
and killed our frost sensitive plants. I saw a small garden font still
frozen solid at three in the afternoon on a brilliant clear blue-sky day.
This sudden arrival of winter, in a country where people do not heat their
homes and do not have access to warm clothing, brings with it, its own
threats and dangers. In Johannesburg 54 people died of exposure on the first
In Zimbabwe where the majority of the people displaced by Murambatsvina are
still homeless and destitute, no one knows what our death toll was - no one
is counting. In South Africa where 3,5 million Zimbabweans have fled, the
majority as illegal migrants without rights, many must have died in their
makeshift shacks and hovels in the over crowded slums outside all major
Cities. No one is counting. Many will simply be buried where they died, not
enough money to get them home, nowhere to bury them decently.
So for some, May is magic, for many others it's the start of another long
cold winter. This time a winter with 10 000 per cent inflation, no work, no
means of heating or cooking at home and many hungry nights. The minimum wage
for a farm worker is Z$38 000, that is two loaves of bread or 4 kilograms of
maize meal. A bottle of cooking oil is now Z$50 000, meat is Z$60 000 a kilo
for low grade cuts. Under these circumstances many simply give up working -
why waste the energy, rather turn to crime or begging or simply pack a few
things in a bag and hitch a lift to the SA or Botswana border. Walk 50 or 60
kilometers inland and then head for the nearest slum to find someone who
will take you in and show you the ropes.
I do not know how much more of this we can take. Those who are brokering our
future must work with haste; life is at stake on a huge scale. It astonishes
me how those who have created these disastrous conditions in our land but
who themselves are protected by the very policies that give them lives of
luxury and pleasure at our expense, show no sign of their culpability or
shame. They drive their fast cars and flaunt their wealth while the evidence
of their failure is all around them. It makes no impact and they actually
think this can go on forever!
Well I have news for them, seasons change and every season has its own life.
Regional leaders in the SADC have decided that the crisis in Zimbabwe simply
cannot be allowed to drift on indefinitely, South Africa wants, needs,
closure. The spectre of the World Cup to be staged in May/June 2010 provides
one pressure point, the flood of refugees from Zimbabwe, another. Against
this backdrop, the men and women who are brokering a deal are now aware of
When negotiations finally get underway soon, they will be against the
backdrop of a clear definition of just what the international community will
accept as an outcome, they have their own rules as expressed in the SADC
democratic protocols as the minima that must be satisfied. All that remains
is the translation of these background conditions to the talks into the
Zimbabwe situation and a form of language that Mr. Mugabe will understand.
Then hopefully we can get down to a meaningful election campaign and vote as
a people based on our basic citizenship and decide who is going to lead us
out of this smelly Zanu PF quagmire. All we then ask is that the rest of you
respect our wishes and help us get back on our feet - from then on we will
look after ourselves. When that happens we can give you an open invitation
to come and enjoy the magic of our country and its people.
Bulawayo, 27th May 2007