The Kevin Wood Story
Kevin will launch his remarkable story next week in book form at a
in Johannesburg. Many of you will not have heard his name before. We
him as one of the men who were arrested and then convicted for
undertook as a double agent working both for the CIO in Zimbabwe and
South African Intelligence services.
He was not alone in that sort of role in the decade that followed our
independence in 1980. In fact I had first hand experience of this sort
thing when the husband of a secretary working in my office in Bulawayo
assassinated outside his home by South African agents who had
to become a double agent. He had refused and they had decided he was
dangerous to leave alone.
In another incident about the same time, a member of staff discovered
arms cache in the roof of his home and I well recall him walking into
office, as white as a sheet, to ask what he should do. We told him to
the Police and let them find out who was responsible. He did and
he had a rough few hours, he was not accused of any misdemeanor and
back to work the following day.
In another incident - this time not involving a member of staff but a
who was ranching outside Bulawayo. He came back to the ranch to find it
swarming with police and army. They had found a substantial arms cache
the farm and one of his managers had been responsible. The South
had been flying arms into the country in light aircraft and by flying
they had avoided detection. The manager went to jail for many years
But it is not Kevin's story about what he did and whom he worked for
those days that intrigued me - it was the account of how he survived.
As he tells it, he did not see his children for two decades, was held
in a small cell for five years in absolute solitude. The food was very
and amenities zero, dirt and disease were his every day companion.
for clemency and for his release, even by Nelson Mandela as President
South Africa, went unheeded. Suicide was always an option and he
about it every day. But he survived and now is rebuilding his life in
Africa with his family.
The question he tries to answer at one point was how he survived and
a lesson we can all learn from. He says in his book that he just
himself that he had to survive until tomorrow.
Yesterday I had to go out at night with a truck and collect maize meal
a miller. He would not sell me maize meal for our staff during the day
many police and people he said. He would not give me an invoice as he
charging me a price that was three times the official price. If I were
able to do that our staff would not have their primary staple food to
There is no bread available, no meat, no oil and no fats. My latest
calculations for inflation - based on two weeks trading in October is
percent. The US dollar is trading at over a million, for free funds
the country in reasonable quantities (US$10 000) the price is Z$1 500
1. That is three times what it was trading at the in early September.
These sorts of devaluation numbers are like a jet flying across the
can see the jet, but the sound trails a long way back depending in part
the speed of the jet. The faster it flies, the further behind is the
In the same way we can fully expect these massive devaluations to be
translated into price inflation within a short period. It makes our
literally worthless, no matter how much you hold.
When he died, my fathers pension, after 32 years of work in a single
organisation, was Z$290 a month. Today a loaf of bread costs Z$100 000
000.00 in the same currency. When this sort of devaluation is taken
with the massive impact of the price controls, where stores are
empty, makes life here a real mission. How to survive? Take one day at
time, no more, and if you see the dawn, celebrate your victory.
Lets remember that we are not the first to face conditions such as
we are in good company in a historical sense. I can recall hearing a
survivor of the Gulag speak at a Christian conference in Switzerland in
late 70's. He recalled 15 years in solitary confinement in a filthy
with grass on the floor and damp in the walls. He was now resident in
West and much fêted.
He said in a moving part of his talk that evening that when he was in
cell, he felt much closer to God than he ever felt in the West and that
sometimes he longed for the reality that that experience had brought to
of the meaning of life itself. After the collapse of the wall in Europe
between East and West he went home.
We are not locked in a cell like Kevin was, but we are prisoners unless
choose to leave. Those of us who choose to stay have to ask ourselves
we survive until change comes? Kevin said it all - one day at a time.
It is not going to be easy or painless, but we will survive Mugabe and
will see change in Zimbabwe, and when we do, we will be able to rebuild
lives and our country and benefit from the experiences we have gained
individuals and as a nation since this nightmare began.
Last weekend we held a workshop in Harare to go over our proposed
for a new Zimbabwe. For this purpose we invited people from all walks
life to come and go over each portfolio and to brainstorm with us about
future. I never expected the outcome - those attending said that it
dynamic and encouraging activity and they were grateful to be allowed
participate. Then I realized what had happened - we had taken a
prisoners out of their cells and allowed them to see the new world
The SADC talks are in their final phase and we will shortly see the
I am satisfied from what I know of the decisions reached so far that we
going to get a shot at a half decent campaign and election. It will
up to us - all of us, to make the decision as to who will carry the
our country into the future. In the meantime - just take it one day
time and help each other survive.
Bulawayo, 24th October 2007