ELELE(5)

Zimbabwe.

Urenna had finally arrived. It has been eight years since she last visited. The sun had gotten hotter, the land drier, and the money more useless. Mugabe is still and power and the old man is going nowhere. Apparently he wants to be president for life. Sometimes opposition come but they always wither. Elections in both 2002 and 2008 had seen Mugabe victorious over Tsvangirai who appeared to be a tough nut to crack. The controversy of 2008 was slightly more than that of 2002 as reports stated that Tsvangirai had taken 47.8% of the vote placing him ahead of Mugabe, who received 43.2%. But as it is no longer news, the lesser is the greater in Africa;16 became higher than 19 in Nigeria anyways. Tsvangirai many believed was intimidated into withdrawing from the re-run of the elections that year.

 She remembered Victoria Falls, her best sight. Her father took her there the last time she visited.

The traders on Livingstone Bridge at the border with Zambia were visibly happy in the noonday sun. In their hands were thick bundles of Zimbabwean money, to be sold as souvenirs to the tourists who came newly to Zimbabwe. Anyone who looked at such beautifully colored notes, with a long row of zeroes on it, could easily notice that something has gone terribly wrong in Zimbabwe. There, at Victoria Falls and in view of the mighty waterfalls in the distance, visitors were coming into a country which for many people in the international community  is fast becoming a danger to humanity. A Zimbabwean state that people argued  was once upon a time a model state, the breadbasket of Africa, until President Mugabe took office and took all lands of the white farmers in 1990, the country’s economy has been sliding ever deeper into the pits. In 2008 the currency collapsed and hyperinflation made the Zimbabwean dollar worthless. A coalition government emerging from the ruins has remained fragile. So most tourists cross the border at Victoria Falls only for a brief visit, for a chance to see the waters of Africa’s fourth-longest river plunge 108 meters over a 1,700-metres long edge. Scarcely anyone travels to the interior. Yet the country is relatively safe for foreign visitors, but Ure was African, so there no need to fear. She remembered her seven-hour ride to Bulawayo, 440 kilometers away from Victoria falls. In what is Zimbabwe’s second-biggest city located in the middle of the country, the political instability seemed forgotten. Victorian-era houses line the streets, and there are shopping malls, internet cafe’s and restaurants. Men in expensive suits were reading newspapers in a Swiss cafe, while American pop music thundered from the ‘Baku Club’ in the Bulawayo Center. Hollywood films were showing in the cinemas and expensive all-terrain vehicles from Europe are parked on the sidewalks. During a stroll through the streets of Bulawayo, such impressions are confusing, considering that Zimbabwe ranked 6th in the ‘Failed States Index 2011’ of the US group The Fund For Peace. The risk that the state may collapse was higher than Iraq. From Bulawayo, she went to two UNESCO-declared World Heritage Sites – the ruins at Khami and the cave paintings in the Matopo Mountains, where the British colonial politician Cecil John Rhodes lies buried. It was after him that Southern Rhodesia – today’s Zimbabwe – was named. In the marketplace of Bulawayo, a woman trader was complaining about  the desolate economic situation. ‘This here is the real ruins of Zimbabwe,’ she said, drawing a link between the economy and the country’s most important archaeological site, some 280 kilometers from the city of Masvingo. The sand-colored ruins of Great Zimbabwe were warm from the afternoon sun. Lizards sat atop the rocks, while monkeys were climbing among the eucalyptus and the muhacha trees with their sweet fruit. Hardly any tourists were to be seen, while a park guard is dozing in the shade. The fallen city that he was there to guard was more than 500 years old. The powerful Mutapa Empire had existed here long before the first Europeans ever set foot in what today is Zimbabwe.

The cab man taking her to her father’s house seemed to want to talk, but Ure was having none of it, she was more interested in seeing her father…

NB: ELELE has now come to an unexpected halt. It has been an interesting journey writing this story so far, and I would continue later but for now, it’s goodbye from me.

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