Thursday, 21 July 2011

Zimbabwe - it's time to go back

Zimbabwe is regarded more as a catastrophic political situation than a country.  It’s seen the full spectrum of problems that the combination of greed and poor leadership can bring - fraud, intimidation, a completely shattered economy, an unimaginably shocking land redistribution policy and a clear up of the so-called urban slums that destroyed 18% of the population’s homes and livelihoods.  Most notably, the year on year inflation, which was sitting at 32% in 1998, reached all time highs of 231,000,000% in July 2008.

Since taking power in 1980, Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF have worked to bring the country to its knees but they have failed to remove the smiles from the faces of the warm and friendly people that have somehow endured.In the beginning of 2009 a power-sharing deal between Zanu PF and the MDC was signed and since then there have been a few moves in the right direction.  The introduction of the US$ has provided some stability and the stores and petrol stations are once again stocked.  Public workers are being paid and schools and hospitals are open for business.  Even the economic situation has shown some improvement, with the GDP showing growth for the first time in a decade, thanks to high mineral prices and improved agriculture.

The tourist industry that all but died in the first decade of the 21st century is thankfully also seeing some renewed interest.  This is not a huge surprise.  Zimbabwe is home to the friendliest people on the planet with the highest literacy rate in all of Africa (92%).  It boasts the majestic beauty of Victoria Falls which becomes the world’s longest curtain of falling water during the river’s peak flow.  Nature abounds with the spectacular wildlife of Mana Pools and Hwange National Park.  There is the mighty Zambezi River, the gigantic playground of Lake Kariba, the eerie landscapes of the Eastern Highlands and the peaceful mountains of Nyanga.

The continuing worries are food shortage, unemployment, corruption and the warped ideas of an ageing leader, who stated that ‘in most recent times, as the West started being hostile to us, we deliberately declared a Look East policy’.  Hopefully he’s being metaphorical about looking out towards the rising sun and a new dawn for a land that has been savaged for far too long.  Stop reading about Zimbabwe and go see for yourself.  Discover a place of true natural beauty and be part of and witness a regeneration that is inevitable.

The hopes and dreams of most Zimbabweans were summed up very well for my by an anonymous writer in a forum linked to the Zimbawean, an online newspaper.  He asked the old leaders to go fishing and let the youngsters show everyone what they’re made of and take their country into a bright and prosperous future.  I couldn’t agree more.  Change is as good as a holiday, or is it? 

With all of the above in mind we recently decided to drive up into Zim to see for ourselves.  Our route took us through Harare, for a 90th birthday lunch and a walk up the huge granite slab of Dombashava.  Next stop was Kariba, where we first spent 2 unforgettable nights on a houseboat and then crossed the length of dam on the overnight ferry.  From there we travelled across to Victoria Falls, where we spent 2 days, witnessing the Zambezi and falls in full flow and the spectacular fauna and flora that along it's banks.  On the way back South, towards South Africa, we pulled into Hwange National Park, where we gawked at the marvel of its bountiful natural spread.  Huge herds of Elephants and Buffalo, teams of lion and wild dog, and beautiful landscapes, the park certainly hasn't lost all of it's wildlife.  The roads weren't as bad as expected, there was fuel in every station and the police at the 20 plus roadblocks we encountered were fairly courtious.  The people of Zimbabwe are desperate for us to return but more importantly, they are so good at having us.      

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