The Pan-African Universities Debating Champtionship began yesterday (Monday the 8th). One of my tasks on Sunday was to take the care the debate organizing commitee is renting to the airport. I was to collect 8 people, 4 from Zimbabwe and 4 from Uganda. Luckily another guy drove his car so we could take them all in one trip. Double luckily the airlines lost all of their luggage so we could fit everyone in our very small vehicles
VW Chico circa 1991. You can still buy these new in Southern Africa.
As it ended up (and appropriatly enough following up on my last blog post from over a month ago) I ended up with the Zims in my car. We had the following conversation.
Me: “So where do you go to school?”
Lucy: “University of Zimbabwe”
Taylor: “It is the only university in Zim that isn’t closed”
Me: “Oh, I see”
Lucy: “But we don’t have any lecturers”
Me: “Because they havn’t been paid?”
Lucy: “For over a year.”
Me: “So do ya’ll stay on campus?”
Taylor: “Campus has not had water or electricity all year”
Lucy: “So it is not sanitary or safe to stay there”
Me: “Oh, so do you commute?”
Lucy: “Most students can’t afford to commute, so they don’t come”
Taylor: “Those that can aford to commute come once or twice a week”
Even though I gathered they probably had not been to class all semester they were still keen on finishing school and their declared majors. Taylor is studying journalism. We both laughed when he said his major. I asked if the atmosphere was still oppressive and he said that even the Intelligence Officers complain openly. The last person left pretended everything is salvageable will be Robert Mugabe. It will be a case of one person believeing a lie at the expense of a nation..
While I have not yet been to Zimbabwe, I have met refugees from there and talked to enough people who have visited there to collect some first hand accounts. I am not going to delve into the history of the situation, but if you truly want to gain an understanding of what is going on there you must read the history.
While I have not yet had taken the opportunity to go to Zimbabwe (or as many call it in casual conversation “Zim”) but I have been close enough to get a taste of what is going on there. While we were going to the Sowa Pans we had a 5 hour layover in Francistown Botswana. Francistown is less than 100 Km from the border with Zimbabwe. And because Zimbabwe usually doesn’t have things like, oh, food and gasoline many Zimbabweans come to Francistown to shop and then take back with them much more than they can carry. Not everyone in Zimbabwe can do this of course, because the Zimbabwe Dollar is at around 1,000,000,000% inflation, so they have to have foreign currency (the Pula, Rand, or U.S. Dollar) to make purchases in Botswana. These monied shoppers come to Francistown and buy in bulk. Food, gasoline, electronics, mechanic parts. As a result every store supplying these items has come to look like a Sam’s Club with discounts offered for bulk quantities. This is good for Francistown, but bad for Zimbabwe as capital flight has become to standard method of spending liquidated money.
Yes, that is a refrigerator on top, and then other stuff is stacked even higher than that. The colorful bags are made of woven plastic (I
So while we were passing time in the direct sunlight to wait for our bus to Sowa Town I decided to go find out what was going on next to the Zim bus. First thing I noticed when I got into the crowd of people waiting in “line” to get on the bus or to get their goods loaded on the bus was that the smells reminded me of Haiti. The smell of human beings, charcoal fires, diesel fumes, and whole leaf tobacco rolled in butcher paper being shared among groups of men. If I shut my eyes and thought about the grime on the bus and everything being loaded on it I could be in Haiti. The major difference is that people ride on top of all that stuff on the roof in Haiti, and the buses are older.