LIVING IN BULAWAYO: HOW TO GET BY


We were accommodated  in a relative’s spacious house in Burnside, enjoying the magnificent thatched  verandah, the swimming pool, the resident maid.

The beautiful thatched verandah looking on to the pool

Although our stay was brief, I  gained some fascinating insights into daily life in modern Zim.

There are  bizarre anomalies. For instance: a big, flat screen TV in the lounge, connected  to DStv (satellite) television, but in the back yard the maid is washing clothes  in a zinc bath, parked on the dusty earth, with a green hose pipe delivering  water onto the laundry……  from high tech to basics.

You need to  be resilient and inventive to live comfortably in Zim.  You definitely need your own generator,   because there are regular daily power cuts that are arranged on a wildly  complicated timetable.  A local explained  the system to me, but it left me baffled. There was a gas stove in the kitchen,  in addition to the electric stove, and we had to use the gas daily, when the  power went off.

To my  surprise there is now a SPAR store in Leander Avenue, a new addition to the  area. It provided us with good Portuguese rolls, and one of the best croissants  I ever ate in my entire life.  Further  down the Hillside Road was the newish TM Supermarket, a big store, in a new  shopping centre where all the shops were filled with merchandise. As opposed to  the tatty, bedraggled, old shopping centre at Bradfield, where more than half  the shops were closed, or empty, and those that were operating were grubby and  third rate.

No more empty shelves, and anxious shoppers  clutching kilogrammes of useless Zim-dollars, queueing on a rumour that there  might be fresh supplies of cooking oil, or mealie meal. Those days appear to be  over. I walked round the TM Supermarket looking with interest at the  shelves.  About 75% of the goods were  South African imports, while dairy products, fresh produce, biscuits, cereals,  mealie meal were local brands.  I saw no  convenience frozen foods, and only one small freezer compartment offered a  selection of frozen peas.  No Woolies  ready-meals here!

We compared  the food prices and they were much of a muchness, even taking the US  dollar/rand exchange rate into account. However, diesel and cigarettes were  cheaper than in SA.

You need to  be on your toes when driving as there is often a happy disregard for road  rules, especially in the city centre. Not to mention the traffic lights, some  of which are not working.  I commented on  the number of dented and bashed up cars driving around, and a local explained  that panel beating was just too expensive. Fortunately the climate is so dry  that rust damage is not an issue. I suppose if you are a local resident you  learn to avoid the suburban roads that are dangerously potholed, or where the  tar surface has worn away leaving dangerous little islands of black amidst the  corrugations. No doubt you learn which culverts to avoid, where the guard rails  are dented, broken or missing, where the vegetation has choked the storm-water  drains which must lead to flooding in the summer. Roads and public buildings  are just not maintained. If you don’t like this, then you’d better go and live  in another country.

I commented  on the random patches of olive green pain I kept seeing on electrical  sub-stations and walls around the city.  Someone dryly informed me that although no government buildings (e.g.  hospitals & schools) had been painted in over 20 years, the olive green  paint disguised MDC political anti-government slogans, and the blotting out had  occurred within two or three days of the slogans appearing.  To my amusement I saw a whole rash of pro-MDC  (opposition party) / anti-government slogans decorating a long stretch of wall  that bordered Bulawayo’s one and only mental hospital, Ingutsheni.  It seemed appropriate somehow.

Nothing about Zimbabwean politics or  government makes much – or any – sense.
Once you have grasped that the country is run by a cabal of despotic,  greedy, corrupt people and that outraged Western bleating is not going to make  any difference, then you have begun to grasp the realities of life, politics,  and the bottom line in Africa.  Westminster style democracy? Don’t be silly. Get a grip. Take a reality check, and then swallow a very large chill pill. You’re going to need it.

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2 Comments

Filed under ZIMBABWE

2 responses to “LIVING IN BULAWAYO: HOW TO GET BY

  1. This is absolutely fascinating.

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    • Glad you found it interesting; but I think it would exhaust me to have to cope with all these difficulties on a daily basis. One thing to zip in and out on a holiday, another thing entirely to deal with the daily grind.

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