Every story is different.
I am 70 years of age. My husband died on 30th May this year and I was left destitute because his only child, from a previous marriage did not want to share any inheritance. Suffice to say, I had no option but to survive and the only way I could do so was to sell my furniture, my jewellery and anything else I had just to earn some valuable USD. The house in which I live, was purchased by my husband’s company and with careful saving, growing my own vegetables and limiting myself to one meal a day, I’ve kept going.
I am luckier than most, but only because I still have the ability to ‘make a plan’. I couldn’t afford a dentist, so I pulled my own teeth. I couldn’t afford a doctor, so I stitched a dog’s bite on my arm with needle and thread. I look after an African family who have nothing – all seven of them – ensuring they get food, medication and whatever else I can find to keep them going. I have a young white family living in cottage, with their two babies – and a young bachelor, living in a thatched rondavel, whose salary doesn’t even cover his basic needs – and together we form a ‘family’ keeping our eyes out for each other and doing the best we can can to keep going.
And – yes, we old biddies ARE PROUD! We have every reason to be. The only thing I have plenty of, is loneliness and spare time, and I have already put out feelers to join up with some NGO to go to the rural areas to help with the cholera epidemic. I am not a qualitified nurse – but I care deeply and I know how desperate the situation is outside. I have not had much luck, because possibly they think me ‘too old’. But I am not! My whole life has been directed towards looking after disabled servicemen, orphans, and now the indigenous folk of this country.
The author of this article must not forget that there are those of us who are fighting -not only for our own lives – but for those of our countrymen. Most of the posh cars seen on the roads belong to Government personnel who have more than you can imagine to spend on themselves.
How did I manage it? Well, let me tell you. Before my husband passed away, he decided to sell his antique furniture and only one cabinet was sold. I held onto that money, even though it meant going hungry and bit by bit over the months that followed, I was able to keep adding to that money by painting and selling my work.
I heard of two old people who lived in a disused staff quarters. They used to own a house and a car, but found themselves with nothing when they had their land and their home stolen. A kind African let them live in a shed on his property. On their anniversary the wife went out and sold her jewellery and her wedding ring. She and her husband of over forty years decided they would have one last night out on the ‘town’ and they went to a hotel and had a great dinner, dancing to music of their past. When the ‘party was over’ they returned to the broken down shack, curled up into their blankets on the stone floor, and shared a glass of the wine they had left from their night out, and the left-overs. They poisoned themselves and they were found together holding each other in their arms as they couldn’t bear to see another day.
Remember, every story is different. I am still here. I refuse to let go. There are too many people left in this country who need compassion, care, and hope to go on.
There are organisations and charitable groups who try to help, but the solution lies with all of us here – black and white and coloured – to start caring for each other and we try! It takes more than courage,.it takes fury and grief to explode into action. I have taken in people who have had their families murdered in cold blood, and experienced such fear you cannot imagine it the enormity of it. I have sat up through the nights watching the house and listening for intruders. There are so few of us left now – hardly even 2000, as you state. But we are still here and we won’t leave until this is done.
Today, in the main city of this country I ventured, and I saw a populace of ‘stick figures’ robotically going about their business, faces closed and dull. Starvations, AIDS, cholera, anthrax,. extreme poverty, has robbed them of all hope. It was not all those years ago, we saw glossy fat women with their babies. Today I did not see one small child on the back of a mother. The High Court was empty today. No staff. So I could not get along with the Estate of my late husband, but that no longer seems so important. Everywhere we see the portrait of Robert Mugabe in every government building, but nobody looks at it much any more. Fly speckled and faded from the sun, he just hangs there as a reminder of the horrors he can impose if we don’t do what he demands.
I live not far from Government House, and in the past we could hear the screeching, wailing sirens of his entourage proclaiming ‘the master’ is in our presence. Today, there is less fanfare and more secrecy of his journeys because he is afraid – and that’s good! We’ve been afraid for too damn long. And that fear has persisted as babies died, wives abducted and hideously bludgeoned to death in nearby fields. This is Zimbabwe. I am a white widow. I have no intention of leaving this land in which I have spent my entire life. I belong here as much as my darker skinned country man. I love this country, and the people who inhabit it. And that is why I am a proud Zimbabwean. Every day we receive a small gift – be it a couple of tomatoes from someone’s garden, or a small bunch of flowers – that’s Christmas. We are poor – but we are richer in other senses nobody can understand unless they go through the torments this country has faced over many years. We yearn for some light at the end of the tunnel, but we refuse to pick up arms and kill others as we have been killed. We wait for justice, but not from us; from a Power beyond our capacity. It will come! Perhaps the world can learn from us????
To all those who live elsewhere and who have never experienced the deprivation that just one man can dole out to millions, let me tell you, it is a testing experience that does not scream out for compassion, nor for money, but hope of a better time one day. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for caring for those who cannot care for themselves. It’s this that makes the world a better place. There are many here who do what they can to make the ‘oldies’ leave this vicious world, feeling loved regardless of their colour.
This is just my story. Multiply it a thousand times – and include the human greed that makes it harder for us to withstand the hardships, but which is prevalent in all humanity regardless of race and creed. Above all, learn from it, because – but for the Grace of God there goes You.”
An old White Zimbabwean!