ZIMBABWE: A feasting frenzy, opulence while the ‘povo’ starve

Family and Friends,

As I write this letter from Zimbabwe today deep purple rain clouds hang over my home town, there is neither electricity nor water but there is what the media are calling ‘feasting in a time of famine’ going on not very far away. Seven thousand Zanu PF delegates, VIPs and the country’s top leadership are at their annual conference being held in Goromonzi. Reports of 150 cows to be slaughtered, five tons of chicken and eight tons of maize meal, not to mention bread, rice, fresh produce and more. Ninety buses are providing transport, four boreholes have been drilled for water, a transformer installed for electricity with a standby generator and a car park for thousands of cars has been constructed. Apparently women selling wild fruit on the roadside and little boys watched wide-eyed yesterday as luxury vehicles swung into the venue car park, including a black Lexus sports car.

This frenzy of feasting and opulence is happening at a time when the UN says eight million people in Zimbabwe need international food aid to save them from starvation. This is more than half of our total population. The contrast with the feasting for the few and the reality for the rest of us is this: a standard monthly income of approx Z$400; one single chicken (1kg) in the supermarket today is Z$90; a ten kg bag of maize meal is Z$119; a loaf of bread is Z$18.50; one litre of milk is Z$25; one single mango is Z$20; we have water once a week if we are lucky; we only ever have electricity in the middle of the night between 10pm and 4.30am; the queues for fuel are of many hundreds of cars every day and they are always invaded by men in Zanu PF cars and government vehicles. And in the hospitals, oh God help us is all I can cry out in despair; the few doctors left in government hospitals say they are praying for their patients as they have nothing to help them with: no equipment, no medicine, no supplies. How many people are suffering and dying at home is a number we do not know, a face we cannot bear to see.

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