Much has been spoken and written about the country of my birth – the country I grew up in.
Childhood memories of Zimbabwe and its beauty remain some of my fondest. I remember the beautiful and majestic Victoria Falls; the incredible architecture and stonework of Great Zimbabwe; and the gorgeous golden sunsets along the Zambezi river.
I think of Jacaranda trees lining either side of the streets. In spring, their bloom created a beautiful purple carpet along the roads. It seemed to me that everyone had a friendly smile – there was a real sense of hope everywhere I went.
These are unforgettable memories.
Sadly, the Zimbabwe I witnessed during a recent three-week visit paints a different picture – a stark, if not bleak, contrast to my memories.
Zimbabwe once boasted an enviable subtropical climate, excellent rainfall seasons and fertile soil, but climate change and spiralling hyperinflation over the last three decades have altered the social and physical landscape of the country. The once reliable and abundant rains – the backbone of the agricultural sector – have been replaced by long dry spells and extensive droughts. Seventy per cent of Zimbabwe’s population live in the rural areas. They are farmers that rely on agriculture to feed and support their families. Persistent droughts have resulted in little-to-no crop yields and the loss of livestock – the measure of a family’s wealth.
Zimbabwe’s urban population were mostly unaffected by previous droughts. This too has changed, as daily average temperatures soar. In Harare, the main dam supplying water to all households is below capacity. As a result, running water is limited to just one day each week.
Moreover, because of the dire economic situation, Local Councils cannot afford to treat water sufficiently; therefore, the water that does manage to come through the household taps is unsafe to drink. In order to get safe drinking water, most urban families are forced to walk or drive for miles on end, with large containers, to form queues at busy boreholes.