Zimbabwe: “Things have fallen apart”
I used to be amazed by do it yourself D.I.Y shops but never thought this concept would just take one nation by storm. Zimbabwean people have become D.I.Y experts. With the absence of a government for almost a year and collapsed amenity services in all our towns and service centres the people have resolved to be in charge of their own destiny in a big way.
I learnt it the hard way at the beginning of cholera outbreak when those in the neighborhood were called upon to ferry neighbors to functioning clinics, thanks to UNICEF and MSF doctors etc who kept some of health centres open. This job would have been done by public ambulances but because they are not there some of us had to come to the rescue of the affected.
I went to the nearby clinic carrying those affected by cholera five times in one night. Each time I ferried a cholera victim my car had to be sprayed and worse still I was also sprayed on too. I would be instructed to close my eyes and turn around as a spraying machine was charged at me. My body would ache each time this was done. I was afraid that I was either going to be the next cholera victim or the aching I was experiencing would affect my body. You never know the side effects of being sprayed on five times in one night.
One family thought that people were being asked for money to be treated. This family decided to call Vaporofita/Prophets/faith healers for a healing session. At being advised that the clinics were treating people free of charge I was asked again to ferry them there. I quickly informed them too that my ‘ambulance’ was also free. The family thinks they owe me their lives up to this day. No one lost life to cholera in our neighborhood because we took this concept of D.I.Y seriously. This we soon dubbed, doing it yourself to your neighbor (D.I.Y.T.Y.N).
All sectors of live now are D.I.Y infused in such a way that we are our own bankers. People keep money at home. More so this time when all and sundry have foreign currency (forex) and we are not being asked where we got it. Most people here do not have forex accounts so when it comes to banking we do it the D.I.Y. way
D.I.Y has even been extended to the school system. When the schools did not function for the greater part of last year parents hatched a plan to hire teachers either to come to their homes or send their children to a teacher’s home for private lessons. I found out yesterday that this practice is still going on in spite of the fact that schools have been opened officially.
Teachers are still on strike over salary dispute. After 4.00 pm they come home to take their home classes. Their rates range from USD1 to 10 USD per child per day. The lucky ones are laughing all the way to the D.I.Y banks. Parents will only be relieved when the school system goes back to normal and then they will not have to pay extra money just to have their children properly taught.
Sewage problems have become the eye sore of our old built suburbs. Those who are in newly built areas and can afford to dig septic tanks are doing so in their back yards. No one knows the long term effect of such practices. Local communities are raising money (in forex) to pay private service providers to unblock sewage pipes. Soon the problem is back and more collections are called for.
Until when, people are asking? To survive this ordeal people have created jokes around sewage problems. They go like this: “It’s like you are not in Zimbabwe when you do not smell the sewage.” “We can no longer eat sadza/food when we do not smell the sewage.” We have been reduced to such inhuman tendencies. God forbid!
In most council areas there are no bills of anything ranging from water to electricity charges. There are no meter readers who used to come around. Individuals have decided to go to Council offices to pay. Once you are there you are asked to pay anything/any amount. They are happy if you pay large sums. No one at the Council offices knows who owes what because the systems of governance in these areas have actually collapsed.
Ironically people pay for water which is not there. Residents have dug their own wells. They also pay for electricity which is hard to come by to the extent that those who can afford have bought generators to provide electricity to their homes. Firewood has become the main source for cooking for the ordinary folk in towns. It’s a scandal!
One good lesson Zimbabwean people will never forget is to D.I.Y. This is the positive side of our suffering. So Zimbabweans when we complain let us not forget that we have some positives that have come from our suffering. We have learnt to work together as communities, to feel for each other and above all to be thy sister’s/brother’s keeper.
The theme of Chinua Achebe’s book “Things Fall Apart” describes our context so well. Long live Chinua. God bless.