Saying goodbye

19 01 2007

One of the more painful things one has to endure about living in Zimbabwe is saying goodbye to friends who for a variety of reasons, often economic, find it impossible to stay in the country.

Yesterday, Fred, an oldish customer of 70 odd, called by to drop off an old paraglider of his son’s and say goodbye. Both he and his wife had decided that they could no longer realistically get by in Zimbabwe’s deteriorating economy and were going “back” to the UK. I put back in quotes because after 45 years in a country it really becomes your home. I could see Fred was not at all happy with the prospect but he is luckier than most in that he does have a bolt hole to head for and he and his wife will get looked after even though he is used to working for his living – the idea of drawing the dole or pension or whatever state assistance he will be entitled to was deeply disturbing. It’s a funny thing with us older Zimbabweans, we were brought up to understand that you work for your living and only once you had earned your pension could you feel entitled to it.

Fred and I are not close friends but he is such a nice, gentle guy that I could not help but feel sad for him and more than a bit depressed that yet another “Zimbo” was abandoning the obviously sinking ship! He lost his farm in a particularly unpleasant manner some years ago. They were farming about 1/2 hr out of Harare to the north on a model farm that he’d built up over the years. I remember going through a cotton crop that was truly spectacular an complimenting him on it. He was justifiably proud of it. When the time came to go they were given 2 hours to pack up and get off. A lot of personal belongings had to be left and the invasion was immaculately timed to allow the invader to reap the potato and soya crops with negligible input and take over a fully functioning dairy. The new “owner” went up to Fred’s eldest son, snatched the Leatherman multitool off his belt and said “Mine!” I have that snippet first hand. There was nothing the son could have done, the snatcher was surrounded by goons.

Fred’s parting comment to me was, “You know, I came out to this country 45 years ago with nothing, and now I’m going back to the UK with nothing”.  He is not the only one.


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