Tense Times

1 07 2008

OK, I admit it, I have made a list of what to take if I have to make an emergency get-away. It does depend on me making the decision of when to go (rather than it being made for me) and assumes that I will be driving. Most friends with children are getting out of the country until things cool down a bit. Everyone is feeling rather insecure, but as I remarked to a friend it’s very difficult to know when you are being silly by staying and when you are being unnecessarily panicky. It is not as though I have nothing to lose by going; on the contrary, my business is actually surviving which by Zimbabwe standards is good though we can no longer say that we are here for the lifestyle which really was good.

There is also the issue of where to go and what you are prepared to leave behind. Obviously I want Jenni to come with me so that more or less precludes flying anywhere unless I send her on ahead. So if I want to take her I will have to drive and there is no guarantee that the roads will be safe if I wait until the last moment. On top of that there is still an air of “normality”; no burning tyres or chanting crowds, just the endless ZANU-PF “meetings” but quite why they need those now I don’t know. Apparently they are now saying that they will take people to vote farm by farm so that they can check on how they vote! I wonder what it’s like to live in a normal country where all you have to worry about is mortgage repayments and where to spend the summer holidays?

Chatting to my foreman this afternoon he was of the opinion that just about anything to stop the violence was a good idea. This of course carries the risk that the perpetrators are now of the opinion that intimidation works (which it has done) and can be resorted to at any time. He, the foreman, went to a rally on the weekend where they were instructed to write down the serial number of their voting slip and then would have to report to the local ZANU-PF Youth League (hired thugs) where it would be recorded so that they could check up on whom had voted and how.

On my list of things to take under “photo albums” is “stamp albums”. I have not collected stamps since I was a child so this actually refers mostly to my father’s collection made when he was a child. Some of the stamps are in excess of 120 years old though not, unfortunately, particularly valuable. I have just been sorting through my collection of First Day Covers, bought largely by my mother when I was at university. The earliest though is dated 2nd July 1953 in commemoration of the Royal Tour of Southern Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was then) and stamped on the Royal Train the single stamp is valued at 6d. When we metricated in the early 1970’s (I forget when but I think it may have been 1971) 6d became 5c and must have been quite a sum because I DO remember being allowed to spend 10c a week at the tuck shop (I was a border all my school life) and LOTS of sweets could be bought for that! In 1980 there was still a 1c stamp on the First Definitive Issue which was basically the Rhodesian stamps re-issued with Zimbabwe printed on them. Thereafter First Day Covers did not have less than 9c. The Second Definitive Issue in 1985 also had a 1c stamp though I cannot think it could have been used very much. My mother died in 1992 and the last First Day cover I have is dated 1994 on which the smallest denomination is 35c. I lost interest after that even though I occasionally spot the posters for new issues in the post office. They are inevitably for issue dates that have past because who goes into a post office these days? I don’t have much interest either in themes such as “Heroes of the Zimbabwe Liberation”. I used to use stamps to send out customer’s statements but we are cash only now and anyway, by the time I would be able to get the money back it would be less than the value of the stamp. Oh, and they don’t even bother putting the value on the stamp; there is just a “Z” and they charge whatever the current rate happens to be.

On the lighter side; a customer came in this morning to collect an order but could not pay cash as we require (cheques take too long to clear and devalue some 50% before we can use them). I said that I would take any asset as payment. He said what about a pig? I did not really want a live one. Ok, he would slaughter it then. So we struck a deal; 30kg of pork hind quarter for his order!

Chatting to a friend’s wife last night she mentioned that she’d been to a supermarket for some basic shopping and had to wait 2 hours to pay. The hold up was that no-one had cash so were using their debit cards. But the machine could only deduct 100 million dollars at a time so multiple swipes per purchase were necessary. The debit card print out of her purchase for six items ended up 7.5m long!



One response

2 07 2008
Big Blister

I’m glad to hear from you as I was getting concerned. Also glad you have an evacuation plan, and hope you have a plan B for that as well…


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