Just gotta have fun

5 01 2019

The Husqvana Mud Run is an annual charity event held just down the road from my house on the old golf course of the Mt Pleasant Sports Club (now the Jam Tree). There are no prizes and for the entry fee, most of which goes to the KidzCan charity, you can do as many circuits of the assault course as you like. It’s more than a bit slippery due to the heavy clay soil, and more than a bit of added water, so nobody stays clean for long and the fun is infectious. Even as a non-participant I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy the morning. It certainly beats thinking about the current disaster that is the Zimbabwe economy.

I do wonder if this sort of event would be possible in the developed world. I saw very young children completely unsupervised just bumbling along enjoying life.





A country on the brink of disaster

1 11 2016

We in Zimbabwe are apparently teetering on the brink of disaster. The much-dreaded bond notes alluded to in the previous post have been signed into law by President Mugabe (yup, Bob notes are real guys!) and it’s all down hill from here. We are still not sure where they are coming from as the German company behind the printing of the now defunct Zimbabwe dollar refused to print these. Never fear, someone will step up to the plate where there’s money to be made.

Marondera air day. Fun in the name of fund raising

Marondera air day. Fun in the name of fund raising

Going out to an air day organised for charity at Marondera, a small agricultural town 3/4 hour from Harare, on Saturday there was little sign of impending disaster. Vehicles clogged the road and drivers drove badly. There were no queues at filling stations but I’d had to search out low sulphur diesel the previous day as my regular supplier didn’t seem to have it anymore. When we arrived at Marondera aerodrome there was a fair collection of aircraft  both ancient (see the Cessna 182 in the foreground) and brand new – a 2 seat helicopter. I guess it was all small fry compared with a similar event in the civilized world but hey, it was actually happening! The Air Force had even been roped in (camouflage aircraft back left) to supply parachutists for entertainment and paid rides for the public. The parachutists certainly were entertaining with some spectacularly hard landings and bad approaches through trees to the LZ. And yes, I mean THROUGH trees! The inevitable party after the show was over was not well attended and the music was not great either but hey, we could still buy imported beer.

The man in charged of the local parachute school said he was still very busy though it seemed that paramotoring, which is why we were there, is not so attractive as we didn’t have any inquiries. The next day the wind was too strong for us to fly so we packed up, had a late breakfast with our host the other side of town and headed home along a busy road.

Today I am breaking news to my employees that they will no longer be paid in cash and like the rest of us will have to get themselves a debit card. It’s not going to be a popular move but they were warned 2 months ago that this was coming. Cash can now be bought for as much as a 15% premium which can make for a useful bargaining tool when buying. My partner and I have decided to embrace the crisis and have bought a house in a suburb that needs considerable refurbishing before we move in. Surprisingly not all the companies we’ve got quotes from are that interested in cash and only offer a 5% discount but with the bond notes now inevitable that might change. Who knows, we might be able to pay off the mortgage with a few bond notes and actually save a lot of money as they rapidly become worthless. (People who had mortgages in the Zim dollar days were often able to pay them off for a few notes as they became completely worthless.)





VAWZ scruffs show 2016

12 06 2016

It’s that time of year when for just a morning we can forget all the nonsense of living in Zimbabwe, the impending disaster of the bond notes, the pantomime that is politics and just be normal. It’s the annual VAWZ, fundraising, scruffs dog show. All dogs are welcome, breeds and otherwise. There were demonstrations by the Harare Kennel Club including a nearly blind Labarador that insisted on completing the agility course. Tomorrow, well, that’s another day.





AWARE of sanctions

21 07 2011

While waiting for my printer cartridges to be recharged yesterday I picked up a brochure for AWARE (animal and wildlife area research and rehabilitation) which is a really worthwhile NGO/charity set up by Zimbabwe veterinarians committed to help saving Zimbabwe’s besieged wildlife. While browsing their site to see a bit more than was on the brochure I noticed that I could donate through PayPal, my pet hate on the internet. This is why: “Error 3028: You have accessed your account from a sanctioned country. Per international sanctions regulations, you are not authorized to access the PayPal system, For more information about your PayPal account status, contact complianceverification@paypal.com”.

It’s not the first time that I have tried donating to a worthwhile cause and fallen foul of PayPal’s adherence to “sanctions”. In Zimbabwe’s case the sanctions are supposed to be targeted on certain individuals who no doubt find it slightly inconvenient and certainly have the means to circumvent them. Pity the charities and others with no particular political affiliations who are hurt by the system; they certainly don’t have the means, otherwise they would not be advertising.

Now I am sure AWARE  is not looking to Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe for donations but as you can see by the error message, ANYONE trying to make a payment from a “sanctioned” country is blocked. I am sure  with a little bit of effort and thought a system to allow vetted (no pun intended) charities to receive donations through PayPal could be set up. It’s a pity that PayPal seems to have corned this particular market and I am not at all sure that they are actually required to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe (Amazon does not have an issue at all). I am told that there are ways around this that require use of a satellite link that shows the IP address to be other than in Zimbabwe but I could not be bothered to find a satellite link so I guess that PayPal has won this one. AWARE, of course, has lost.





The culture of appearance

10 12 2009

In Zimbabwe as in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa appearance is paramount. It doesn’t matter how successful you actually are so long as you look like you are.

I was reflecting on this on the way out to the Tobacco Research Board this morning to try and nail down a particulary persistent disease problem in our lettuce seedlings. There is a four lane highway (dual carriageway in local parlayance) being built from the airport to the city centre. It is not proceeding very quickly and there were a number of idle construction vehicles on the new road site (I know that the consultant engineers have not been paid for some time). We don’t need a dual carriage way from the airport into town – at least not from the traffic density point of view. That would require more aircraft using the airport than it could handle. So it has to be for appearances. I am told that most of the other southern African nations have a dual carriageway to their airports so I guess we are trying to keep up with the “Joneses”. I cannot believe that it will actually impress the people who count most i.e. the holders of purse strings who know as well as I do that the money would be far better spent on other projects. Traffic lights for one. Health and education for another.

Earlier this week I went past a minor accident on the intersection of Harare Drive and Kew Road. A minibus and a security reaction van had collided and there were injured lying by both vehicles. The only people assisting were two white women (one at each vehicle) – the usual crowd of gawkers gawked. On the way back there were more gawkers and the white ladies were packing up and the police had a arrived. I didn’t see any blacks helping out. I think I am reasonably correct in saying this lack of wanting to help their fellow beings is also represented in the charities in Zimbabwe. I only know of one that was started and run by a black person, the Jairos Jiri Organization though I am not sure that it is still functional. All the others that I know of were started or the idea imported by whites though they obviously have a contingent of black staff. I asked my friend Gary who works with the black community in Gorongoza in Mozambique why he thought this was. He didn’t really know but he told me of a very old black couple who could just about collect water and get to the toilet and back. He asked the locals why they did not help out. It seemed they were concerned that if they did the old folks relatives might accuse them of having designs on the old people’s property.

In the current environment of political correctness it is the done thing to respect another people’s culture. I am using culture in the all encompassing definition; “The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group” as defined in the wikipedia article (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture). To an extent I agree. When I travelled in South East Asia I was careful not to offend the culture of the people I was visiting – anyway, if people appreciate your attitude you are likely to see a lot more. It really irked me to see European girls swimming topless on Thai beaches where there were signs clearly asking them not too. That is insensitive and stupid. I do think the British have got silly about it all in the way that they fall over themselves to be “mulitcultural” and make sure no-one is offended to the extent that they are losing their own culture (they would not dream of walking around Pakistan in miniskirts but seem to think that wearing burkahs etc. in the UK is a good thing). I digress. Some aspects of a group’s culture can be odious by any standards – it was fashionable to burn suspected witches and heretics at the stake in Europe. Fortunately that has changed. I don’t see why the culture of selfishness and appearing to be what you are not cannot be changed here. And there are plenty more attitudes and practices I can think of to add to the list.