Appropriate technology

24 08 2013

Freightliner truckThis is a Freightliner truck. An American brand they are popular in Zim ever since a number were imported from the Middle East quite a few years ago. This one arrived at work yesterday to take a modified container to Hwange in the South West (the landlord’s son converts them into liveable cabins). I got chatting to the driver. He admitted there were rather a lot of electrics that had once stopped him on a weigh-bridge because of a faulty oil pressure sensor. They’d also disconnected the automatic greasing facility – trust Zimbabweans to “make a plan” to get around inappropriate technology.

Growing up on a forestry estate in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe my father had a Peugeot 404 pickup truck. It was definitely more comfortable than the Land Rover it repaced and it lasted well on the less than perfect roads – not least because my father maintained the roads AND the pickup! I haven’t seen a Peugeot 404 for some time now but they were made to last – appropriate technology at its best. They were followed by the Peugeot 504 which was definitely more luxurious by the day’s standard and didn’t last as well.

Other appropriate tech cars included the Renault 5 with the gear stick on the dashboard and yes, you do still see a few around. A physiotherapist friend and her twin sister had one when I was at the St Giles rehabilitation centre in 1979 which they had to hire from their father who happened to be the managing director of Anglo-American in this country (Anglo-American is a VERY big company in Africa!). Somewhat thrifty was Mr Carey-Smith!

I own a seedling nursery business that is definitely appropriate technology orientated. Nearly everything is manual with a few exceptions, one of them being the clipping of the tobacco seedlings for which we use a Husqvana hedge clipper. It works really well for the purpose and requires little maintenance. Unfortunately it does require 2-stroke oil to be put into the petrol so when the operator came to me yesterday and said the machine had just stopped I had a pretty good idea what had gone wrong. Now I’d really like someone to come up with foolproof technology but maybe that’s a contradiction in terms.

Private maintenance

3 11 2011

“It’s been a while since I swam here” I said.

“I know” said the pool attendant, “the last time you were here you fixed the benches for us”.

I had stopped by the McDonald Park public swimming pool in Avondale on my way out-of-town at lunchtime. I’d heard it had re-opened with a bit of help from one of the private schools and it had been my favourite pool some 4 years ago before it closed due to lack of funding for the upkeep. I’d taken the occasional trip past just to check up but I was inevitably greeted by a view of black, opaque water as I drove past.

“Is it clean?” I asked.

“Well, we haven’t had power to run the filter for 3 days now” the attendant replied. “But we have been using HTH (a granular form of pool chlorine) so it is OK”.

I thought I’d better check this out as a lack of filtration is a recipe for a green pool but it was clear enough that I could see the lane markings all the way to the deep end.

A group of school children splashed and belly-flopped enthusiastically under the direction of an instructor while I got on with my exercise for the day. I stopped at the deep end to show the caretaker how I’d sliced my finger on a broken tile.

“Yes”, he enthused, “I also did that recently but we have some people who are coming in to help us fix them and some residents have donated paint for the buildings too”. I thought that anywhere else in the world they would have been checking out their insurance and running for the first aid kit. I wasn’t too concerned about infection as the chlorine was easily detected in the water, and anyway, it WAS a relatively small issue if a rather bloody one.

All the other municipal pools around town that are functioning rely on private goodwill to keep going. The Mount Pleasant pool is kept up by Triathlon Zimbabwe and I’m told another club keeps the Les Brown olympic pool in the middle of town going. The aquatic complex in Chitungwiza, built for the All Africa Games some years ago, is no longer open.

Other public facilities have been kept open by private initiative too. Earlier this year I was surprised to see that the Ballantyne Park park was being cleaned up and fenced. Austin told me recently that it had been funded by none other than Patrick Chiyangwa, a more than Corpulent Cat with high level connections and a poor record of public spiritedness. The Ballantyne Park Ratepayers Association panicked thinking that he was going to develop the area. However, when challenged, he replied that it was done because he was tired of his children playing amongst filth and used condoms. The Ratepayers Association took out an advert in the local paper praising Mr Chiyangwa for his public spiritedness. There was thought to be considerable tongue-in-cheek involved.

I drive past the Ballantyne Park park regularly on my way to the gym and it is still fenced and clean and empty. Whether it has become the private playground of Patrick Chiyangwa’s children I cannot say as I seldom pass by when they would be likely to be playing there.