Hung out to dry

5 06 2014

My friend Gary once commented to me that hell was being born and animal in Mozambique. He should know as he spent 8 years there, 5 of them living in close contact with the local community near Gorongoza. He saw bushbuck with their one front leg purposely broken so that they could not run away and stayed fresh for the pot. At least in Zimbabwe we have an active ZNSPCA and various other animal welfare organizations that strive to look after the lot of those of our 4 and 2 footed friends that cannot speak for themselves. But that doesn’t mean that abuses don’t occur of course. I have seen puppies for sale (though not recently) and 2 weeks ago saw a puppy in a cardboard box in the industrial sites crying for attention and being shouted at to shut up. It was moved before I could take a photo. Yes, some rural dogs I see are reasonably well-looked after but I would hesitate to say this is the norm.

So it’s pleasing when a local artist, Wallen Mapondera, takes up the cause and puts on an exhibition at the Gallery Delta in town. Not all art, is of course, created to be sold. My favorite piece is Friends for Sale but it is not art I could live with. Look closely at the picture and you can see that the SPCA has taken the first puppy.

The images are all taken, with permission, from the exhibition pamphlet. The exhibition was sponsored by the Swiss Embassy in Harare and opened by the ambassador, His Excellency Mr Luciano Lavizzari.

The art of keeping going

31 07 2012

It’s official; we have the world’s best weather (see the previous post) and at this time of year it is really predictable and dry which means it’s the season for garden art shows. The Verandah Gallery in the Emerald Hill suburb of Harare has just had its annual exhibition this past Sunday. It’s a very sociable affair with a jazz band and loads of art on display but from my point of view it’s a bit commercial – designed for the mass market and more than a bit expensive. It is all for a good cause and profits go to the nearby Emerald Hill Children’s Home for the Deaf. There will be more garden exhibitions all through to the end of September as Zimbabwe’s artists struggle to make a living in what are exceptionally hard times even by world standards. My favorite gallery is the Gallery Delta in the old house (one of the oldest houses in Harare) that belonged to Robert Paul, an eminent Zimbabwean artist. It’s run by Helen Leiros, herself a well-known artist both locally and abroad, and her husband Derek Huggins and they have monthly exhibitions that are anything but commercial. Most of the art that I have collected over the past 10 years or so has come from there. It has not been easy of late for Derek and Helen who had to sell off some of their own art just to keep going. So I support them when I can.

Turning off the power

15 02 2012

Mozabique has threatened to turn off the power it supplies Zimbabwe over an unpaid bill of US$90 million. It turns out that the power supply authority in Zimbabwe is owed some $537 million. Zimbabwe has many financial woes, not least the lack of power. Agriculture in this part of the world, where droughts are endemic, is especially vulnerable to power cuts. Irrigation is essential for at least 7 months of the year and also in the rainy season in years such as this one when the rains were late. It is not clear why non-paying clients were not cut off as is usually the case but I should think that intimidation from those with political connections is a large part of the problem. The governor of Manicaland is said to owe some $145,000. It is about time the fat cats were made to go on a diet!

Gorongosa National Park

20 07 2010

Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique was one of the first national parks I ever saw as a child. I am not sure if I remember much about it as a 6 year-old or I remember the photos. It was famous for its lions that used a derelict camp on the edge of a flood plain as a vantage point, climbing onto the flat roof for a better view (presumably). Most of the game was shot out during Mozambique’s protracted civil war and last time I visited the main camp the bullet holes were still clearly visible on the buildings. They are still there if you look around but this last weekend we were more interested in getting into the park and anyway, the main camp is a bright, clean shadow of its former self!

We were not disappointed. A lion too pigged-out on warthog to move lay less than 5m from the road and a gaggle of hissing, squabbling vultures devoured the remains of the warthog not 20m further along the track. Bushbuck and warthog were in abundance (a lack of predators perhaps?) and lots of waterbuck and impala dotted the floodplain near the famous “lion camp” though the roof of the latter was no longer accessible to anyone except perhaps equipped with a ladder. We spotted some truly massive crocs in the rivers and pelicans and crowned cranes waded in the water holes and flood plain. We also spotted a rare (for this park) Cape buffalo and some massive leguaans (water monitor lizards). The weather was ideal for the park which can be oppressive in summer and nights were cold and refreshing. A long drive for a weekend but well worthwhile!

Driving back to Harare yesterday afternoon I had plenty of time to ponder the differences between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Mozambique is populated, heavily populated at least along the road. The Zimbabwe countryside is by contrast visibly empty, the result of more than a decade of willful destruction of the farming sector. Mozambique is grubby – ┬áthis impression is not helped by the Portuguese architecture which was predominantly a love affair with concrete. And there is rubbish everywhere. Mozambique almost certainly has a bigger economy than Zimbabwe but it seems poorer – the people one sees in Zimbabwean towns appear more wealthy and are better dressed (which is odd).

In the pipeline

18 06 2009

Fuel is short again; specifically diesel.

The vast majority of Zimbabwe’s fuel requirements are imported by the state controlled NOCZIM (National Oil Company of Zimbabwe) whose incompetence/corruption is breathtaking. The fuel comes via pipeline from the Mozambican port of Beira (pronounced Bay-rah) some 460km away. I am not sure of the diameter of the pipeline but it must be at least 50cm or more. Whatever, there’s a lot of fuel in it at any one time. It can be a “mix” of types, separated by a device called a “pig”.

It seems that NOCZIM does not have the money to put any more fuel in at the Beira end of the pipe, so what is in the pipe cannot come out the Harare end. Why they should not have the money is open to question as the various individual importers have pre-paid for their fuel. This makes it sound suspiciously like a Ponzi Scheme (your investment is financing the previous person’s investment – just hope that someone will finance yours!).

In the past various individuals or companies have bailed NOCZIM out. We will have to wait and see if this will happen again.