The strange Zimbabwe

P1030738.JPGIn the midst of the current social thunderstorm that is hitting Africa, this country seems to be all right. Which is weird. Zimbabwe is weird. Everything about it. The prevailing peace seems natural, though awkward considering everything this country has been through. The internationally acclaimed, feared and loathed dictator Mugabe still rules the country, but his subjects don’t seem to mind too much. Curious as our laziness allows us to be, we went and investigate the so called current state of fragile affairs here and, as most of the times, this country did everything wrong. The sad part is, it probably couldn’t be done any better.

If five percent of the population owns 90 percent of the land, something is wrong. If a government wishes to re-distribute the land, it’s not completely kosher, either. If then people think they have the right to go about and reclaim land for their own and kill and rape other people while at it, there’s something grimly wrong. If the same people then run the businesses of the now killed, raped or chased away people so hard and quick to the ground that inflation makes the value of money actually less than the paper it’s printed on, one might get the notion something should have been done differently. One thing for sure, as a white man in a grubby orange van, you better not be in Zimbabwe, right? You never know what those crazy Africans got planned out for you and whether that cheap but fancy necklace you got somewhere is worth taking your life for.

P1030665.JPGBut, as we drove through Zimbabwe, everything was quiet and peaceful. Especially quiet. Marten is the first to notice and wakes Henk from one of his colourful daydreams involving igloo’s and dragons and what not. “Not a lot of people here,” he says. “No, not really,” Henk has to admit. “No villages either…”

On the side of the road you usually see people, flagging down cars to hitch a ride. We usually pass them. This, of course, sounds odd coming from two backpackers, but imagine the following situation. The road ahead is empty and so is everything around it. Sure, there are trees. Sometimes abundant, sometimes just a few scattered in the dust. So, for miles you’ve seen no proof of life and there simply is nothing and you wonder what that sole man is doing there in the first place, desperately waving his arm like he’s trying to shake it off, in order to grab hold of your attention. Which is easy, since there’s nothing around but that lonely man, and you almost feel sorry for him so you decide to give him a ride.

Then you stop and open the window, but before you can ask him where he needs to go, people start to literally pop up. But there was no one a moment ago, you reassure yourself and you cling to your willpower to keep your eyes open, because you got a hunch that every time you blink, another three people appear. And they all want to sit in your car. They don’t care it’s not a taxi, they just know it’s a van and thus should be able to hold about five hundred passengers. As they try to clamber in, you suddenly, in a moment of clarity, step on the gas pedal and swerve and bump slowly forward, one-by-one dispatching of the people -They are people! - that are still clinging to the side of your car. So, thinking ahead, we usually pass them.

Mad Max farming
P1030658.JPGBut not this time, the old man really seemed old and we drove around him a couple of times to check the perimeter – it was clear. We took him to where he had to be and while doing so, asked him where all the people were. The man explained that they didn’t live in little villages along the road, but rather in farm- or homesteads. At first we didn’t really get it, but then he showed us as he directed us to a place where we could buy some food.

On a desolated farm, a man walks over the green grass towards us. As he walks besides the empty pool we wonder, what does an African do with a pool? Rural Africans simply don’t have a pool. That also might explain why it’s empty and the blue of the tiles much paler than it once must have been. When he walks besides the cottages, we wonder why those have Lion King figures painted on them. Again, rural Africans have got better things to do than to paint Timon and Pumba on a wall. “Welcome to my farm!” the man exclaims when he is close enough. Your farm?

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