We just got back from a trip to Zimbabwe. When the country was called Rhodesia, it was referred to as the breadbasket of all of southern Africa. Think about it. They were so prosperous that they not only could feed everyone in their own country, but all the countries in Southern Africa. Obviously, Rhodesia had enormous social problems, but everyone could eat.
Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, so Tourism is just about all it has left. Victoria Falls is there, which is the biggest and most delightful waterfall I have ever seen. Here is a photo of it from my brave friend Mary’s camera. She took the helicopter ride over Victoria Falls.
This is one of the photos I took standing safely on mother earth.
The Zambezi River is lovely. Animals abound. There are hippos, elephants, crocodiles, alligators, warthogs, baboons, giraffes, lions and zebras in and around the Zambezi River. I’ll show you just a sampling.
This is the Water Treatment Plant:
We were prepared ahead of time to bring as much in the way of school supplies as we could for the school we were slated to visit. Almost every one of us had at least half a suitcase full of pens and pencils and markers and notebooks, etc. One couple chose to bring Obama stickers. They had a massive roll of them that they peeled off and stuck on just about everyone’s shirt.
The teachers were on strike because they were not getting paid, so the Principal of the school, which was officially closed, gathered together a group of AIDS orphans for us to meet. A good percentage of these children are HIV positive. They were sweet as can be and sang and danced for us and had smiles that warmed your heart. Here are some photos of their beautiful faces.
We were told that in terms of AIDS, Zimbabwe is the world’s most infected country. Statistics vary, but about a quarter of the adult population is HIV positive. In urban areas the rate jumps to 40%. In the army, the rate is 80%.
Life expectancy at birth is now 38 years.
The country is rife with problems of other kinds also. The stores have nothing to sell. There is literally nothing on the shelves of the stores, so they are all closed. There is no gas to run a car or motor scooter. The roads are virtually empty.
In the tourist hotels there are signs like these:
This is because the money in Zimbabwe is worthless. Mugabe just keeps printing money. (Sounds familiar, eh?) Inflation is a major problem. Take a gander at the denominations of the Zimbabwean currency, (look closely, many bills have expiration dates!):
These two are my personal favorites:
People in Zimbabwe carve animals out of wood and sell them in the market. They will only take dollars or euros in exchange for their art. Also, people in the tourist industry are paid in foreign currency. Since there is nothing on the shelves and nothing is growing on the farms, this is what a family has to do to get food:
They get together as much foreign currency as they can. One member of the family WALKS to the nearest country that is rich enough to have food to sell, pays a bribe to get in, buys a quarter kilo of sugar, bribes their way back into Zimbabwe and walks home.
There is no electricity. There are no jobs. There is no education, and no medical care. Cholera is rampant in Zimbabwe. There is no medicine to treat this treatable illness. Mugabe’s army was starving and the army is what keeps Mugabe in power. The army is now eating the elephants.
Given the state of the country, you would think that it’s President, Mugabe, would be doing something. Well he is. He just had a bash of a birthday party for himself. $300,000 American dollars were spent on this party. The destitute citizens of Zimbabwe were required to donate money or food to the party. For the one-day party, over 100 cattle, goats and sheep were slaughtered. He had pounds and pounds of caviar shipped in. Champagne. You name it.
Mugabe’s wife, Grace, is called “The First Shopper of Zimbabwe.” She just returned from a lavish trip to Hong Kong, costing $92,000. She was photographed with a Jimmy Choo bag, which was estimated to cost about 2,000 English Pounds. Her entourage spent over 2,000 English pounds a day at the Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong.
There is little hope. Unless a miracle happens, the only question for these Zimbabweans is what will kill them first: Cholera, AIDS or starvation.
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