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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Survival in Zimbabwe today

How one young nurse keeps body and soul together

Westerners and Europeans all pose the same question: how is it humanly possible to survive in Zimbabwe in 2008, when there is nothing in the shops, inflation is rocketing beyond belief, and wages are pitifully low? Here is one personal story that might provide some, but not all, of the answer.

Docus Chririnda has been a nurse for 16 years. Her salary is Z$140 billion a month. Her bus fare to work is Z$100 billion a day. So she walks. But why bother to go to work at all, you may ask, when the new Zimbabwe $100 billion note, just issued, this week buys little more than two loaves of bread?

The answer is, Docus is a dealer. Her  real income comes from poultry. She breeds chicken, and sells them, and eggs, to her hospital colleagues.

She told me: "Yes, I'm a poultry dealer. If you are not a dealer you will never surive in Zimbabwe. There is not a single person in this country existing on their salary alone. We use our workplaces, and our colleagues, to conduct our deals. And we hold on to our jobs, in the belief that one day things will improve, and we will regain our dignity."

But Docus has another string to her bow. As a senior nurse, and with her superiors turning a blind eye, she can take up to three months of unofficial leave. This means she can slip across the border, quite legally, to take temporary nursing work in South Africa.

This work will often be demeaning, with Docus being given the more unpleasant jobs. But it is well paid. And when the time is up, she will return to Zimbabwe with a big parcel of cheap South African groceries and other necessities of life. Some she will sell, using the money to pay her rent and other bills. The rest she will use herself, to survive.

Nearly everyone in Zimbabwe, especially those who have no food sent in from relatives abroad, has some scheme or fiddle going. For example, civil servants regularly charge individuals for items, such as birth certificates and identity papers, which should be issued free.

Even our policemen earn less than necessary to live. They have now taken to stopping individuals in public places, searching them, stripping them of any edible goods they carry on a charge of illegal trading, and confiscating any foreign currency they may have for the same reason. The currency goes straight into their own pockets, the goods straight into their own stomachs.

These are a few of the ways the Zimbabwe people manage to live. And those of you in the West should know that as Africans we have coped with extreme poverty in the past, and we will do the same today. We can live on almost nothing, if we must. We can find a way to survive.

You couldn't. But Docus can. And we can.

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Comments

Moses, I enjoy reading your blog, believing it an important voice for the truth, but I have to fire one back at you on this one.

Mahatma Gandhi once said to his supporters during the struggle for India's independence: "They cannot take our dignity unless we give it to them".

That statement rings loudly in my ears whenever there is talk about the African curse of Lootocracy. Time and time again we see Africans turning their energy to survival at the expense of maintaining their 'dignity'. The hope is always that somehow if they last long enough, salvation will come.

Yes, you cannot eat dignity or cloth yourself in it. But there has to be a time where people must stand up for themselves.

The point I am making is that there is nothing to celebrate or be proud of by saying "We can find a way to survive".

You may just as well say "Yes, take my livelihood, my happiness, my freedom, yes even my dignity, but I will find a way to live from hand to mouth until such a time as you choose to give all these things back to me".

Wasn't it Simon Bolivar who said "It would be better to die on our feet than live on our knees"?

I'll be brutal: Africans have grown accustomed to living on their knees. First under colonial regimes, then under African dictators.

Your survival whilst commendable (and necessary) does not inspire anyone - in fact to many Westerners it merely arouses pity.

It is exremely sad and I am as many others are, very, very sorry for you all in Zimbabwe but it is all part and parcel of a dying country.

Docus represents the general populacy here
there is no longer a professional in Zimbabwe
teachers, doctors nurses, accountans all have been turned into criminals
all in the name of survival
yes there are no drugs at hospitals but gvt keeps saying such and such drugs have been imported
you go to any hospital but go back home un-treated.
doctors would have stolen them.
such cases are routinely reported in the media.
difficult to blame nurses and doctors.
the need the money to survive.
so DOCUS keep exploiting the loopholes in the system and one day you will gain your dignity

This story is so true.I am Zimbabawean and i feel that Zimbabaweans are being subjected to demining work.We are a hard working people.
Mugabe is an old dog you really cant teach him new tricks.He should step down for the good of everyone.

I like DCs post. I am not a Westerner. Where I come from, self criticism of our apathy and instinct for survival is often excused on the basis that we never really had to fight for our freedom. But Zimbabweans did fight for their freedom. What I don't understand is why not now?

I like DCs post. I am not a Westerner. Where I come from, self criticism of our apathy and instinct for survival is often excused on the basis that we never really had to fight for our freedom. But Zimbabweans did fight for their freedom. What I don't understand is why not now?

I like DCs post. I am not a Westerner. Where I come from, self criticism of our apathy and instinct for survival is often excused on the basis that we never really had to fight for our freedom. But Zimbabweans did fight for their freedom. What I don't understand is why not now?

Mr. Mugabe would be smart to remember that the American, French, and Russian Revolutions were brought about by unfair economic conditions and ended in less-than-favorable results for those in power at the time. Let's hope that the post-Mugabe government can learn the lessons that the post-Ian Smith government didn't.

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