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The Diary

Zimbabwe! – 31 July 2008

The customs office going into Zimbabwe reminds us of the old times back in Congo.
We pay $30 each for the entry visa and after half an hour waiting for them to decide on which staff member should sit at the counter, they extort 25 dollars from us for road tax and a tax for smoke emissions. “Carbon Tax”.

Vic Falls

During the 80km journey towards Victoria Falls, apart from elephants, we encounter a police roadblock where they ask us for something to drink; they seem satisfied with the half a bottle of water we leave them. We are happy too, because we convinced the frontier agent not to make us pay insurance on our car, so for now we are without it.
Victoria Falls is a beautiful tourist attraction that has that has continued to develop and build. Everyone that lives here has a job or works in some way with tourists. The “telephone cabins” are improvised, since the state does not supply any. It is a very expensive with its prices roughly in-line with European prices.

The crafts market is very big and, with a lot of patience, one can get good value for money, especially if one haggles. A shirt and a hat cost $20; shoes go like hot cakes. A young down-and-out insists that I give him my worn out shoes, which, incidentally are full of holes, but he does not care about this, he says that they are better than his... he shows them to us… I return to the car barefooted.

In this city, tourists are persistently pestered by the hordes, desperate to lay their hands on a few American dollars; Zimbabwe dollars are almost like waste paper. A local dollar issued in 2006 is now worth practically nothing. The rate of inflation is very high and every day and many times throughout the day, the exchange rate is changed. Small change comes in the form of a million dollar note. Today, an American dollar is worth 100 billion Zimbabwe dollars. The 5-billion dollar note in the picture is worth 30 euro-cents, enough to buy a sweet. For a banana, you will need to hand over 50-billion Zimbabwe dollars…
...in three days it will be more expensive.
Also in the photo is a phone top-up worth at least 3-billion.

Francesca works at reception of a campsite owned by a white man; he is one of just a few that remain in this country after the “clean-up” and the President confiscation of property owned by whites. She earns the equivalent of 10 US dollars and is actually very pleased as her salary is assured every month. The campsite costs 28 dollars a night!
Zacaria is a waiter at the restaurant (not luxurious but characteristic) and earns 7 US dollars a month plus tips. The beer he serves cost 8 US dollars; a meal costs around 23 US dollars. A cleaner, earns the equivalent of 3 US dollars a week. We had been advised by many not to enter the country, that it is too dangerous; however, the tourist area of the city is relatively safe by comparison to other parts, where the tension is very high.
In addition, there is no fuel to be found anywhere.

A dictator continues destroying his country!

Robert Mugabe, at over-80, is still the president and still in power, (amid allegations of ridding the opposing politicians who had seemingly won the election) and responsible for the shambles in which the country is in - a corrupt government incapable of governing. No supplies, inflation reaching dizzy heights, the tourism industry is dying and its agriculture - the country’s main resource - is all but dead. To try to regain credibility after having devastated the nation’s economy, he has expropriated land and buildings from white families. He has given all these possessions to relatives and people he knows. Sometimes one person has received more than one farm and instead of and equal redistribution of the land, the complete opposite has happened. These once florid and productive farms fell to pieces after just a few years and the unutilized land has been left abandoned. Every employee has lost their job; many people flee to South Africa, coming across great confrontation with the locals that already have many problems with inoccupation: 35%.
The xenophobic riots in Johannesburg in these last few months resulted in people killed and injured by machete blows. This is the result.

The Victoria Waterfalls - 1 Aug 2008

November 18th 1855 the great explorer, physician and missionary David Livingstone discovered these wonderful waterfalls on southern bank of the Zambezi River.
This monument is dedicated to him a century after his discovery, erected when the country was still called Rhodesia. On the other side of the river, the historic colonial city and present capital share his name.

A breathtaking view.
The waterfalls that are the symbol of Africa are 97metres high with a 2km waterfront.

Our Impressions

A country falling to pieces - devastated by the incapable politicians indifferent to the needs and the suffering of the people.
Civil rights are trodden-on, with violence and intimidation corrupting and influencing elections. It isn’t a new story within Africa, but in this case, the social deterioration has reached new limits. Hostility is not usually directed specifically towards whites, but here, colour does make a noticeable difference and makes for a potentially dangerous visit.
In the city, the people seem kind and friendly enough, despite the huge difficulties that they are going through. Beggars don’t pester the tourists but the police do try to extort money or “souvenirs” from tourists.
We have sent postcards to the friends of “ruggito per te”... will they arrive?

Signs and Beer

Here, we only have one beer.