It's a shame to see how a country once so rich, can fall to its misery in just a year,
Like in Germany, “before the war, we used to take money in the pocket and come home with a wheelbarrow of goods, but after the war we carry money in the wheelbarrow and come back with goods in pockets.”
When I first arrived in Zimbabwe in 1999, I had no other country to envy. They called her Half London, She was a beauty and so clean that Europeans migrated there.
Life was great and people were hunky-dory with every factor. Like in America, people get in illegally hoping to chase the Zimbabwean dream.
I lived there as a refugee. But a refugee life back then was better than one in the west.
This was the best refugee camp in Africa ... I would say of the world, but I haven’t been to the rest of the camps in the world. But seriously, this camp was off the chain, while people in Zambia were struggling, building their own houses out of mud, and in Botswana burning in tents.
We were living like rock stars in Zimbabwe with hot water, bath tubs and electricity.
Houses in the camp were 10 times better than most apartments in the city. This is Tongogara Refugee Camp. With 300 refugees back then, they would pay us for learning English, give us projects and sponsorships to good colleges and high schools out of the camp. I am telling you, back then no refugee wanted to leave this place for anywhere.
It wasn’t too long before this Cadillac treatment started catching up to us. The Zimbabwean citizens started feeling jealous of the way we were living and President Mugabe's idea of land reform coming to fruition would change the image of this paradise forever.
In early 2000, a flood hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and a bit of Botswana. The refugee camp was also demolished by this catastrophe and we had to go to Harare for refuge. The way to Harare was a challenge as we had to walk our way out with Zimbabweans insulting and refusing to help us. This same time the land reform plan of Mugabe was getting popular and farms were being confiscated from the British and given to their comrade Zimbabweans. The land reform got so violent and people started getting hurt, therefore the British decided to abscond the country and flew to England.
We the refugees were later forced to return to rebuild our devastated camp, Some of us who didn’t want to return were deported to their countries. I was among the ones to be deported, but escaped to Botswana in 2002 after my friends were captured and imprisoned for about a year.
This was the beginning of the end of the land once called "Half London" by many Europeans. Not the deportation of refugees, not the flood, but the president's land reform idea. Making the British angry would create a conflict between Mugabe and the West.
I returned in Zimbabwe in 2004 and what a welcoming atmosphere I arrived into! Prison, foreigners were being arrested and beaten. But this is not what caught my attention ... I was stunned by the condition of the city.
It was a rainy night; the first thing I noticed was how dark the city looked. All the street lights were vandalized and when I asked what happened, I got an answer I wasn’t prepared for.
"People were so broke that they started going after the aluminum that was in those light poles," people told me. The roads were all bumpy and muddy with dips every where caused by people ... the city looked like a bush, with long grass everywhere in the street with no one caring.
The next morning I noticed a long line of people waiting for bread by the supermarket. Should I have waited for bread there, I was going to have breakfast at 4pm. What happened to this country just in two years of my absence?
Transportation was a huge problem not because people would not afford gas but because gas could not afford people. People would buy two cars just so they could get gas for the other one. One will be staying by the gas station, waiting for a refill to fill the one that is running, because gas was available once a month just like corn meal and cooking oil.
People had to sleep weeks by the store waiting to buy cooking oil. And when it came they could only sell one per person. What’s happening in this country? It sure looks like Germany after World War Two here …
The worse part was how the currency was loosing value; they were printing new money like America with new electronics. Every month there is a new bill and the old one is valueless. In a few years every thing was priced in US dollars and Rand and that was the end of Zimbabwe's local currency.
People started starving, crime increased and infrastructure was demolished while the West watched, waiting for that perfect moment to tell the people “ You see how bad your president has made you suffer?” The people would hate the president but is it really the president that makes the people suffer?
He is a dictator, yes we agree, but can someone come get him off? It’s actually the embargoes and sanctions that caused these struggles and even though we say it’s the president who is bad, the people are the ones affected by the consequences of his actions. It’s about time sanctions and embargoes are stopped from being the solutions to solving international crises. Because this causes more death and suffering to the people they should be protecting in the first place. Mugabe never struggles where to buy his cooking oil or gas, and by the fact that he is a dictator, he could only care less if the people are struggling to find food.
The refugee camp today is deteriorated with more than 3,000 refugees living in tents and struggling to know what the future holds for them. Most of them have problems of insecurity and seek protection from the United Nations. It's a shock to see a country once adored by the world being spoken evil of in just less than a decade.
What caused this? Is it the dictatorship of Mugabe or the sanctions and embargoes layed on the country?
I blame both, but strongly condemn the sanctions ...