Return to the Bread Basket of Africa ..Zimbabwe

I don’t particularly enjoy going back to Zimbabwe, for it is not the same anymore, nor does it seem the good times will ever return.It once was the bread basket of Africa, in a time long ago, when food was abundant, when industries were operating beyond capacity, at some point there was a factory in Willovale, Harare, where cars were assembled. But now I stand at the border, in a line resembling a queue for sugar that I used to stand in. Madness I tell you, we have turned into a nation of unemployed and hustlers and discontent but still full of faith that God will help us.
The line to enter Zimbabwe at the border is as painful as the line of people trying to leave Zimbabwe into South Africa.It is a true test of patience as I stand in the line for 3 hours before waiting another 3 before the bus is allowed to enter Zimbabwe.

I am on my way to Khami Ruins outside Bulawayo. My junior school was based in Bulalwayo, less than 30 km from Khami Ruins, but not once did I ever manage a trip to see the Ruins. I was on my way to make this right by myself.  Built after Great Zimbabwe had been abandoned in the mid-16th century, it was part of the Torwa dynasty.

Getting there was not straight forward. Somehow the taxi driver got lost, and we ended up in the Khami Prison Complex, a rather uncomfortable experience. 2 hours later (for a distance of 23km), we arrived at the Khami Ruins with less than 30 minutes till closure.

First hand view of Khami Prison

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A pathway to the Hill Complex where the main ruins are located. The Khami Ruins are the second largest stone monuments built in Zimbabwe after Great Zimbabwe. The design and pattern are similar to the Great Zimbabwe ruins. As I take these photos, I am rushing as I dont want to be locked up in this area, I have already had a run in with prison wardens of Khami prison.

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Outer enclosure of the Khami Ruins

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Great Zimbabwe Ruins

It was great to be reminded of history of Zimbabwe and where the name originates from, Dzimba dzamabwe – House of Rocks. Standing inside the great enclosure by the tower.

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The great tower in the Great Enclosure in the Valley complex. I never grow tired of seeing this structure, it had been 10 years since my last visit to this place.

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From the origins of Zimbabwe, I went to the capital Harare (Sunshine City), the center of great entrepreneurial spirits, there are sights that don’t make sense. As one friend of mine says “There is an economy here that defies theory, it cannot be explained by textbooks”. Families growing mushrooms for sale in their garages, people engaging in fishery (digging up ponds in their backyards and rearing fish for sale). It seems with increased unemployment in the formal sector, hustling is the only way make a living.
As we drive slowly through the CBD at night and observe in the darkest parts of the city,  life and business go on as if the sun is still up!, people still selling clothes, food, plastic ornaments, anything your heart desires, ladies dressed scantily, promoting their business even for the unscrupulous gentlemen.
Second hand Japanese cars with names such Fit, Noah, abound on the streets of Harare and are popularly known as “Mushika Mushika”. Some have smashed windscreens,
expensive scars serving as a reminder to an encounter with policemen. These cheap cars have allowed some people to become self employed and hence earn a living.

Picture below – Men hitching a lift on the back of taxi (a common sight on Mushika Mushika’s as well)

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There is no uproar, protests or strikes, life is quiet and proceeding as normal. The South African Rands that I have, are refused at multiple places due to the depreciating rand but the US Dollar is loved as can be expected. One thing I cannot stand is the $1 notes, finding a clean / untainted note is like finding a the jade vine in a desert. The notes are filthy, dirty and you can barely see the value denoted, but they are still in use and no one denies them.

An enlightening but rather disturbing experience, but as they say…there is no place like home and for sure, there is no place on earth like Zimbabwe! Despite what it is, people are still fun, friendly, accomodating, it feels good to be home.

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