14th April 1993
Edited to exclude names of people and detail my views of Zimbabwe while living there in the 1990’s.
The news still appears dismal in the building industry in England. No light yet at the end of the tunnel. Harare is the beneficiary of much aid from the IMF and World Bank which means that there are large developments being built here at present. Joe’s (my husband, now divorced) present contract is a 17 storey office block for the Post Office Savings Bank, it is due for completion in August. Then the plan is that he will move to Eastgate which is to be the largest office/retail development in Zimbabwe. It is a joint venture between Costain and John Sisk Pvt. Ltd. It started about 2 months ago but initial management is being dealt with by the Costain part of the venture. However, it is hard to see that the momentum in the building industry here will be sustained. Funds from the IMF and World Bank will not last forever and will have to be repaid so we envisage that at the end of two years, work will have substantially dried up here so it will be back to the UK in time for the next boom, hopefully.
………. Maybe you are like me and just don’t like the concept of chasing a little white ball around for some three to four hours. I have accompanied Joe on two occasions i.e. I have walked around the golf course with him, it not being the done thing to share the same set of golf clubs. Golf in Harare is very different. Joe plays nearly every week at the Harare South Golf Club. Each player takes along a caddy boy who is supposed to be the workhorse and carry the clubs and whatsmore he follows the shots. The aim is that no balls are lost. For the princely sum of $8 (80p) these boys queue and wait from the early hours of the morning in the hope that they will be selected as caddy boys. The caddy master co-ordinates who goes with whom. Joe plays with Simon Hawgood, a QS who works with him. They play the first 9 holes and retire for a large breakfast circa 9.00 a.m. and then they play the next 9. I don’t know how Joe will adapt to playing back in the
home country when he has noone to watch where the balls fall.
Easter is now over and Joe and I have made it back from South Africa. It was mammoth venture, traveling some 750 miles (or 12 hours traveling time) each way to Johannesburg. All went well except for our car cut out in “No Man’s Land” i.e. between the Zimbabwean and South African border. It was quite scary, particularly as it was just before Beit Bridge which is patrolled by SA soldiers (only young lads with machine guns). The signs all
said “No Stopping” and there we were in a car which refused to move in any direction. We waited for 20 minutes, the engine cooled down and we set off again. The journey was arduous for the car which when the petrol tank became too hot began to splutter curtailing our speed to an average of only 80 km per hour. Cars are scarce to come by here and as yet we have not got our proper company car so hence we had to rely on a rather old Nissan which just was not suitable for such a journey.
It was great to get to see SA. Joe and I had wanted to go to SA for our honeymoon, some 10 years ago and here we are 10 years later living in Africa with the bonus of being able to drive there. It is a very different country to Zimbabwe which is distinctly third world. Johannesburg is an enormous city based very much along American lines rather than English. There are many restaurants, large shopping malls, large industrial areas containing the usual corporate leaders of industry. It was not at all as I had imagined.
In ways it is similar to New York rather than London. Central Jo’burg is really a “no go” area for whites now. The violence is a major problem and many sectarian shootings occur daily. All South Africans have access to arms and it is not uncommon for a car containing white people to be stopped by another holding black people who proceed to shoot them with their AK47 rifles. Whilst driving, particularly at night, it is so important to remain alert, and it is accepted practice for people to drive through red traffic lights having checked that the coast is clear. Apparently, according to Russell (our host), the violence was bad over the last few weeks. The subversives had targeted restaurants frequented by the whites and would just machine gun all in sight.
Chris Hani, leader of the Communist party and a shining light in SA terms was shot dead over the weekend by a white Polish man claiming to represent an extreme conservative party. Nelson Mandela called for calm but people feel uncertain as to what will happen in response to this killing. In Capetown, 2 white men were burned to death in their cars by angry blacks. Most expect considerable reprisals to follow around the time of the funeral. For all that it has to offer i.e. financially and in consumer terms, SA is a place
where I would not choose to live. The uncertainty and volatility of the political environment is frightening. The blacks look on the whites as capitalists, they sport shirts with slogans “I’ll be the boss in the New SA”, i.e. a SA without whites. You notice the difference between those in SA and Zimbabwe. In Zim, they are considerably more friendly and accepting of their white compatriots but then there are only 200,000 white people remaining in a population of 11 million and although these 200,000 hold a considerable portion of the wealth, it is gradually being divested to their black counterparts via. governmental policies. In SA, there is no doubt but that whites still continue to suppress the blacks but the ANC is gaining support and no doubt it will follow along Zimbabwean lines. It must be an absolute nightmare for those white people who live there with no option to leave. Russell is lucky, he has an Irish passport. For people in these countries having access to an Irish passport by virtue of having one Irish grandparent is worth so much.
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