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Chronicles of an Elder: Zimbabwe

Updated: Jul 1, 2023



Zimbabwe, August, 2022

Zimbabwe is a beautiful, distressed, struggling country of 15 million. Its government is corrupt, its social services practically non-existent, its unemployment rate at 80 percent, its currency worthless. Goods are priced in US dollars, and one US dollar is 750 Zimbabwean dollars. Our dear friend Sophie, a university professor, makes $130/month. Electricity is erratic in many places, including the house where I stayed. There's no hot water, infrequent wifi, lots of flies. But the warmth I feel towards the Chirongoma family, and their reciprocal affection, makes it alright. On the other hand, it's a hard life in terms of the daily slog for 98 percent of the population. As ever, there's a layer of rich Zimbabweans whose housing and other amenities are on a different planet from most.

A huge Chinese influence operates, and they are purchasing all manner of valuable resources. It's the new colonialism. Very, very few white people in evidence anywhere. Many, many people selling vegetables, soft drinks, baskets, trinkets, oranges, etc. by the side of the road. One of the most distressing things for me is knowing that giving someone two dollars can make the difference between their eating for a couple of days or going without. I feel a continual need to buy stuff I don't need or want, and to tip anyone who does me a service. I experience how hugely privileged I am compared to almost everyone I meet, and it's discomfiting. It's not charming to see seven year old children driving a donkey cart or an old woman hawking apples.


I experience how hugely privileged I am compared to almost everyone I meet, and it's discomfiting. It's not charming to see seven year old children driving a donkey cart or an old woman hawking apples.

On the positive side, the skies and the sunsets and the wildlife are magnificent. Today I stood two feet from a giraffe, and fed a four ton elephant at Antelope Park, an animal sanctuary/resort. The Zimbabwean culture I've encountered is warm and intensely welcoming. I'm conscious of my western liberal values and my colour. I'm concerned about being insensitive and matronizing, but my outsider feelings are minimal. The acceptance level I experience is huge. I don't understand how people can endure such privation and be both accepting and often cheerful. Being an elder, I feel fairly comfortable not understanding lots of things, but I wish things were better here and were on the upswing. They're not.

I was in the Peace Corps in Kenya over fifty years ago, and this brings me back to considering how the world has changed and how I, now an elder, am different. I despair at the way things are moving in alarming and unhappy directions. Today at the animal park I realized with horror what climate catastrophe will keep doing to this gorgeous land--and to ours. This concern was nothing but a whisper when I was young.


Today at the animal park I realized with horror what climate catastrophe will keep doing to this gorgeous land--and to ours. This concern was nothing but a whisper when I was young.

November, 2022.


The following update comes from Dr. Sophie Chirongoma, currently living in Zimbabwe. Sophie is a professor at Midlands State University.

Living conditions remain difficult in all arenas with socio-economic circumstances continually deteriorating. Zimbabwe's forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023 do not offer much optimism. There's ongoing polarization and animosity between the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). The ruling party continues to use government resources such as food aid and farm inputs as campaign tools to influence voting patterns.

We Zimbabweans persevere, but there is little light on the horizon just now.

……………………………………

Rose Levinson, Ph.D.

Founder and Managing Editor

Emerging Voices: A Webzine for Shifting Times


1 Comment


Thank you for the update, Rose. Stay well.

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