Thursday, 15 September 2011

Days 7-9; Hwange to Lusaka

Prescript: We're not getting regular or strong internet connections on this trip, so I can't post all the photos I'd like to.  So I'm getting rather more wordy than "pictury"...

Now just north of Lusaka, capital of Zambia, after a 22-hour overnight trip on the ferry from Nwanke in Zimbawe.
Rob, the ferry owner, is fourth generation Zimbawean, with business interests in transport and fuel distribution.  The eighties and nineties were very good for business, with lots of toursim.  Then came the “dark ages” when Mugabe started the “indigenization” program, driving white farmers off their land.  Of 4,000 white-owned farms, all but 200-odd have now changed hands, and of those 3,800, only about 800 are still producing.  That made Zimbabwe turn from food exporter to net importer.  The government's response was to print money, with the result we’ve all read about: wheelbarrows of cash, just to buy a loaf of bread, inflation of thousands of percent per day.  They ended with a 100 Trillion ZimDollar note. 
During this time, Rob closed down the family transport business, for eight years.  The result of the inflation was so much black market US dollar circulating that they were able to switch to use of the US$ in 2008.  That fixed that problem virtually overnight.  The US government  did not approve of the move, but couldn’t do much about it (to have approved would have increased the US money supply, and hence US inflation).
There are many problems still: inflation, unemployment, corruption, the on-going political games of Mugabe, who – having failed at the land transfer program – now wants to do the same for Finance and Mining companies: demanding transfer of 51% of foreign-owned assets to black Zimbabweans.  Mugabe says it's a "win-win" and says that "foreign investment in protected".  Yeah, right.  Like that of the landowners was.
Still, things are turning,  says Rob.  The average person just forgets about politics and gets on with life.  Meantime, in the political arena, the moderates are taking the upper hand.
It’s a case of having gone “through the valley of death”, as it were, having hit rock bottom, and not wanting to go there again. 
And meantime, in South Africa, the worry is that they’re heading down the same baleful route, with the ANC Youth Wing leader, Mulema, worshipping Mugabe and his methods, and calling yesterday on the youth to storm the Johannesburg stock exchange.  It seems that not having gone through their own Zimbabwean lows, they may be headed in the same direction. People hope not, but fear the worst.

By the way: Kariba Lake -- huge, a result of damning the river  in 1961 -- is only used for power generation.  I asked Rob why it wasn't used for irrigation of the thousands of square miles surrounding it, and he said that there'd been a plan to pipe water to the lowland veldt,  but that nothing had happened.  "Why?", I asked.  Rob answers: "Why would the politicians spend money on the country, when they could use it to buy another villa in Europe?"...
Enough of that, onto some piccies. 
The mighty Mustang squeaks on the Kariba Ferry
The ferry ride across Kariba dam – 330 km long and about 50km wide – was a pleasant affair, beginning at 10:00 yesterday and finishing here at Kariba at 08:00 this morning.  We squeezed 13 cars on board, with inches to spare, and about 30 people.  Rob, Clement and Lazarus (another Lazarus; see above "Catch-up photos"…) looked after us very well, with lunch, afternoon tea, snacks of local fresh-water whitebait, dinner then sleeping on mattresses on the deck.
The ferry stopped about 5pm, for a change over of generators and for us to have a swim.
Swimming in the middle of the Kariba Dam

This morning a simple 240km trip up to Lusaka, which took us all day nonetheless, as we had an hour or so at the Zimbabwean border then another two hours on the Zambian border.  I’m  getting used to African time….
Carmen being patient, at Zambian border -- 2 hours....

Female Kudu, in the grounds of the Lusaka Protea Lodge
where I'm sitting blogging... She makes nice biltong
Postscript: as I sit here blogging, all around me the guests -- Southern Africans, black and white -- are talking in English, the language, clearly, of the educated and better-off classes.  There's an African twang to the English; it's interesting to kibbitz on the conversations...  a son has just returned from the UK; the situation in South Africa is "getting bad", Mulema is "dangerous"...