Just Returned from Zimbabwe

Old Oct 18th, 2008, 05:49 AM
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Just Returned from Zimbabwe

We just returned from our trip to Zimbabwe thus week and found the country's economy to be in total meltdown. Store shelves are empty and fuel is unavailable. To buy anything, you need foreign currency and either have to purchase it on the black market, or go across the border and pay duty to bring it back in. Obviously you need a source of foreign currency, either working in the tourism industry, and getting tips in foreign exchange, or selling handcrafts to tourists. Banks have long lines and restrict the money that you can obtain to a couple of dollars a day. Most businesses will not accept Zimbabwean dollars a day. We flew from Victoria Falls to a camp in Hwange on small planes, but 3 days later, when it was time to return, we had to travel 3 hours by safari vehicle and and another 3 hours by minibus, because there was no fuel available for the planes.

In Victoria Falls, when on the streets or a bus, you are accosted by people aggressively selling handcrafts and Zimbabwean dollars as curiosities, as well as begging for the clothes that you are wearing. Friends stayed at the Kingdom hotel for one night and had to pay $300US cash in advance for 1 night. When they went to the restaurant, nothing that they ordered from the menu was available, and they had to go to the nearby Ilala Lodge for dinner. The Kingdom is a magnificent hotel with a casino, but other friends went into the casino and found it totally empty, as they pay off in Zimbabwean dollars, which are worth less than monopoly money.

Prostitution is out of control, as is HIV/AIDS, out of a need to survive.

That being said, we did not regret going to Zimbabwe. The game in Hwange was superior to other countries, and the people were wonderful, despite their fiscal condition. Crime against foreigners is low to non-existent, both because of the nature of the people and strict government enforcement, as the tourism dollar is very important to the country. We did not like our money going to benefit the government, but the money that went directly to the people is so important to their survival.

Hopefully the hell that they are going through will end soon. The people are kind and intelligent and deserve much better.
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 06:19 AM
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Good grief, how frighteningly horrible and sad for the people of Zimbabwe. If times are so bad in VF, which has seemed to be at least somewhat insulated from the problems of the rest of the country, the situation must be even more dire than many had feared.

Even if the political issues are resolved speedily (an unlikely supposition, to say the least), improvements for Zimbabweans' quality of life are likely to be an agonizingly slow process.

Thanks for the report, heartbreaking as it is, jackandann.
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 11:42 AM
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jack and ann
You spent more time in Zimbabwe and Vic Falls than we did - we were there only a few hours, but I have to say that we didn't encounter any aggressive selling or begging, in fact we were expecting it to be much worse but we found the sellers good-humoured despite being desperate for business. We also sat and had lunch in an open-air cafe and were not bothered once. I hope people won't be put off going to Vic Falls, as many do from Chobe for the day, because as you say, they do need the tourist business.
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Where did you stay in Hwange?
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 02:06 PM
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thank you jackandann for the report! especially as we are going to zim later this month - also to hwange and stay there for 5 days and 1 nt. at the vic falls hotel.

it's devastating what the people of zim are going through and it's good to know what they need. so we pack according to your advice!

we were reluctant to go to zim as we didn't want to support the government but have made up our minds as we can see the people are in need of jobs and therefore income.

i am not very positive in view to changes as tsvangirai has just interrupted the coallition talks due to disputes over minister posts.

i will also post a report when we get back in late nov.

thanks again for sharing your experiences.

div
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 04:41 AM
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The last time we were in Zimbabwe around a year ago everything was the same as you experienced, except that we never encountered aggressive selling!
I do not know who told you that HIV and Prostitution was out of control.
According to the last statistics that I saw around a year ago Zimbabwe was the only country in Southern Africa with a falling rate of HIV infection, the reason cited by the researchers was that nobody could afford prostitutes anymore!

Why did you go by plane to Hwange in the first place it is only a relatively short drive from Vic Falls, no wonder there are fuel shortages!

 
Old Oct 19th, 2008, 05:49 AM
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You know, when I first went to Zimbabwe in 1991 the shelves were just starting to fill again after the civil war that we either know nothing about or have forgotten. During the '80s Mugabe and the soldiers he drafted in from North Korea hounded and killed the people of Matabeleland.

I spent two months there on that first trip. In 1996 I went back for another month and the country seemed to be back on its feet.

And now? .. This is all so sad, but it seems there is nothing to be done.

Or is there?

Getting serious for a moment - yeh, travel is fine, but what do you who have visited for a few days in tourist mode think we should do about it?
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 10:51 PM
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Seeing as the sharing of power with Morgan Changerai is a complete farce, due to the fact that Mugabe won't let the Police and the Army (who were the ONLY 2 departments he paid) out of his sight.
The only real solution is the taking down of Mugabe via ALL means possible.

Cheers
Marc
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 11:31 PM
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Marc,

"The only real solution is the taking down of Mugabe via ALL means possible."

Sometimes it's hard not to think that. BUT, BUT, that is the Iraq solution, and, sadly, it doesn't work.

I think the impetus has to come, somehow, from the other countries of the SADC, or the OAU. Mbeki tried. Impossible to know how hard, and what factors informed his thinking. And now he is gone from power.

Or from within. But how can it come from within when the people have nothing to eat.

Mugabe is very clever and very cruel. He knows that a hungry people will have little energy to spare for politics. Hence the banning of NGOs in June. I believe they now have access again but I heard on the BBC the other day that the approaching famine will be of "Ethiopian proportions".

I have no answers, but if anyone out there is a specialist and has views on why Mbeki failed, please share.

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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 10:04 AM
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Tockoloshe,

The aggressive selling seemed to vary by time of day with the least early in the day and the most toward evening. Possibly these people were fortunate enough to have day jobs paid in monopoly money and sold handcrafts later in the day for hard currency. The sellers in the market were not the problem, but the roaming street vendors were.

Cybor,

In Hwange, we stayed in a Wilderness Safaris tented camp near the Ngamo entrance.

Sniktawk,

Our trip leader who was a resident of Vic Falls told us of the prostitution and HIV/AIDS. It is not the residents of Vic Falls that are the customers of the prostitutes, but rather the long haul truckers, who trade goods for the prostitutes or have their black market profits to pay with. I would take any statistics out of Zimbabwe with a grain of salt, as they are controlled by the self serving government.

As for flying to Hwange NP, it reduced a 6 hour overland trip to 2 hours of combined flying and driving, particularly after a combined 3 hour driving/flying/driving journey from the Okavango Delta to Vic Falls.

Afterall,

We don't know what can be done to help relieve the problems, as governments seem to have no power over Mugabe, and we have seen what a mess military intervention in a sovereign country can become. Unfortunately economic sanctions don't seem to achieve anything, they only seem to hurt the population. Possibly the best that we can do is the limited amount of support that we can give the people via tourism and to spread the word as to conditions.

We keep hoping that the coalition government has a chance, the longer it goes on without success, the less the chances are. A violent overthrow of Mugabe seems highly unlikely, and, if he dies of natural causes, the struggle to succeed him will not be bloodless. Our prayers go out to the Zimbabwean people.
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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Many thanks for posting this tale, getting sadder by the day. I somewhat disagree about sanctions not working, however. It worked against South Africa during apartheid, but granted it took years and international solidarity. Sad to say, it'll take the old guys dying for much to cahnge, and I'm talking not just about Mugabe but all his revolutionary comrades. So depressing how the overthrow of colonialism came to this. Alas, its true in so much of Africa. I'd say they need a new voice for a new generation, a Barack Obama. (Sorry, shameless plug.)
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 05:51 PM
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Thank you jackandann for your observations, disturbing as they may be.
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Old Oct 21st, 2008, 03:08 AM
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Jackandann

I certainly would take what my trip leader said with a pinch of salt. Perhaps this may help support my statement

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/n...ds_africa.html
 
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 09:39 AM
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Ahem, snitawk, that "news" story is from 2006 and from surveys taken as far back as 1998. You can't take one anecdotal report as gospel, of course, but it makes sense people hurting for food and goods will get them by whatever means necessary, and AIDS spread along long-haul trucking routes is how the epidemic spread through AFrica in the first place.
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Old Oct 21st, 2008, 10:08 AM
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Was it a Seofane plane that had the fuel shortage that you spoke of?

Was you Wilderness camp a mobile?
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Old Oct 21st, 2008, 10:24 PM
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La Leslie,

You can believe what you like, I only deal in facts. I see you also believe that the spread of AIDS is undertaken by truck drivers, this one pf many recent reports. Hopefully it is what you could describe as up to date

http://www.globalhealthreporting.org...sp?DR_ID=53820
 
Old Oct 25th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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Cybor,

We don't believe that it was a Seofane plane. We only flew them in Botswana. Due to exorbitant Zim fees, they don't seem to do business in Zim. It was not a mobile camp, but rather a fixed location tented camp.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 11:15 AM
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Cybor,

Just to expand on our prior response. we believe that these were private planes. We expected to have 4 of them for our group of 15 from Vic Falls to our airstrip in Hwange when we went there, but only 3 had fuel. They were 2 5 passenger plane and 1 3 passenger, so the trip leader and 1 of our group had to wait for one of the planes to return to pick them up. On our return, 3 days later, none of them had fuel. In Botswana, with Seofane, we had 1 14 passenger caravan and 1 5 passenger plane.
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