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All systems out of order

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In 2006, I watched a play at Harare’s Theatre in the park called “All systems out of order”. It was a satirical play about how things were falling apart in an unamed African country.

In one of the scenes, a cleaner at a public toilet decides its time to make a quick buck in the toilets. He decides to charge people who are keen to ‘hire’ the toilet for their private operations.

In no time at all, the toilet is full of business; sex workers now bring their clients for a jolly good time in the dingy loos and thieves use the same place as a warehouse for stolen goods.

While this might sound like a noble idea for the underpaid cleaner to raise a few bucks, it is the ordinary people that suffered. They were often told that the toilet was out of order . . . unless they could pay a minimum charge to use it.

I was reminded about this play last week when I struggled to send an e-mail in the city.

There I was sitting in the Internet cafe along First Street not very far from a commercial bank that boasts about being fluent in finance. After 10 minutes, I was still trying to log into my e-mail account.

Having some knowledge on how the Internet works I realised the server was down while other people constantly sat helplessly waiting in vain to go on-line and without a word from the people manning the cafe.

I then approached the assistant at the till and told her their link was down but she was quick to say they do not refund cash. “But, your link is down and you want to charge me for a service I did not use”, I protested. She then said the only way she could help me was with a voucher which you are supposed to use within one week. I took the voucher which is still in my wallet and set off to look for another cafe.

I moved to more than five Internet cafes and they were all down. It was now after mid-day. I immediately knew something was wrong and the chances of sending my important e-mail before 1pm was fading. I then decided to SMS the recipient and tell them that the cafes are down and I could not send the e-mail on time. They just had to be patient.

This is how life has become in Harare. Things are falling apart, the systems are gradually going out of order.

After enquiries with an attendant at a cafe I was told that the fibre link was down because the workers at the state company that connects the link had gone on strike.

Strikes . . . strikes . . . strikes . . . have rung in 2007 in Zimbabwe. As I write the junior doctors are on strike and reports are coming in that the senior doctors are joining them soon. The doctors are demanding a pay increment. They currently earn Z$56 000 about $224 and have requested Z$5 million or they are not going back to work.

Meanwhile, Zimbabweans who cannot afford to go to private hospitals have been suffering during this crisis. In the article, “Zimbabwe’s health sector faces collapse“, a doctor from Parirenyatwa hospital is quoted as saying, “The system has literally collapsed and we are losing lives unnecessarily”.

In the same article, 3 year old Dexter Chipunza is reported to have been sent home with one of his eyes protruding and a lump that had blocked his nostrils. He died three weeks later from cancer.

There are many people like Dexter who will continue to die if the systems do not work.

Early this week, the Central Statistical Office announced that inflation had hit a new record of 1 281,1% – a clear indication that the systems are out of order.

I wonder how we are going to survive in 2007!

One comment to “All systems out of order”

  1. Comment by kubatanablogs.net » Blog Archive » Something’s got to give:

    [...] With all the strikes growing in Zimbabwe now, maybe we have something similar in store. Reflecting on this with a colleague, she commented “Mugabe is at his weakest right now because of the economic crisis, but the opposition is failing to use this to their advantage.” [...]