Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Praying habits back to hell

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I remember that September 2008 was a tough month in Harare.  Tough for purchasing food that is.  This was before the selected legalization of US$ sales and before full-on dollarization.  The problem back then was either:  1) shops only had empty shelves or 2) the products were priced in ZWD based on having obtained those ZWD via transfer, meaning if one had obtained ZWD by exchanging cash for cash even a single banana would have cost something like US$10.  That month I was only eating what I had horded away in my cupboards.  I looked in shops every day, but could not afford anything since I was not a swiper.

Things changed in October 2008 when the powers that be dictated that shops could sell exported food in US$.  Thinking this dual currency system might be short lived, I bought loads of food.  Also perhaps I stocked up because, as the expression goes, I was like a kid in a candy store.  Just the sight of food on the shelves made me want one of everything.  I even bought food that I don’t really like, only because it was available.

I’ve returned to Harare after being away for six months.  Now the shelves are full.  Or at least full like they never were in 2008 or even in 2007.  Now everything is in US$.  High priced US$ to be exact.  It’s funny, in that not actually funny way.  Once in the fully shelved shops of Harare 2009, I still want to buy one of everything.  I suppose this is not surprising given that the last six months in the US have been the same thing.  I move down and around the 82-aisled overstocked US grocery stores and want to buy multiples of things.  In case they run out.

But back to what’s not actually funny.  When and how to get rid of Zimbabwean habits.  And not just in relation to purchasing food.  The habit of expecting and accepting corruption among political leaders.  Having to think and carefully strategize how to assert basic human rights.  Assuming the coming week will involve a lack of electricity and/or water.  Thinking vast swathes of fallow land is normal.

While in Harare I will attend a screening of the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell.  The film follows a group of brave and visionary women who fought for peace in Liberia.  As fighting increased in Monrovia, and peace talks faltered, the women of Liberia – Christian and Muslims united – formed a thin but unshakable white line between the opposing forces.  They successfully demanded the fighting end, armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions.  Liberian women called for peace — they prayed for the devil of war to get back to Hell.  At one point, the women barricaded the site of the stalled peace talks in Ghana.   Boldly announced they would remain until a deal was signed.  Faced with eviction, they invoked the most powerful weapon in their arsenal – threatening to remove their clothes.  It worked.  Peace came to Liberia and continues under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

When I watch the film I will pray that devilish Zimbabwean habits get back to Hell.

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