The advantages of differently-abled

25 02 2015

Some years back, whilst working in the U.K., I noticed that the word “disabled” was out of fashion. One, and that included me, was “differently-abled”. Hopelessly PC of course and complete nonsense. Differently abled implies that the person afflicted has abilities that others might desire. Right. Hands up all those who might want to fall over more easily. But that’s in the real world. Zimbabwe of course is in another world where these rules don’t always apply and having a disability CAN actually be advantageous.

My Zimbabwe passport expires in April and I’d been procrastinating getting it renewed. It’s been 10 years since I’d jumped through hoops and endured the queues at Makombe Building but things have slowed down a bit at work, my presence is not constantly required there and really I’d run out of excuses. All attempts to download the renewal form on the internet had failed (I’d enlisted the help of others too) and noting that they were open on Saturdays and also having heard that Saturdays were not that chaotic, decided to give it a go. It was inauspicious.

Parking on the street and getting the usual “I’ll look after your car boss” from a hawker of passport folders, I walked in. Having ascertained that Room 3 was the place to buy an application form I discovered that there was no queue. I also discovered that I couldn’t in fact buy a form ($3) until I’d had all my other identification documents certified (birth certificate and National ID) and those offices were closed on a Saturday. I’d have to wait until Monday and come back or get the form from a sub-office in Mount Pleasant (a suburb closer to where I live).

Monday found me at the sub-office in Mount Pleasant. Unfortunately I needed the original of my birth certificate and my ID to purchase the renewal form. Yes, if the internet download site had been working I could have done it for free without any documents! But nobody could tell me why it was not working. I returned later in the week and got the form but ascertained that I needed a new computerised birth certificate and that would require a visit to Market Square in the CBD of Harare. Now I have driven past Market Square and it is straight out of Dante’s Inferno, but with Zimbabwean flavour. Rubbish, touts and endless queues dominate the scenery. I shuddered, was there perhaps another way? Of course there was! An official offered for the princely some of $20 to acquire it for me. It was a no-brainer as the Americans call it. I paid and collected later the next day.

Back to the Makombe building later the next week I mentally fortified myself for long queues and delays. I was pleasantly disappointed. Fast tracked through the first queue due to my disability and not actually finding any other queues to jump, I soon found myself back at Room 3. No, I did not need to buy an application form. But how much did I want to pay for the passport? What, I have a choice? Of course there is a choice; $50 for 6 weeks, $250 for 3 days or $350 for the same day! No, 2 weeks is not an option. Not at all stupid are the Registrar General’s office. They know which option most people are going to opt for and yes, I paid the $250. After only an hour in the Makombe building I walked out assured that my passport would be ready on Monday.

I told the story to Shelton (en Francais). He was more than a bit cynical and told me he knew someone who paid the $250 and it took 4 weeks. In fact another friend who’d paid the $53 ($3 for the form) got it in 2 weeks. I settled down to wait but with a bit of hope as I’d been pleasantly surprised at how well things had gone. It had not been the Makombe building of old.

Yesterday I got a SMS – my passport was ready! Fortuitously I needed to go into town so enlisted the use of a driver from the National Ballet office – parking can be chaotic in that part of town. The parking was easy, the queue formidable and no officials around to fast track me. I guess I will go back this Saturday.





Nostalgia

14 02 2015
A Ford Capri still looking good after some 40 years!

A Ford Capri still looking good after some 40 years!

When I was 15 I really wanted one of these; a Ford Capri. Of course the really hot one was a Ford Capri Piranha (no, I cannot remember what was special about that model but they were the hot car of the time). I didn’t even know anyone who had one but I did draw one, from a magazine, for an art project. I was inordinately please that a friend could actually recognize what sort of car it was but of course the shape was very distinctive.

This one was parked outside an auto spares and accessories shop that has recently opened on 2nd Street and Churchill roads near the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. I was actually looking for office chairs which are sold in the same complex but I had to walk through the auto accessories outlet to get there. I was impressed; it could have been an outlet anywhere in the first world. Whoever had put the money in had put in a lot of money and thought. I’m not so sure they are going to get it back – it was not well patronized. It was even worse in the office chairs shop. I was the only person there. Sadly this is a common story in the country these days as the economy continues to stumble. Daniel, one of my customers, told me this week that he was talking to a friend’s wife whilst she was having her hair done in a hair salon that could seat 8 people. In the hour and a half that he was there (he can talk a lot) nobody walked in. Not good.

Whoever owns this car cannot be too concerned with shortage of money. It was in superb condition, though the colour scheme is not original and they certainly didn’t have magnesium (“mag”) wheel rims in those days. What he does for spares I cannot think. Still, it was nice to see a piece of nostalgia from my youth still looking good after some 40 years!





A nice idea

3 02 2015

Towards the end of last year Zimbabwe was abuzz with the news that bond coins were going to be introduced. The news was not well received and, despite strong denial from the Reserve Bank, rumours abounded that it was an attempt by the government to reintroduce the Zimbabwe dollar. I had seen one or two but up until today had not actually received any as change.

Small change

Small change

Small change is in notoriously short supply in Zimbabwe. South African coins (2 RAND lower right) have been useful in that they are roughly 1/10 the value of a dollar (so the 2 RAND coin is valued at 20c) but obviously they have to be bought at least the face value plus some sort of commission. The bond coins, which are minted in South Africa, are pegged at equal to the US dollar though they have no value outside the country. They certainly cost less to produce than their face value. A nice idea and certainly preferable to receiving ball point pens or sweets as change which was the case. People receiving lots of coins, such as the mini bus drivers, can go and change the coins at the end of the day for paper money at a bank. Except, as Shelton tells me, most refuse to accept them.





The cats are out of the bag and breeding

22 01 2015

 

kitsiFirst there were 6 now they’re 4. Just like cats everywhere they breed. I saw the mother come through the nursery a couple of months ago and thought I would put up with her if she kept the rat population down. Then a couple of weeks ago Kari’s dog Max started and incessant barking and there were the kittens. Apparently Max wanted to play but the mother was having none of it and was not slow with showing her displeasure when I got too close.

This morning the mother brought back some sort of prey through the greenhouse and ate it under one of the seedling racks. I don’t think it was a rat, more like a lizard. I don’t keep a cat for this reason – because they kill just about anything though this cat did at least eat her prey.

The mother will have to be caught and sterilized. It should be an interesting exercise as she looks half wild. As to the kittens, who knows. Kari thinks she’ll take one but they are not exactly friendly. We’ll see. I grabbed this photo of these kittens sitting on the coir blocks where they spend most of the day.





Zimbabwe in 2015

2 01 2015

We can expect a lot of changes in 2015. President Robert Mugabe is looking increasingly frail and has all but named Emerson Munangagwa as his favored successor. The latter, Shelton tells me, would be entirely unacceptable to most of the inhabitants of Matabeleland. He should know, he grew up in Bulawayo.

The rains are ongoing, hopelessly late for a good harvest and completely unexpected in what was supposed to be a drought year. It’s wet enough that the caterpillars have a punk hair-do!

Even the caterpillars have a punk hair do

Even the caterpillars have a punk hair-do

The introduction of low denomination coins are NOT an attempt to re-introduce the Zimbabwe dollar.

The Zimbabwe economy is moving even slower than the snail below and has less sense of direction too.Who knows where it will be end of 2015?

I have a feeling 2015 will not be boring.

...even the snail has direction

…even the snail has direction





The owing circle

30 12 2014

Mr D is an old and reliable customer of mine. Yes, he sometimes owes me money but he always pays, eventually. That’s more than I can say for a number of other customers who start off well and then after a number of years just never return whilst owing money. My outstanding debtors list is depressingly long.

Mr D’s wife phoned yesterday – she was not happy. I have a large order of tomato seedlings for her husband that are ready to go and she had no way of paying for them. It transpired that she (I gather she is the money manager in the business) was owed some $100,000 by the Grain Marketing Board (the GMB is a government-owned parastatal) for maize delivered to them last year and a sizable amount by Olivine Industries for whom they’d grown a lot of tomatoes last year. While I wasn’t particularly interested in who owed Mrs D money I had to admit the reality of the situation; they weren’t able to pay me either. She had paid a 50% deposit on the order and I couldn’t realistically sell the tomatoes to another customer so I reluctantly said that she could collect the seedlings. I gave strict instructions to the clerk not to issue an invoice on the collection, just a delivery note, so that I did not have to pay tax on a transaction for which I’d received no money (the tax department always wins).

Driving home I reflected it was just as well that Olivine Industries did not take up on the quote I’d given them earlier in the year to grow a very large quantity of tomato seedlings. I also established that Mr D was not growing the current crop for Olivine either so I guess there is a realistic chance that I’ll get paid, eventually.





Smart phones, dim screens

18 12 2014

I was thinking just recently what a good phone my Sony Xperia Z1 has been. Not the latest and greatest for sure but reliable and very useful even in Zimbabwe’s increasingly wired environment. Absolutely not thanks on the latter to the government. I use WhatsApp all the time, the camera phone to capture Zak doing daft (and not so daft things) as well as problems in the nursery and when overseas the Maps app to find my way around. Maps also works pretty well in Harare too.

So it was with more than a touch of annoyance last night that I discovered that the screen had cracked in my pocket, no doubt caused by a large bunch of keys. The phone has become more than a touch erratic and sometimes I cannot even unlock the screen pattern. The Sony is not a popular brand here so screens are not available and it’s going to take a while to get another from Amazon. In the meantime I must either get another smart phone (limited choice here) or try and find the battery for my old Nokia which also has a broken screen but works just fine.

So when is someone going to invent a more durable smart phone screen, or have I missed the point?








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