Farewell irony

10 12 2006

I attended a farewell party yesterday afternoon. Farewells are depressingly common in Zimbabwe at the moment. But this one is worth mentioning as the departing couple are actually desperate to stay in Zimbabwe.

Terry and Suzanne are Canadian citizens who have been here for about 5 years; Terry was a senior diplomat with the Canadian Embassy here. He has just retired and envisaged supplementing his pension as a political risk assessor for companies wishing to invest in Zimbabwe, using the considerable political contacts he made during the course of his work. You could have been forgiven for thinking that his (and Suzanne’s) application for a work permit, after all it could only help improve Zimbabwe’s dire economic situation. He was turned down flat.

It is seldom that simple in Zimbabwe. We have to go back a few months in looking for a possible influence on the negative outcome of this application. When the  United Nations General Assembly was on, the Zim delegation was flying in from the UK and asked Canada for permission to overfly that nation. They were turned down and had to make an expensive detour. On the plane was the senior immigration officer.  The work permit application procedure require the applicant to be out the country while his/her application is being processed. This usually takes a couple of weeks but Terry had been out for two days when his application was turned down. At the time I thought it ominous but I did not express this to Terry and Suzanne who were still optimistic. Their appeal was also turned down and no reason given though an official did say to Terry that if the government were to change his application would be favourably received.

I could not help thinking yesterday how ironic this all was. Here were a couple who were desperate to stay in a country that they’d come to love, (a lot of Zimbabweans are desperate to leave) and here was I needing to leave the country that I love. I’m not sure if I have touched on this elsewhere but I should explain; I don’t WANT to go. I HAVE to go. Zimbabwe and Africa are not good places to be if you have health problems as I do. Yes, I am reasonably fit but in future years I will probably end up in a wheelchair and with no family and no properties I must go somewhere where I will be looked after. If I want to stay in Zim I need to put aside AT LEAST US$1000 per month for the next 20 years and that does not allow for emergencies, assuming that I want to retire at the normal age. That is not going to happen.  Yes, if one can earn real money and live in Zim that is first prize; but few have that option. The other option is to make a LOT of local money but agriculture, in which I am involved, is not a growth industry at the moment.

Erratum. Speaking to the better connected yesterday, I was informed that the figure of US$300m embezzled in the diamond scam was way over-inflated. Whatever, mabe it was 30m. It was still a LOT of money and you can be certain it was embezzled!

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