Danielle Nierenberg is blogging everyday from across Africa for the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog. She is also writing with her partner Bernard Pollack at her personal blog: BorderJumpers.
The bus ride from Lusaka, Zambia to Harare, Zimbabwe lasted four hours longer than it should have (total trip was nearly 12 hours). We spent four hours at the border crossing, where everyone’s belongings were examined, less for security and more to squeeze as much money as possible from undeclared goods. Baboons outnumbered travellers at the crossing and, having mastered the art of swiping food from unaware passengers, they seemed to want to be near the humans most afraid of them (ie. me).
We started our first day in Zimbabwe with a meeting with Raol DuToit, who has spent twenty years with the World Wildlife Fund and now works directly for rhino conversation. Raoul is an encyclopaedia on every major conservation issue relating to Southern Africa.
Following that meeting, we visited an Italian restaurant called Leonardo’s to break bread with a true hero of ours: Wellington Chibebe, Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Despite having been jailed numerous times, badly beaten, and under constant surveillance-this brilliant, mild-mannered man spent a few hours passionately telling us about the struggle to bring change to his country, the heroic role the labor movement plays in the movement for democracy, and the spirit of people to overcome fear.
Afterwards we visited the editor of The Worker, Ben Madzimure. This newspaper, sponsored by ZCTU and supported by the Solidarity Center, is one of the five independent print media sources not controlled by the government, and one of its most important watchdogs.
Additionally, we were given the opportunity to visit two community projects coordinated by the informal workers association with President Beauty Mugijima and program coordinator Elijah Mutemeri.
The first project was a village where the union is working with the local community to build a school in an area where hundreds of people were forced to relocate during “Operation Restore Order.” As part of a de-urbanization program under Mugabe, nearly 2 million workers were forcibly removed from their homes in cities, stripped of their belongings, and forced to live in rural areas, without any agriculture skills or training.
At the second project we visited we were greeted by children singing, clapping, and rushing to offer hugs and high fives. Most of these hundreds of kids lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, and the union supported orphanage provides not only a place to go to learn and go to school, but also gives the children a family.
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