Hunger stalks Bikita

HARARE - Boarding a rural-bound bus or what is referred to as a “Chicken Bus” during this rainy season can be a frustrating experience. The bus will be raining inside.

It becomes more annoying especially when the buses are over-charging and worse, continuously break down along the way.

With the just-ended festive season turning itself into a culling season one should be grateful for being alive after so many deaths and injuries.

Despite the risk of being part of the statistics, I boarded a “chicken bus” to Bikita on a day that most people would not want to travel. It was Christmas Day and the mood was ripe for the once-a-year celebrations.

One would have thought the coming in of the multi-currency regime meant that even those at the base of stock would at least afford a decent meal on such a day, but alas for most people these were just wishes.

As it was raining from Harare to Chivhu everyone in the bus was scurrying for cover inside the bus.

People complained bitterly that bus owners were reluctant to repair their buses despite charging exorbitant prices. Never mind the presence of numerous police details on the country’s roads.

As we reached Roy/Mhunga turn off a heat wave swept through the bus and all those who were wet due to the raining bus started to feel the sudden high temperatures. We were welcomed by the Bikita heat and everyone sensed danger.

The rains were not forthcoming and this spells disaster for my loveable and good-natured people of this area. Crop failure has now become the norm year after year but in this current season animals like goats also found the going tough.

The prolonged dry spell spoiled the Christmas spirit, the usually overjoyed vendors selling harurwa were nowhere in sight, of-course it is not the season for those sour insects but the hot climate and unyielding clouds were a sign of the tough times ahead.

Going down to Bikita office, the mood changed for the worse as there was little activity as kids loitered agonisingly around the shops. Those who wanted to drown their troubles in alcohol were not spared too.

Some could be seen ready to attack one scud of opaque beer, the rest seemed to be resigned to fate and one could almost predict what was going on in their minds.

The sorry state of the fields and the near wilting maize crop seemed to be saying to them — another failed season and more frantic efforts to find the precious American dollar to buy food.

What about those kinds in their midst, I think food comes first meaning that some will drop from school, get married at a tender age or flock to the once touted bright city lights to join hordes of others engaged in endless running battles with municipal and the ZRP.

If at all you spoiled your little ones with goodies then count yourself blessed. For some people Christmas was just but one of those painful days.

After another of the several breakdowns and temporarily escaping being some of the death statistics, we disembarked from the bus to face the souring temperatures and the sure evidence of climatic change in an area that would have been painted green with near maturing maize.

Herdboys and girls were engaged in endless battles with goats and cattle which were always trying to evade and help themselves to the failing green crops.

Rivers resembled the dry season as most people competed with domestic animals for the remaining shallow wells in the dry river beds.

Prices for a bucket of maize soared to an average of $10 further dampening the already shattered spirits.

When the rains do finally come, it’s either too late or too much.

Bikita is in dire straits; maybe “miracle money” might also come in handy. - Wellington Gadzikwa

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