Vintage Zimbabwe

Hwange - waterhole and elephants 4sq

Late 1992-3 and we were living in Lusaka, Zambia, Graham on secondment from the Natural Resources Institute in Kent to the European Union Delegation – his job to manage the logistics of food aid deliveries to drought-stricken parts of Zambia.

These were exciting times. As we arrived, long-term presidential incumbent, Kenneth Kaunda (he who had led Northern Rhodesia to independence in 1964) had recently ceded to Frederick Chiluba, the first elected president after the return to multi-party democracy. Which sounds positive, but it also involved the International Monetary Fund structurally adjusting the nation, causing hikes in staple food prices, and stopping free schooling and medical care for the poor so they could become even more hard done by.

Then there were the international corporations who continued not to pay taxes on their exploitation of Zambia’s copper mines. Then Kenneth Kaunda’s army officer son, Rezi, had thoughts of starting a coup and was said to behind much of the criminal activity in the capital, and then over in the neighbouring Congo (or so the story went) President Mobutu had neglected to pay his army thus causing them to come on regular night-raiding missions to the diplomatic quarters of Lusaka.

One could have become very anxious, but actually, none of this was my experience of Lusaka. It always seemed rather sleepy under the wide blue skies of breezy white clouds, the locals ever quick to smile and share a joke.

Anyway by July ‘93, winter in southern Africa, we thought we needed a holiday, and headed south for the then peaceably prosperous neighbour-state of Zimbabwe. We drove on near empty roads all the way to Harare. Back then that city  seemed like a wonderland, the epitome of sophistication compared to Lusaka where the downtown stores had empty shelves and all seemed stuck in a 1950s time-warp.  And after Harare we set off across Zimbabwe – nothing booked ahead – empty roads. The only downside was a gloomy day or two when we were in Hwange National Park and my little camera could not cope with low light levels. Still, it just about managed to capture the elephants under this very large acacia. They turned up while we were eating our picnic lunch.

Photo: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Tree Square #29

28 thoughts on “Vintage Zimbabwe

  1. Thanks for that walk / drive down memory lane. I have visited Hwange,too. Must have still been Wankie National Park then. I have wonderful memories (and unfortunatel, no photos at all).

  2. Lovely memories of times gone by…Almost always everything and everywhere seemed so simple and easy back then. Love the elephants.

  3. I’m so glad we managed to fend off those “structural adjustments” in that decade. Beautiful photos. I wish we’d thought of visiting these places then. Traveling without reservations!

    1. Good to hear you did keep the structural adjustments at bay. And yes, travelling without reservations. Zimbabwe had then/and still has some wonderful lodges.

  4. what extraordinary times you were living there, but how marvellous that you could also just enjoy the beauty and wonder of the country and surrounding countries. I so enjoy your vintage photography, and honoured to be able to read your memories. Although this one it felt like I could hear you reading them outloud 😀

  5. I really enjoyed this brief ramble around Zambia/Zimbabwe. It must have been an amazing time for you.
    When I read the bit about the multinationals not paying taxes I had a frisson of despair – will things ever change?! And the IMF’s restructuring doing away with schooling and medical care for the poor. Sigh. We are a flawed species. But I love your shot of the elies, and reading your rambling tales of Africa.

    1. Thanks, Alison. It seemed to me when we were living in/visiting the former British colonies/protectorates in East and southern Africa that the real problems began, first during occupation years by imposing inappropriate systems imported from home territories (e.g. Crown land ownership) plus the arbitrary imposition of borders and native reserves, and then when the colonial British rulers debunked, they left the whole sorry mess behind them.

  6. Fond memories no doubt.
    Thanks for sharing the watembo…
    All well Memsahib?
    Greetings from Paris. (I did make it only to be barred from museums and soon restaurants by the French bureaucracy. Mbaya sana kabissa)

      1. “Toujours la tyrannie a d’heureuses prémices.” Racine. Brittanicus I think. (Always tyranny has happy beginnings.)
        We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, enjoying my last few days. Don’t when I shall come back. Take good care of yourself Memsahib.

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