Cathy Buckle: 'We don't give a damn about cricket - we're worried about how to feed people'

The Zimbabwean writer gives her view of the furore
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The Independent Online

It's totally inappropriate that the tour is going ahead. It's sickening England are coming and that the issue was over money and players' fees. I don't believe that the England players wanted to come. Most of us who live here don't give a damn about cricket: we're worried about how to feed people and treat the sick. The situation is one thousand times worse in Zimbabwe than it was even four years ago.

It's totally inappropriate that the tour is going ahead. It's sickening England are coming and that the issue was over money and players' fees. I don't believe that the England players wanted to come. Most of us who live here don't give a damn about cricket: we're worried about how to feed people and treat the sick. The situation is one thousand times worse in Zimbabwe than it was even four years ago.

This may well be the last week that a large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operate in the country.

This week parliament began forcing the NGO bill through the required stages. The bill has gone to its second reading, It's now a fait accompli and it will become law in the next week or two.

The consequences will be diabolical. There is this absolute paranoia in the regime that any funding coming in will give money to the opposition. NGOs will be forced to close or relocate. Despite an adverse report by the parliamentary legal committee, which said the Bill contradicted the constitution on 12 counts, it now seems inevitable that the NGO bill is about to become law. NGOs are frantically making preparations as I write.

Some say they will go underground, others will relocate to neighbouring countries and many more will simply cease to exist. Welshman Ncube, the chairman of the parliamentary legal committee, described the NGO bill as a "pervasive attempt to curtail and extinguish the fundamental freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe". He said the bill "does not seek to regulate but to control, to silence, to render ineffective and ultimately shut down non-governmental organisations".

With the NGO bill we risk our people being arrested and our assets seized. Under these circumstances cricket is insignificant.

People in my own town with HIV and Aids, when they are too sick to leave their beds, the families hire cars and take them out into the countryside to die. They then bury them there to save on the cost of coffins. The brain drain is such that there are only two people left in the entire country qualified to perform a post-mortem examination. Whenever there is a shooting or a killing the bodies have to join the queue to be seen by these two.

There are more than 700 unemployed and virtually destitute people with HIV and Aids in Marondera, a farming town of more than 30,000, 90 miles south-east of Harare. In addition there are more than 900 orphans in the town and 21 households headed by children. In all cases these men, women and children are almost entirely dependent on the goodwill of strangers, on food and clothing handouts and charitable donations from NGOs such as the Red Cross or the Rotary Club under whose umbrella our little Christopher Campaign operates in Marondera town.

There are thought to be in excess of 3,000 NGOs in Zimbabwe employing more than 20,000 people who, in turn, help literally millions of people in need in Zimbabwe. There are NGOs working to help the very young and the very old, the sick, the hungry and the downtrodden. There are NGOs working in the cities, towns and remotest of villages.

These are the darkest of days in Zimbabwe. So many people get from one day to the next thanks to the kindness of strangers and the goodness of charitable organisations.

How they will survive once these organisations are outlawed lies only in God's hands. Please remember Zimbabwe in your prayers.

Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean author who lives in Marondera. She writes a weekly online letter about conditions in her country. To read them, go to africantears.netfirms.com/

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