Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

Bucket List transport to Kruger National Park
May 15, 2013

You are looking at your “Bucket List” of things to do before you die and one sentence in particular is highlighted in fluorescent yellow: “Travel to South Africa to take a safari in the Kruger National Park.”

Actually, your dreams are only a flight away to South Africa on a reliable airline to Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo International Airport and if you are a wily traveller, booking a sturdy 4×4 vehicle in advance off the Internet will give you the advantage of getting great savings on cheap car hire, where you can find the perfect vehicle to safely get you to and around the Kruger Park.

Once through airport customs and immigration, a friendly Rental Agent will be there to meet and greet you, making your arrival to South Africa a welcome one.

After sleeping over in Johannesburg you will set off on the first stage of your safari to Kruger, world-famous for its abundantly diverse wildlife. The Park’s magnificent scenery and unique wilderness with the “Big Five”; Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and Rhino and array of other animals, makes it one of the few remaining areas where one feels as if they are in the true Africa of old, away from the noise of smoggy cities and the endless hum of traffic. Instead there is the peace of the bush, the sound of the African fish-eagle’s lament echoing out across the Olifants River and the rat-tap-tap of the tok-tok beetle as it trundles through the fallen leaves of the mopane trees.

There are so many places where you can stay in the Kruger Park and surrounding areas, with a range of accommodation from low budget to luxury game lodges. These can be booked through the South African Department of Tourism at the same time that you book your cheap car hire.

It is said that the Kruger National Park was the prototype of wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, offering a wildlife experience that ranks as one of the best in the entire continent. Established in 1898 to protect the animals in the Lowveld of South Africa, the park comprises nearly two million hectares and is unrivalled in its vast diversity of flora and fauna, with an estimate of some 336 trees, 114 reptiles, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 507 birds and 147 mammals.

It is also interesting to note that man has been part of the environment for centuries, from the bushman’s paintings that are still visible in rocky outcrops and caves to the fascinating archaeological sites of Masorini and Thulamela. Giving evidence of cultures before ours that lived and hunted in the vast tracts of land, and part of the proud conservation of the Kruger National Park.

Africa’s mysterious magic has always been its unique wildlife and the habitats in which they can be found. For you as the visitor, the African bush provides remarkably stirring experiences with only a few other African Game Parks as diverse as that of the Kruger National Park.

Reluctantly you will leave the Park on your homeward journey, dropping your 4×4 vehicle back at the airport where you will promise yourself a return to Africa where the old saying goes “the dust of Africa never leaves the soles of your feet.”

Susan Cook-Jahme©

For Mothers on Mother’s Day
May 12, 2013

Upon waking this morning my friend Doug sent me a text message on his cell phone:

“Good Morning Sue – and what you think about joining us, – Me ‘n Shaz at Seagulls restaurant for a Mother’s Day lunch? Cath is treating Shaz, so I’ll treat you, seeing as your children aren’t here?”

To fill you in, Cath is Doug and Shaz’ daughter, and Seagulls is a restaurant situated in the tiny holiday village, L’Agulhas which is the last inhabited place at the southernmost tip of Africa.

I do not think my friends know how much it means to me to have received that message today – it brought a lump to my throat and made me feel terribly emotional. You see, I am here on my own trying to wrap up the sale of our home in Cape Agulhas, Graham, (my hubby) is working under gruelling conditions in Uganda on an agricultural project and my daughters, son-in-law and grandsons are all in England. My Mom is eight hours drive from me up the east coast of South Africa. As I’ve visited her recently, I cannot afford to visit her again until our house transaction is through.

With my friend’s kind gesture, it brought me to think of the many mother’s, (including my beloved mother) step-mothers and adoptive mothers who are spending this day on their own.

It’s for them that I write this Blog today:

We, as mothers, have all had mothers and grandmothers, an aunt or god-mother who has been an important part of our life. Someone who kissed a grazed knee or stroked a fevered brow, made us packed lunches and drove us back-wards and forwards on school runs.

A woman who cheered us on at school sport’s day and ran in the mother’s race, and even if she came in last, she was our heroine.

A woman who told us it didn’t matter that our report card was not brilliant, Einstein was dyslexic and look how he turned out!

A woman who kept all our drawings and little notes from when we first knew how to put pencil to paper.

A woman who taught us that fairies and angels really did exist and that the world was full of beautiful things.

A woman who cried with us over our first heartbreak and wrapped us in her arms and made everything feel OK.

A woman who saw us out into the big wide world and kept a lighted candle burning in the window if we ever needed to return.

A woman who saw the wonderment when we ourselves became a mother and we could only understand the burning protectiveness and unconditional love a mother has over her own child.

I think of all the mothers who have to face the death of their own mothers, or the loss of a beloved child. The empty feeling they must have to face each year when Mother’s Day is celebrated. They cannot make a phone call to say “I love you dearly”, but what I do know is Mother’s Day is for remembering our mothers because their spirit remains within us and our children and our children’s children.

The whole world’s most celebrated day of the year is Mother’s Day as everyone has a mother. It does not matter what religion, creed or colour you are, Mother’s Day is important to all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day, – especially to Mothers who are on their own and feel sadness at loved ones who are not with them.

Love and Light to: My Mom, Debi, Kerry, Taryn, Johnno, Lochlan & Mason.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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The Beautiful Island of Mauritius, Part 5
May 7, 2013

 

Mauritius Flag

The food of Mauritius is varied, as there are so many different people of ethnic decadency from varied places around the world, with several distinctive styles of cooking. Most typically Mauritian is Creole cuisine. Boiled rice forms the basis of most Creole dishes, to this is added curry; meat or fish cooked with turmeric, aniseed, hot spices, onions and oil, and served with finely chopped tomatoes, hot chillies, and green mango. Another traditional savoury dish is a tasty green vegetable soup called bredes. Vegetables that are usually served with savoury dishes are patisson, or squash, boiled watercress and chou-chou, (a type of marrow.) Several restaurants on the island serve Creole food on their menu, so do give it a try.

 

Naturally, seafood is the speciality of Mauritian dishes; lobsters and shrimps top most of the menus, but also delicious is the local freshwater prawn, the camaron. I enjoy it in “sauce rouge”, which I recommend every person dining out when on the island, should eat at least once. Then there is a variety of Indian Ocean fish which are served, capitaine, gueule pave, damenerry, sacre chien, squid, urchins and tasty little oysters. From June to September venison are a speciality and some restaurants offer hare and wild boar. A delicious salad is Coeur de palmiste, (the heart of a seven-year old palm tree.) Try the beef that is brought into the island from the large island of Madagascar, the fillet in particular is tender and full of flavour. There is an abundant supply of exotic fruit, small, sweet pineapples, lychees, paw-paws, Chinese guavas, wild raspberries, mangoes, water-melons, custard-apples, bananas, and coconuts are some of the fresh fruit on offer. The bakeries sell French baguettes and brightly iced patisseries for the person with a sweet tooth. Wine from France, South Africa and many other countries can be found in a corner store, as well as the local rum. Of course there is always on offer the good old British cup of tea and delicious local coffee that is roasted in the way of the French.

 

The main recreational sport on the island is deep-sea fishing, with the main season falling in from October to March, but there is no closed season and a good catch can be had throughout the year. Fish caught are marlin, barracuda, tuna, wahoo, yellow fin and jack fish. Big game-fishing can be organised on line or at any large hotel group on the island. Full fishing gear is provided, along with an experienced crew. You can also find fishermen who helm their own pirogues, (the local fishing boats) who will take you out fishing for the day, which is what I prefer to do when visiting. For those of you who prefer not to fish, there are other things to do such as, golf, sailing, bowling, surfing, water skiing, swimming and sunbathing, and  one of the island’s other most important sports, skin diving. Skin diving was first started by the Sino-Mauritians in the 1940’s and now there is a very popular scuba-club which was founded by Australian, English and Mauritian divers. Some of the best underwater areas are Morne Brabant Reef, Black River, Whale Rock and Horseshoe Spit. As there are dozens of known wrecks around the coast dating back to 1615, it is a “must do” for anyone who enjoys this sport.

 

Don’t miss out on horse-racing at the Champ de Mars. The season is from May to October with the main meets being held at the end of May and August. Mauritius “Derby Day” is the Maiden Plate which is run in late August. Other popular sports are soccer, lawn tennis, sailing with regattas from July through to October, basketball, volleyball and athletics.

 

Nightclubs are situated all over the island, but the best are in the big-resort hotels, with cabaret, local d-j’s, dinner dancing and so forth. Unique to the Indian Ocean Island, is the sega, a dance accompanied by calypso-style singing, the musicians using drums, maracas and triangles, to accompany the dance. The sega first evolved by African slaves and is now part of Creole folk law. Performances are often organised and held at the big hotels, as is gambling which is also a huge attraction on the island. Casinos are situated in most of the large hotel groups.

 

For the shop-a-holics, the best places for souvenirs are the handicraft shops in Port Louis, but you can find them in the hotel shops at higher prices, which I try to avoid. Hire a small car or a taxi for the day and visit Rose Hill, Curepipe and the covered market in Port Louis. For a true Mauritian souvenir, consider a beautifully woven basket, applique pictures made from sugar cane leaves, woodcarvings of the do-do, finely embroidered tablecloths and napkins and an assortment of wall hangings and tapestries. Chinese tailors can be found in Port Louis and they run up beautiful shirts and suits in no time at all. Clothing shops stock a range of beach wear and chic French fashions which are reasonable in price.

 

The currency unit used on the island is the Mauritian Rupee, divided into 100 cents and most international banks can be found on the island.

 

Plaisance Airport is 27 miles from Port Louis. If staying at a hotel, they provide shuttles.

 

Hiring of vehicles can be done online or through various touring companies who have representatives on call at the airport and resorts. The roads are tarmac and good. Signs are in English.

 

Entry requirements are the usual passport and visas, (check if you need a visa online.) Visitors travelling through or from a yellow fever/cholera infected area must produce a yellow fever inoculation certificate.

 

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

 

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Beautiful Mauritius, Part 3
May 4, 2013

For such a small island Mauritius has many places of interest to visit. The capital, Port Louis was founded by Mahe de Labourdonnais in 1736. It has great character and in some parts has a battered elegance. Off the main square the, “Place d’Armes” is set amidst giant palms trees. For people who are interested in the architecture of the past, there are fine French colonial buildings like Government House built in the 18th century and the Municipal Theatre built around the same time. There are two cathedrals, a Supreme Court, 18th century barracks, a Historical and Natural History museum all watched over by numerous statues of various people of importance from the past. On the fringe of the town, nestling at the foot of the mountains is the Champ de Mars which was originally laid out by the French for military parades and now serves as a race course. A must when in Port Louis is the vibrant covered market where you can see the amazing crafts, tropical fruit and veggies and many other wares sold by the vendors dressed in colourful attire. Before leaving the town, make sure you visit the Port which is the main reason for the creation of Port Louis and lies quietly in the shelter of a semi-circle of mountains, holding its secrets of the past of the Spice Traders, battles and sunken ships.

Leaving the town, you pass through its suburbs, Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatres Bornes and Vacoas where you must make a stop and view the extinct crater, Trou aux Cerfs some 280ft deep and more than 200 yards wide. You can stand on the rim and look out over one of the most spectacular views of the island, (a great place to take photos).

Then drive on to Curepipe which is the island’s main urban shopping centre. Here you will find retail outlets and good restaurants where you can have a meal before heading on to Mahebourg, one of the main fishing centres, situated in the bay of Grand Port and has a historical museum which is housed in the French Colonial Mansion where, apparently, in 1810 English and French naval commanders were both wounded in the same battle, and brought to the mansion and given medical attention at the same time, (I wonder what they had to say to each other? Perhaps they were too wounded to care.) Apart from naval relics, the museum has copies of the priceless Mauritius “Post Office stamps, such as the “Blue Mauritius.”

Travel back, towards the village of Souillac and a little farther along the south coast you can see where the island’s distinguished poet, Robert-Edward Hart de Keating lived in a delightful little house called “Le Nef” which is built of coral and volcanic rock. It now serves as a museum standing on the cliffs, looking out over the sea; – no wonder Hart was such a great poet! –

In the south west of the island, close to Le Morne, are the “Coloured Earths”, an amazing geological phenomenon which is believed to have been caused by weathering of the layers of rock. Try and see this sight on a bright, sunny day as this is when the colours are seen at their best.

Do not miss out on seeing the Black River Gorges where you shall discover great picnic spots and spectacular scenery as well as heavy forests bejewelled with rain drops, where there is an abundance of birdlife.

Passing the Moka Range of mountains, Le Pouce, 2661ft, which can be climbed and is categorised as “easy”, Pieter Both, 2700ft, categorised for experienced climbers and rock-climbers. Then head back south of Port Louis and stop at Le Reduit, the French colonial residence of the Governors’ of Mauritius and walk in magnificent 325 acre gardens that roll out in front of the residence majestically.

To the north of Port Louis you will find my favourite place on the island, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Pampelmousses, an absolute haven of peace and tranquillity. Founded in 1770 as a nursery for tropical crops, it was from here that cloves were first introduced to Zanzibar. Famous for its pond where you will see the huge floating Victoria Regia lily-pads that look like large round trays proudly displaying their exquisite purple flowers that reflect into the pond’s liquid surface.

The tear-jerking French classic, “Paul et Virginie” the novel by author Bernardin de St. Pierre was written by him after his stay on the island of Mauritius and the Pampelmousses are wrapped into the saga. This is a must-read book to pack in your travel bag when you plan to visit this tropical paradise.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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The Beautiful Island of Mauritius, (Part 2)
May 3, 2013

Mauritius is the result of a powerful volcanic eruption; flowing masses of basalt solidified and formed three chains of mountains running from northeast to southwest. Other masses of lava were flung farther afield to form solitary peaks, which are now beautiful mountains dominating the landscape of the island and are thickly forested with tropical green jungles. They rise up from the surrounding flat lands planted with fields of yellow-green sugar cane, their jagged indigo peaks touching the powder blue dome of the skies.
What I enjoy the most about these peaks that guard the island silently are their descriptive names, – Les Trois Mamelles, (the three breasts) Le Pouce, (the thumb) Le Morne (the mournful) and Lion Mountain. Nestled comfortably amidst these mountains rises a central plateau to some 1900ft. lying in the west and southeast are a series of gorges that divide the plateau. The main ones comprising fast flowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls are Grand River in the northwest and the Black River in the southwest.
The coastal areas of the island reveal rocky coves and bays, some fringed with white talcum-like sandy beaches, protected by a coral reef that wraps itself protectively around the entire island and in some places rising to 40ft above sea level. Languishing between the shore and the reef is the ocean that plays colours of turquoise, indigo and royal blue, dappled by silver sun stars playing on its tranquil surface.
Some two hundred years ago, Mauritius was home to a massive variety of birds, some of which, like the dodo had lost the power of flight and were easily shot for “the pot” by early sea-farers and eventually became extinct. A small number of the surviving species live in the indigenous forests, now National Reserves.
Animals that were imported in the years of the East India Spice Traders are the Indian hare and Mina bird, the Macaque Monkey from Malaysia and the Javanese deer. There are also 4 different kinds of snake that are harmless, and fifteen different types of lizards.
Sadly in the early years of discovery the island’s natural primeval forests were plundered for their natural hardwoods, but it is still cloaked in lush vegetation that is kept green all year round with rain showers. Tall palms and casuarinas, (locally called filaos) that cling to the sea’s edge and in the hills are eucalyptus and conifers. Villages are shaded by badamier, banyan, camphor and baobab trees with roads lined with avenues of flame trees, (originally from Madagascar.) All year round one is delighted by the flowering blooms of jacaranda, cassia, oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus and a variety of other trees and shrubs.
Sugar cane covers two-fifths of the land, earning 93% of the revenue on the island, whilst the other crops, coffee, tea, tobacco and rice provide a living for a majority of the Mauritians.
There is an estimated population of 1,286 million living on the island, of which the majority are Indians of the Hindu faith, Creoles, (people of mixed European and African blood), Chinese traders,  and the minority who are Franco and Anglo Mauritian who descend from families who have lived on the island for over 200 years. The official business language is English, but the native language of Europeans and Creoles id French, or lingua franca, a Creole patois. Educated Indians and those in the tourism business are bi-lingual in French and English, as well as their native Hindi or Urdu.
Mauritius has a maritime climatewhich is cooled by the southeast Trade Winds from April to October. Between December to May, (the summer) temperatures reach the upper 80’s and the humidity is high with the hottest months being December to February. In the months of July to August, (winter) temperatures reach the upper 70’s.
It rains throughout the year, the wettest months being January to March and this is known as the Season of Cyclones and one visit I made to the island was in February where I sat out a cyclone in the Touessrok Hotelclose to the Ille aux Cerfs which was an awesome and frightening experience, to put it mildly! Ever since then I have been prone to visit Mauritius in the months of April to May.
©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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About Susan Cook-Jahme: the Happy Scribbler
April 28, 2013

About Susan Cook-Jahme: the Happy Scribbler.

Little Palaro Girl, Uganda
July 14, 2012

When you capture children on film it is always such a blessing as they pose with inhibition.
This photo was taken with my little “point and shoot” Lumix camera in Palaro, the northern part of Uganda, close to the southern Sudan and Congo borders.
I think it is the only clothing she has.

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From June into July in Uganda
July 10, 2012

I think Graham wanted to lull me into a zone where I was to be spoilt with hotel accommodation before settling me in to the place his recent employers had supplied for our immediate home in the North of Uganda, Palaro.

My first two nights were spent in the Protea Hotel, Kololo, Kampala.

After 35km hell ride from Entebbe Airport it was a relief to see that I was to be lodged in the luxury of a 4-star hotel. Entering one of the 11 suites, I welcomed the cool air from the air-conditioner and placed my suitcase down, taking my shoes off and enjoying the feel of the cool marble floor beneath my feet. Walking out to the balcony I found it overlooked one of the restaurants where a few people were seated below at tables enjoying midmorning tea and cakes. “Ever so British,” I thought to myself.

Graham had to go into the city, as he had to meet his boss in the Simba head offices and suggested I settle in and relax, promising to take me into Kampala to see some of the sights the following day.

I was tired from my trip from London, via Nairobi, so had a shower in the suite’s well-proportioned shower and then lay on the bed and fell into a deep sleep, only to awake when I heard the key turning in the door. Graham had returned from his meeting. We sat out on the balcony and ate lunch which we had ordered through room-service. Catching up on what had been happening since he had arrived in the country two months prior to my arrival. It sounded as if all the promises of his contract had not yet been forthcoming. Unperturbed, I listened quietly. This was not the first agricultural assignment he had undertaken in our lives when this had happened. Time eventually ironed things out and the situation either worked out, or we moved on, – Graham is highly experienced in his field and does not have difficulty in finding employment.

Push coming to shove, we always have our back-up option and that is our property at the foot of South Africa in Cape Agulhas that we have run as a bijou Bed and Breakfast operation, and can easily do so again at the drop of a hat.

However, the spirit of adventure is in both of us and we enjoy the challenge of a new project and place to live. The love of land entices us into making the quick decision to sign up, pack up and pick up on a new place, discovering the flora, fauna and people of the country we find ourselves living in.

Ugandans, I have discovered are extremely friendly and always happy to stop and while away the time asking you where you come from and why you are in their country. The majority speak fluent English and often favour communicating with each other in this language over their home tongue. As the country has had massive amounts of Western Aid poured into it, it hosts huge numbers of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and even in Gulu, Uganda’s second largest town, one finds established ex-patriot hang-outs in the city-centres.

Early the next day we were collected by a company driver and ferried to the Simba office where I met Graham’s immediate boss, a diminutive young Irish American lady who looked as if she was younger than our daughters, but she obviously had earned her place in the company as I realised she was well informed and capable. After being politely dismissed from her office, I retreated to the grounds surrounding the offices, leaving Graham there to talk business.

I walked around the grounds and enjoyed looking at the tropical palms and plants in the gardens. The peace did not last long, a man staggered through the security gates with a bleeding head, making his way into the offices. Curious, I took a seat in the shade of a large gazebo, waiting for Graham to tell me about the injured man. It did not take long, as he soon joined me. Apparently the man had been sent into Kampala on the back of a boda-taxi to collect cash which was to be given to Graham to pay the driver of the pick-up that had been hired for our use. Unfortunately thieves had been alerted about this from an “inside informer” from the office and attacked him on the moving boda-boda. In order to escape he jumped off, landing on his head and hurting himself whilst hanging onto the money.

“Odd,” I remarked to Graham, “Why on earth send a target like that on the back of a motor-bike, surely he should be in a closed company vehicle for such a job?”
Graham nodded, “I agree, but now we still have to wait for money to pay for the pick-up rental.”

I was once again left on my own whilst Graham went to see what could be done, so ambled over to where the driver had parked the beat up old vehicle that was our mode of transport. He had his wife with him in the four-door cab and invited me to meet her, suggesting I sit in the comfort of the vehicle. Next thing I found he had locked the doors. As there were kiddie-locks on the back doors, I could not get out, short of clambering out the window, which I was not going to do, – well not immediately anyway!

With a jovial laugh, he happily told me that he and his wife were holding me hostage until they had their payment. By this time, I had a slight sense of humour failure and did not join in with what I hoped was their joke. My day out looking around Kampala did not appear that it was going to take place and had gone somewhat awry.

In the end Graham arrived and paid the driver in full, he was happy, we were happy and all I wanted to do was return to my nice, clean, cool hotel room and put my feet up. When I suggested this, my husband looked very relieved, “Good idea Babe,” I thought so too and waited until we were well rested. Over a glass of wine at dinner, I mentioned how I had been kidnapped by a friendly Ugandan and his wife earlier on in the day. We both laughed at my first day in Uganda and initiation of Kampala.

With a bit of luck, I shall be able to visit the craft markets and places of interest during my next trip to the capital city.

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Tropical Storms in Mozambique
February 6, 2012

For the past three weeks there has been no Internet due to tropical storms in the region.
As there are no land-line telecoms here, everyone relies on cell/mobile phones.
Again, with the adverse weather, they do not work well all the time.
To top all of this, power cuts are frequent and we often find ourselves sitting in the dark.
On the positive side of this state of affairs, the incessant music that plays without respite from the shanty-town that pushes itself up against the OLAM cotton complex’s security fencing stops with lack of electricity feeding the huge speakers and there is a welcome silence for a while.
However, living in such a remote part of Mozambique Internet is paramount to keeping sane. The lack of it for a writer such as me brings on withdrawal symptoms similar to when I try to cut down on my coffee intake!
 No complaints though, the three weeks gave me time to update my work resume’s, rewrite articles I had been procrastinating about sorting out, and time to catalogue photographs that had been backed up on my external hard-drive for months.
Further to this, my knowledge of garden landscaping and design had been offered by Graham to the OLAM senior management prior to my arrival in Morrembala. This has kept me busy during the days when Graham is at work.
His immediate boss had mentioned to Graham that the cotton complex needed what he called “beautifying” and when my husband heard that, he said I was the person to fit the job description. When I asked Graham if this would be a paid job, and if OLAM would supply a budget for me to get a plant nursery going, to purchase plants and so forth, all I got was a huge belly laugh from him, “Babe,” he said, shaking his head, “I have been fighting with them to honour my salary payments for the past three months, which have not been forthcoming. I doubt you would get paid or any financial support. If you take the job on, you will have to improvise.”
Astounded at the news that Graham was fighting to get paid monthly by what is one of the world’s largest commodity broker companies, I was more interested in why he was prepared to continue working for them. From what I was told then made me shake my head in astonishment.
Apparently the last email sent  by Graham to his immediate boss asking for what is legally his had a return response to the effect that OLAM Mozambique were trying to make a plan to pay him, but they could not make any promises.
“Goodness Babe” I exploded, “Why on earth are we still here? It’s not as if this is the best place in the world to live with amazing attractions,” with that, the high shrieking of a pig that was having his throat slit in the village that surrounds the OLAM complex covered an un-lady like expletive I had made after my question.
That was just before the Christmas holiday, the particular boss who promised to “sort something” eventually organised to pay Graham what he was owed, but only after he had handed in his resignation.
When the boss phoned Graham and asked him to withdraw his resignation, he refused as there has been no solution made as to where the money from January 2012 and onwards was going to come from. Considering OLAM is a huge International company with their main offices bases in Singapore, I find all of this amazing. Only in an African country does this sort of abuse of work ethic seem to take place.
The end of this month is coming up and I am sitting on the side-lines watching the whole issue play out with interest.
My flight out of Mozambique to Johannesburg is in seventeen days, where I look forward to spending a couple of days with my Uncle and cousins before flying to UK to work for a couple of months.
Fingers crossed something really positive happens for Graham before then… 
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April 6, 2008

Did we put a tyrant in power?

– Lord Carrington The Times April 5, 2008

The former Foreign Secretary remembers how Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe

Peter Carrington:

If you want to understand this week’s events in Zimbabwe, a little history might be helpful. For it demonstrates how the responsibility for what has happened in that country over the past two decades lies firmly with Robert Mugabe and the decisions he has made.

The past terrible few years raise questions about how President Mugabe came to power.

Was the Lancaster House agreement – which brought an end to the civil war in Zimbabwe and allowed for the victory of Mugabe – a mistake?

I am convinced that it was not. When I became Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary in 1979 the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe problem was near the top of my in-tray. It had bedevilled successive governments ever since Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence in 1965 and set up a white-minority government. It had soured Commonwealth relations and damaged our relationship with some of our closest allies. The election of 1979, under a constitution that gave disproportionate power to the whites, which brought Bishop Abel Muzorewa to power was not recognised as legitimate by any other country, except South Africa, because Joshua Nkomo and Mugabe, the main rebel opposition leaders, were not allowed to take part. Towards the end of 1979, however, the situation had changed. Nkomo felt that time was not on his side. He wanted a settlement as soon as possible. The Muzorewa Government and the whites in Rhodesia were fighting a war against the rebels that was draining the economy and which could not be sustained for much longer. The South Africans, who were supporting the Muzorewa Government, were finding the burden too great.

The frontline states surrounding Zimbabwe all had reasons for wanting a solution; Zambia was the host to Nkomo’s army, an imposition which they wished to end. However, there was one person who did not feel it necessary to press for a settlement – Robert Mugabe.

He felt that his Zanu guerrilla group was winning the war and that he would become Zimbabwe’s leader. Despite this, it seemed that it was worthwhile to have at least one more try to settle the problems at a conference to be held in London. I did not think it likely at the time that the Lancaster House conference would succeed.

There were a number of difficulties to be solved.

There was the constitution, the elections and perhaps the most difficult of all, the land question. There was no way in which the whites in Zimbabwe would be prepared to accept the compulsory purchase of their farms. What was agreed to in the end by all parties was that willing sellers should be paid a fair price for their land and that the British and Americans would be prepared to finance this. As the conference was reaching its end, it became clear that, albeit reluctantly, Nkomo and the Muzorewa/Smith Government would be prepared to accept the agreement on the table.

Zanu, the Mugabe party, was not prepared to do so. He thought that, since they were bound to win power, election or no, success would be theirs without an agreement. Presidents Nyerere of Tanzania and Machel of Mozambique pressurised Mugabe to accept. Privately, President Nyerere made it plain to me that he would not accept the result of any post-settlement election unless Mugabe won it. In the event, as was wholly predictable, Mugabe won the 1980 election easily. The prospect of a Mugabe Government was worrying, since he was known to be a Marxist and had made incendiary remarks about what would happen if he gained power.

The quietly spoken Mugabe worried me: he was secretive, seemed not to need friends, mistrusted everyone. Devious and clever, he was an archetypal cold fish. Christopher Soames, a man of great good sense and the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, developed a close working relationship with Mugabe. A big and friendly man, Soames was able to persuade Mugabe that an orderly transfer of power and a tolerant attitude towards those who had been his enemies would be the right way forward. Mugabe’s Government started tolerably well. Having seen food shortages while in exile in Tanzania and Mozambique, he knew it would be counterproductive to seize the well-managed farms of the whites. Nonetheless, we were never certain which way Mugabe would jump; I just had a dreadful feeling that he would leap in the wrong direction. In the end, Mugabe has proven to be a textbook example of Acton’s dictum about how power corrupts. If there had been no agreement in 1979 the war would have continued, many more people would have been killed, and Mugabe would, in the end, have won both the war and the presidency. Economic devastation would have come much earlier. There can be no doubt that the election of Mugabe in 1980 reflected the majority opinion in Zimbabwe.

For all that has followed we did the right thing, the only thing that could be done back then. So much for history.

Now the future beckons.

It will take a long time to restore the prosperity which that beautiful country once enjoyed. Yet the people of Zimbabwe are resilient. It says a great deal for them that, despite threats and intimidation, the recent election seems to have overthrown the Zanu-PF majority in Parliament. Strictly speaking, this is now no longer our business, but a great many of us will feel that we still owe the people of Zimbabwe, who have been through such desperate times, all the help we can give them.

Although Mugabe tries to paint Britain as a colonial foe, we should feel no embarrassment for our role in Zimbabwe’s recent past nor about doing all we can to assist its people today.

And those of us who remember the country as it once was can only condemn the selfishness and folly of the man who has brought this about.

Lord Carrington was Foreign Secretary, 1979-82,

and chaired the Lancaster House conference
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