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Rebuilding Zimbabwe: Cooperation Makes Sense

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The shiny glass buildings and whizzing cars of Harare
Shiny glass towers sparkle in the sun as cars whiz by on the busy urban streets. The men and women bustling by are dressed for the office, wandering vendors offer everything from statues to bananas, and sad children follow us, hands open, eyes pleading. Shawn and I stare about us in amazement. We've just arrived in Harare from Mozambique, and the difference is staggering.

Remember Maputo, the capital of Mozambique? The streets were full of potholes, the buildings old and crumbling. There was Vilankulos as well, the quiet seaside town with no phones or paved roads. Now, suddenly, we step off the bus into a modern urban city, and it makes me wonder, "What made the difference?"

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We slept in one of these thatched huts in Vilankulo

We hop into a taxi with our packs to go find the rest of the team. I'm excited because we haven't seen them since we were in Cape Town, a whole month ago! The taxi driver is friendly and smiling. "Where are you from? How is Zimbabwe?"

"Well, we just got here," I told him, "but we're amazed at how developed and modern Harare is compared to Mozambique, where we just came from."

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Abeja shows us the "sidewalk" in Mozambique's capital, Maputo
"When Mozambique got independence," he explained, "they threw out their whites, the Portuguese." When the Portuguese left, they destroyed everything. They even poured concrete down the sewers! "In Zimbabwe, we kept our whites," he said proudly. "They stayed and helped build our country. Here, there is no difference between blacks and whites. We are all Zimbabweans."

Several days have gone by now since I met that taxi driver and every Zimbabwean Iíve met since has echoed his sentiment. Of course, it wasn't that simple. After the war, there were many hard feelings between the whites and the blacks, and many whites did what was called "taking the gap," they moved to South Africa, which was then still dominated by the whites. But, in comparison to Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi, the countries surrounding Zimbabwe, that also got their independence around the same time, Zimbabwe has done quite well, especially considering the problems they faced.

Doris Lessing, a famous Zimbabwean author, really put it into perspective for me when she wrote:

"The people he [Mugabe] had put into government had proved they were good at guerilla warfare, but now they had to govern a modern country in the modern world. Without any tradition of training in administration. Without enough educated people. Without any of the background of experience every child, no matter how poor or deprived, takes for granted in developed countries -- which means everyone knows about electricity and telephones, letters from government departments, electricity, post boxes, buses, trains, aeroplanes, magistrates' courts, social security, clinics. Without this background of culture of a practical kind, these people had at a moment's notice to take on the task of running a country the size of Spain. In a country devastated and shocked by war."

Looking at it that way, it's amazing that this country, now only twenty years later, is doing as well as it is. Colonization did leave Zimbabwe a little better off than Mozambique. The British, unlike the Portuguese, built some (though not enough) hospitals and schools for the native population. They trained black agricultural workers so that Zimbabwe, unlike Mozambique and Zambia, has been able to grow enough food to feed itself and sell or donate its surplus to other countries. They have even done a lot to help Mozambique, while South Africa was trying to destroy it.

Despite the many problems and obstacles they have still to overcome, the pride that Zimbabweans feel about their country seems well-founded. So now, for a few days, the team is again reunited here in Harare, enjoying the kind people and the modern city. Tonight, we're going out dancing! I wish you could join us!


Kevin - A Young Artist Searches For A Style of His Own
Monica - Breaking the Silence: 5 Brigade Victims Compensated
Shawn - Mystic Fortunes of Great Zimbabwe
Monica - Visit with a Freedom Fighter: Talking about the Past, Looking Towards the Future
Making a Difference - Shouting from the Mountaintops to Raise Rape Awareness!

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