Looking back at the 12 months that made up the year just gone by I realize that if it was not for the Grace of God and the Mercy He gives to us, we, the ZPSF, would be in sack cloth and ashes. For 2011 I wrote that the powers that be in Zimbabwe threw everything at us. Well, little did I realize how dogmatically vindictive they could be. The term “everything including the kitchen sink” comes to mind when I see the obstacles they littered our adventurous path with. I firmly believe that had it not been for Hannes’s tenacious and “Bull Terrier” like spirit, this years “roadblocks and curved balls” would have ended this project. Yet as he has said many times to me, “Fats, these people are my life and nothing will stop me from serving them with payback”. Having said all this, lets have a glimpse into the year that has had so many of you on your knees too.
We did the first trip of the year in February and both Boet Holmes and I were on our first trips returning from the sick beds. Hannes undertook the Western route while Boet with me as passenger did the Eastern route. It was real good to see our older friends again and to be able to bless them with the necessary goods so desperately needed. Our trip was quite cool, calm and fun, no stops by police at roadblocks or the like and then, as we were on our way back home in high spirits, the proverbial papaw hit the fan. The left front wheel deflated within a few seconds and we were stuck on the roadside near Ngundu Halt, a place where everyone is cautioned not to stop at any cost! We moved the truck safely to the verge and then a picture to behold. “Us two old crocks, one whose leg coul
d not bend and the other who dare not bump or cut himself due to a very low platelet count, had to get down and do the necessary wheel change.” We were constantly on alert for the “tsotsi” element that was rife in the area and then . . . . the Lord sent two angels to help in our moment of need. Two young local African guys came to within talking distance and offered help. God is indeed good and we had them source a large rock and a hoe, which they conjured up in a few minutes. Next a car from the south passed and then made a U turn and stopped to offer assistance. Deon Joubert and family, displaced farmers, popped out of their car and saw us two crocks struggling and promptly brushed us aside. In his glad rags and-al got in under the truck, jacked it up and did the exchange for us. The best of this story is yet to come. He had been prompted to leave Joburg an hour and a half early so as to possibly get to Harare before dark. However, when he saw our truck on the roadside he turned back to help the two “old crocks”. When the truck was ready to go he looked at his watch and said, “now I understand why our Good Lord prompted me to leave early.” He still managed to get home in good time before dark. Our God is faithful.
This experience left Boet and I very humbled. After thanking them and our two local helpers we set off for the border. We had a great crossing of about 45 minutes and were glad to be back in South Africa again. The spare that we put on was flat the next day but here too we were blessed in repairs and replacements costing a fraction of the normal price.
Our second trip was late March into April. This was the second trip after my knee replacement operation and although I did some driving, Boet once again did the “lions” share of it. It was a good trip, but spoilt by the amount of deaths of some of the oldies we have grown to know and adopt as family. Having lost both my parents you get to see attributes of “Mom and Dad” in many of them and when they pass on it’s real hard. What often makes it worse is that they have sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who left them there, never contacting them again. Imagine having to write letters of thanks, love and appreciation to unknown people when you are totally rejected and neglected by your own kin.
Read these excerpts from some of their letters with the headings
To The Friends of Zimbabwe Pensioners.”
1.”O My!!! What beautiful parcels we got, loaded with un-gettable goodies.”
2. “Ann – was over the moon with Powders, Creams, Smelly creams and what have you and
me – Razors, under arm blue ice etc, and not least a pen knife, good and strong.”
3.Thank You, Thank You. God Bless you for your Kindness.
“If you could see the tears running down their cheeks, and mine” says Hannes.
How much more would it have meant if the thanks were directed at family. And so we travel from town to town, city to city and Old age home to old age home bringing news, hope sustenance and love to all these dear folk on you’re the donor and our behalf. Never think that your contribution is mundane or unappreciated.
While travelling around the country you see the carnage on the re-distributed farms and farmlands and your heart aches for some form of sanity to return to the country. The brain power behind successful agricultural development now sit broken hearted with their hands tied or hands in their hair in old age homes and other places, totally crestfallen and helpless. Our emotional resilience is tested beyond limits every trip. Old friends pass away, couples that have been together for many years suddenly find themselves alone when the spouse passes away. Yes there is love, sympathy and empathy from friends around you, but the life of retirement they planned so carefully in their youth, stolen by greedy incompetent government leaves them lonely and incomplete. Empty eyes in a smiling face greet you, thank you and hug you but nothing is able to blank out that emptiness. I am a Pastor and find it difficult to say, may God help those responsible on Judgement day. At this point I need to mention that one of our oldest helpers was hospitalised in Bulawayo. “Tannie Koekie Koekemoer” old in age not spirit and old in that she was one of the first to open her home to us any time, day or night. She is a lovely person and never said no to help us.
Our June trip ran from the 19th to the 27th and I was able to help drive the difficult bits as Boet calls them. Narrow driveways, night driving which we keep to a minimum as well as City traffic. Once again Hannes ran west and we went east. We did a back to front trip going to Harare from Chivhu instead of the usual road to Mutare. We have to ensure that the help we get to off load is always there and if we did the normal route, the Futter family in Harare would not be home. They are an invaluable help to us in that city. For many years I had heard that a butchery, in Marondera sold the best meat and “boeries” in Zimbabwe. As we neared the town I told my driver, Boet to pull in and stop near the butchery called Doug’s Butchery. Once inside I purchased a small amount for our own use and then called the owner, Mr Piet Brits and after introducing myself as a representative of the ZPSF, I asked for a donation so we could spoil some of the oldies in Mutare, specifically those in Park Cottages. He said he had read of us in a magazine, Rhodesians World Wide. and without any hesitation, donated a substantial amount of ‘boerie’ to us. Thank-you Piet, you guys are stars. Needless to say the folk at Park Cottages were overwhelmed and very grateful for our spoiling them. After leaving Mutare we spent the night at Piet and Frieda de Klerk in Chivhu. They had been on my case for a long time to sleep over at their home. It was indeed a good stop over. We got to know them, also displaced farmers, much better and felt their pain as they told of their loss. Piet treated us to a tour around the area as well as the local hotel which once housed a “cell” for Englishmen and other defaulters. You were locked up and were lucky to be served a beer through the bars. This establishment is famous world wide and even the elderly African barman remembers the good old days. Surprisingly the bar area and prison cell are still in fair condition. Later that day we left for Masvingo to sleep over before our uneventful trip home. Hannes had already done his trip and apart from the usual emotional difficulties was home two days before us.
Our August trip, which unfortunately turned out to be our last trip for the year was a total cloak and dagger experience. I was reminded of a comic magazine that I read in my younger days, The Mad Magazine. In it was a strip with two crows, a good one with a white hat and a bad one with a black hat. The strip was called “Spy verses Spy”. It was about the good verses the evil and oh boy, are we having that now. As these issues are still very sensitive I can unfortunately not go into much detail but suffice to say, we are faced with situations, circumstances and people, other that the “Powers “ that be who are making our effort very, very difficult for us. When these things are revealed in my book, all will be known. Until then we continue to fly incognito under the radar as long as we can.
On this trip Boet and Hannes went west and I, accompanied by the love of my life and bride of forty-two years, my wife Liz headed east. We went via Bulawayo so Liz could see Tannie Koekie who has been as a mother to the two of us. For Liz who had not travelled with for two years it was a trip of very mixed emotions. Remembering folk from the past and seeing them now, how frail they had become in the space of two years and yet how they greeted her with love, hugs and kisses. We visited many in their little homes and were able to dish up copious amounts of TLC in return. These folk open up better to a lady than a smelly old “trucker” I think. A lady always looks better that a man after a trek from city to city or town to town. On our arrival in Mutare we found that the folk at Park cottages wanted to and did reciprocate the treat we gave them on the previous trip, arranging a great dinner for us. . She eventually passed away in October, for us at the Fund a very sad loss, she will be sorely missed.
“Some of the familiar faces I knew I will not see, as some of them have moved or may have passed away. Everywhere we went, these precious people were so glad to see me and just wanted to chat and catch up and so many questions.
Where I could I gave warm hugs and the squeeze or just touching of a hand, spoke volumes to them and I could see the longing in their eyes and hear it in their voices how they long for some love, recognition and appreciation. We take life so for granted, let’s stop to murmur about how life is treating us and be contented in what we have.
It was good to visit with all of our friends in the various towns that look after us when we come through, and just realize once again that our Heavenly Father surely looks after us and do supply all our needs. His protection and care is felt all along the way as you travel. I once again realized the effort, energy and dedication of the drivers of this worthy cause that we are involved in and see why they are so physically, emotionally and spiritually tired after a trip.”
It was sad to see how very dry most of the country- side was, and many areas are black as a result of fires that was fanned by the “August winds” that is prominent this time of the year. After doing the rounds greeting and seeing all the folk on the eastern trip we headed for home, mission accomplished. Hannes and Boet did their rounds without incident in spite of being accompanied by ZIMRA in Bulawayo to see that we are not up to shenanigans as suggested by the black hats. Spent the most of September in Zimbabwe trying to organize the October trip, to no avail. He then spent most of November trying for the December trip and was blocked again. These two trips were indeed derailed by the enemy but it has spurred us on to change tactics. As I wrote in the beginning of this overview, Hannes is tenacious and God is faithful and as this is a venture inspired by God, I believe only He will have the last say. We shall prevail because the enemy cannot prevail against the power of the Lord our God.
At this point I want to recognize and thank all who stood by and are standing by us as we keep on keeping on, answering the call to “Feed and care for the Lord’s sheep, His people. John. 21:15-17.
Thank you to Julienne & Rachie that made MANY bottles of Marmalade and Apricot jam for the pensioners
Thank you to each one of YOU, whoever and wherever you are….for your part in making the pensioners Christmas such a special one, You are all STARS!!
A very Special thank you to our hosts in Zimbabwe who look after us when we travel through the country, making sure our tummies are full and we have a warm bed to sleep in. Thank you to…
Des & Sally Becker (Mutare); Ken & Beda Connelly (Kwekwe); Clive & Estelle O’Reilly (Kadoma); Gerhard & Trudie Burger (Masvingo) and John & Leonie Herbst (Harare)
Thank you to the committee of “Coronation Cottages” in Bulawayo for making available a cottage forthe drivers to use while in Bulawayo, is much appreciated
Lastly we want to thank our volunteer drivers, Boet Holmes and Daniel Koekemoer for their passion and commitment, giving up time in their businesses, time with their spouses and also thank their spouses for their sacrifice. You are a priceless component in the running of this operation!!
Also thank you to Linda and her staff who organize and see that all the pensioners’ boxes are packed and labelled and supervise the packing of the 2 trucks.
Please note, we appreciate all our donors, none are excluded. You are a wonderful group. May our Lord continue to bless you in every aspect of your lives.
Once again, many, many thanks for all of you who helped us in what ever way it was and for those who faithfully carried us with prayer through each trip.
God Bless you all.
Compiled by Pastor Attie Botha. March 2013