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Purple blooms in Harare mask the rot in Mugabe's capital.
Here the great mining, banking and insurance companies had their headquarters in the boom years of the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland — today Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. All three countries experienced post-colonial economic collapse but none so dramatic as Zimbabwe.
A few banks remain but mostly the businesses have migrated to office parks on the periphery of the city. And with their departure the city has succumbed to crime and grime. Piles of rubbish occupy street corners. And street kids beg at traffic lights.
President Robert Mugabe is universally blamed for the blight of a once-beautiful city.
Irresistible demographics have played a role but change has not been well managed. An energetic, business-minded mayor has the daunting task of putting the city back together again. He’s unlikely to succeed. But some pot holes have been filled.
“One thing he [Mugabe] can’t take from us is the weather,” one old timer chuckles.
It is true that Harare has one of the finest climates in the world. At 5,000 feet it is never too hot or humid and the winter months of May, June, July and August are filled with cloudless blue skies as the rain keeps a discreet distance.
Zimbabwe has a well-developed tourism infrastructure and an impressive range of wildlife. But the resorts are empty with hotels reporting 30 percent occupancy. The customer is king. There is no problem with comfort or security at the country’s main resorts. From its mountains in the east and national parks in the west, to the stunning Victoria Falls and tranquil Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe offers a range of sights for the visitor.
But the tourists won’t be coming back just yet. Like the rest of us they are waiting for the main obstacle to change being removed from the road ahead. Foreigners and Zimbabweans alike hope that it won’t be too long now.