In monetary terms the journey to Harare is easily quantified.
It’s easy to look at Zimbabwe from the comfort of Johannesburg, pointing out its ills, its politricks, its idiosyncrasies and offering nothing more than deflated hand-wringing. From the inside, the view is more complicated.
I’ve already declared to friends and the few family members still living there that I’m minding my own business and staying indoors because I don’t have the stomach to deal with the cost of spending time in Harare. Get in, show face, get out.
It’s not so much the expense that weighs heavily as it is going to a home you no longer recognise.
Harare is still a grand dame, but one who’s fallen on hard, uncompromising times. It’s not as bad, but it is as bad because nostalgia — like a fever blister — pops up at the most inopportune times. I can’t afford to go home but there’s something about being among my people that puts everything into perspective.
The bus trip with Intercape, that evangelical church on wheels, costs a migraine and between R900 and R1 950. The prices double over the December/January season and, with other bus services, there’s a possibility you may not arrive alive.
For those who can’t deal with the beautiful service at overland border posts, you can send bigger luggage ahead with bus drivers for a fee. There’s the possibility of overheating engines, breakdowns and frayed nerves, but thankfully Zimbabwe’s finest aren’t running their roadblock extortion rackets, so driving there is a matter of getting good car insurance and fuel.
Low-cost airline Fastjet’s roundtrip from OR Tambo International Airport to Harare International Airport quotes their prices in dollars, which start from about $270.
It’s always better to drive or bus it with groceries in tow so you don’t experience the carnage of shopping for basics at hugely inflated prices. It’s a gruelling schlep that can potentially drain your pocket if your travel documents are not in order and someone’s looking for a backdoor bonus.
Like our political landscape and discourse, my home is stagnant — it hasn’t moved an inch. Money woes are a constant and budgeting is for those who even have the money to begin with. For me, it’s the gaps in memory that cost more.
The Harare of my childhood doesn’t exist any more and no amount of patriotism requires me to be there this December.