20 December 2008

Hope for Zimbabwe

Just before Christmas we were contacted by a couple of mission organisations to fly some water purification chemicals into Zimbabwe.

Thing is, the chemicals were in Blantyre, Malawi and they need to get to Bulawayo in Zim.
Driving them in was impractical and in any case the need was immediate but we planned to do the flight as soon as we could get the flight permits and other paperwork sorted.

We managed to get the flight permits for entry into Malawi and Zimbabwe fairly quickly and verified that that the airports we need to visit in Malawi and Botswana had fuel. The customs import/export paperwork was a little more awkward to arrange so we delayed the trip by a few days as the last thing we wanted was to have the aircraft (and ourselves) impounded in Zim.

We planned fly up to Blantyre where we would load the chemicals. The next day we would fly to Bulawayo and deliver them to churches who would arrange for transportation to those in need. We thought we might spend one night in Bulawayo and then return to SA the next day. The whole trip would be about 1700 miles and involve five different countries.

We wrote many letters to customs officials in Malawi and Zimbabwe stating that the cargo was a gift and will not be sold and we arranged for clearing, and access for a vehicle to the plane for loading and unloading at the respective airports. There wasn’t much more to do except get in the plane and go. The weather has even cleared up in Nelspruit where we live although we were expecting to have to deal with a bit of weather on the way up to Malawi.

All that was required was two sets of funds. One for us for the cost of the fuel for the plane and one to cover the export and import duties of the supplies. These had been raised in Canada and wired to South Africa at the beginning of the week but didn't arrive. We delayed the flight a day and then another day waiting for the money to come, but it didn't. The warehouse in Blantyre closed today and wouldn’t open again till after New Year, so we ran out of time.

This time Africa wasn't to blame. Basically the funds had been sent from Canada with a note for the bank to check back with the donor before being transferred. That had been done but when it got routed through New York the note popped up on someone's computer again and the transaction was delayed and unfortunately no one realised until it was too late.

So, there we sat at home with a lot of unspent energy after a week of almost constant planning and anticipation

We are terribly disappointed for the people of Zimbabwe that we could not bring this life-saving Christmas present to them. We did however resolve to go in the New Year. It will mean a lot of phoning, faxing, emailing and re-applying but if it helps a whole bunch of people it will be well worth it.

Mercy Air team

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