Life in Rhodesia: part four 6



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This is part four of Linda’s life in Rhodesia. To read her previous instalments, click here.

Towards the end of our time in Rhodesia a lot of food became in very short supply. It was very difficult to obtain basic items like milk, yoghurt, sugar, tea, butter, mealie meal, (this was part of the staple diet of the Africans) and cooking oil. Mealie meal is made out of what we know as corn. The corn is dried and ground. When these items were available you had to be there early. It was a very difficult time. Danny’s parents helped us out with homemade butter, and I started making bread as this was also difficult to acquire. Although flour was in short supply we were able to acquire some. In the house that we owned we made a huge vegetable patch and grew our own vegetables and mealies (corn). When the hail brought down a lot of our vegetables, I set about making jams preserves and chutneys from all the green tomatoes. We had to be very self-sufficient in those last years.

When we went on holidays to South Africa we stocked up on a lot of what was deemed luxury items such as fish paste, marmite, and flour, sugar, oil etc. Athe border on the way back we were searched but somehow we got away with bringing back the goods.

We employed a young African male who helped with the housework and gardening. I did most of the housework with the exception of polishing the parquet floors. I also did all the ironing to make sure that no flies had laid eggs on the clothes and nappies. The nappies had to be ironed both sides.

The flies laid their eggs in the clothes, towels and anything that was damp and if you did not iron these items of clothing the eggs would hatch on your body. It started off looking like a boil, but within a couple of days you could see the little worm under the skin. We had to wait until it was ripe and then put Vaseline over the sore and stretch the skin. The worm would pop out and the sore would heal. It is horrible. Babies’ cots and prams were an easy target for the flies. If the cot or pram had not been covered with a net, then the bedding had to be changed before putting baby back in them.

Our gardener Toby was only a teenager when he came to work for us. He was really nice and just adored the kids. He would play with them in the yard while he tended to the gardening. I never had to worry about the children while he was in the yard. He was very upset that Mugabe got into power and when we asked why he had voted for him he said that if he did not they would go and kill his family out on the land. The Africans have very strong family ties. They would do anything for their families. Toby cried and cried when we left. He so wanted to come with us. He said that he did not want to work for a black man. I still wonder how he is. It was no good writing to him because he never learned to read or write.

Although Australia is my home, I still long for the old Rhodesia. There is nothing like an African sunset, just beautiful.


Beautiful African sunset. I hope I have given you some insight into life in Rhodesia.


Have you travelled to Africa? Are you adventures similar to Linda? Tell us below!

Linda Van Der Merwe

I was born in Rhodesia and emigrated to Australia in 1983 with my husband and two children. I worked at the Department of Justice and Attorney General for 16 years and then moved over to Queensland health for 3 years. In 2011 I was made redundant. I am not working and spend my days making cards, joining clubs and having fun with my friends. I have three beautiful grandsons and spend a lot of time with them. My one regret is that my beloved husband did not live long enough to meet his grandchildren.

  1. Oh Linda. It all breaks my heart. A magnificent country destroyed by a despot that was allowed to get away with murder. I had a couple of wonderful holidays with my Aunt who lived in Salisbury. They took me to the Victoria Falls , the Motopos and Wangi Game Reserve. Friends have just done the Rovos Rail from Cape Town to the falls and are ecstatic about it, so for nostalgia sake I think we will have to do this. Thanks for your sharing, it’s been so great to go down memory lane. Are we not so lucky to be in this great country I call My Home now.

  2. What a great story…I remember being in South Africa in the late seventies, and people would travel down to South Africa in a convoy. Sad it has gone the way it has…I,m afraid that South Africa is also in a sad state.

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