Welcome back to The Grahamstown Project

2019 is going to be a cracker. I can feel it in my bones. But I can feel drought in my bones too so be extra-wise with water.

We spent a week over New Year in Zim with one of my favourite humans, Stu Sylvester, and his family. Also the pleasure of an afternoon with @Don Campbell and his clan out from Aus.

Zimbabwe is a puzzle of contradictions and contrasts. Morning coffee in Grahamstown and afternoon tea in Harare was – as you can imagine – harsh on the senses. Trouble with that image – you’ve likely got it all wrong – as did I.

Harare was – by comparison to Grahamstown – like a refreshing swim after a hike on a hot day. Harare is a verdant green of vegetable gardens and lush mielies cultivated on every available public and private space. A communal affair with little flags marking plots. Traffic circles a painting of towering trees and mammalian statues. Recently re-surfaced main thoroughfares and the side-roads a tapestry of ancient tarmac, brick-filled potholes and WIP.

Not a stray dog, cow or donkey in sight and litter sparse. Evidence of entrepreneurship – mostly of the hand to mouth variety – everywhere. Residents take pride and care in their verges. Take note Grahamstown. Tatty doesn’t sit easy in Harare.

Yes, the seeds of the strife now brewing a wicked froth were evident. Fuel queues stretching into next week, shortages of basics and eye-watering, exorbitant prices. Managing money requires a population of gifted mathematicians. US, Zim Dollar “bond note” and “Swipe” a loose triangle of arbitrage that never sleeps.

The governing elite removed from reality. Adrift in the clouds yet strangely flaunting their selfish wealth for all to see. Houses – of the Saxonwold variety – mushroom as a new set of Chiefs and Madams drink at the trough of greed. This manifestation intrigues. A traditionally communal society liberated from colonialism and in short shrift ruled with iron-rod and anti-logic (to the sane) by the devil within.

I asked a bright young (white) Zimbabwean – yes, there are a few of those left – for his insights on the matter. Fluent in Shona and familiar with their customs his information left me cold. “My friends tell me they learnt it from the Whites. It is not their way.”

Suck on that lolly-pop for a spell. The varied reactions predictable. Use it or lose it but spare a thought – or a prayer if you must – for our brothers and sisters to the north. And to those with vested interest in Grahamstown, do something positive today and carry it into 2019. Learn a new language, pick up a bag of litter after work (if you lucky enough to have a job) and clean your tatty verge. Or pay a hungry person to do it for you. Whatever. Take a positive step forward. For yourself and, more importantly, for our precious little City.

Thank you,
Graeme Holmes

PS – check that brute of a bream skilfully landed by Stu. And that Tiger. Not the biggest Bad Boy in the lake – but my first. Stu and Pen 👍🏼 🙏. Hope you see this soon.

PPS – pls would the trash that are leaving their garbage in Oatlands Park desist. Anti-social behaviour in the extreme. Hampering our efforts to clean and beautify that space.

With Vanessa Bowes


Before moving back to Grahamstown in Oct 2017, Graeme was a bank executive based in the big smoke and craziness of Joburg. He has 20 years’ experience in the Payments Industry. He is a Chartered Accountant, has a Masters in Management by Research (MMR) from Wits Business School, and attended an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) offered by INSEAD (The Business School for the World!) in France.  

Graeme is the founder of The Grahamstown Project. It’s simple. He says, “Grahamstown is a microcosm of South Africa. If we can’t get this place to function properly then the whole country is stuffed. Many of the troubles we experience as a country today have their roots here in Grahamstown. it is here where black and white people first engaged in conflict on the African continent. It is here where 9 wars of dispossession over 100 years took place and virtually destroyed the amaXhosa nation. But we are where we are. I don’t have a British passport and the boat-trip back to where my ancestors came from is exorbitantly expensive. Furthermore, this is my home. I am a son of Africa. We must work together to redress the injustices of the past and move as one into a brighter future.”

Graeme is an avid historian, writer, vlogger and public speaker. Like and follow the Facebook page. Join him on a tour. Contact him. He would love that.