by Father Arthur Lewis
Zimbabwe is alone. She has only herself to fight her battle.
The Aid Agencies are indeed doing all they can. They bring food and relief. But their help is, and must be, entirely humanitarian. They can do nothing to end the tyranny.
The previous British Prime Minister was enthusiastic to intervene to save Sierra Leone. In his farewell visit to Africa, however, he said Zimbabwe is a problem for the Africans, and left the country to the “quiet diplomacy” of President Mbeki of South Africa. The regional Southern African Development Community has done the same thing. This “diplomacy” has achieved virtually nothing in the past and is unlikely - in spite of some initial tentative moves - to achieve much more in the future.
INSIDE A ZIMBABWE GAOL
Alex Berry is an enterprising journalist who went to see for himself. He said that arriving at Bulawayo is like touching down the day after a cataclysm - a place where the clocks have stopped. “There are roads but few cars, and roadside railings have been torn up at the stumps. The shops feature bare shelves with price-boards for imaginary products, which change three times a day. Telephones don’t work, the power is out.”
Berry had one ten-minute interview and then found himself in jail eighteen hours after his arrival. Foreign journalists being banned, he had taken the precaution of arriving as a tourist. He writes, with possible exaggeration?
“When I entered cell 6 at Gwanda police station I was fit. After five days in a concrete and iron-bar tank, with no food and only a few sips of water my skin was flaking and my clothes were slipping off. A prison blanket had given me lice. The water I had panned from a rusty tank in the shower had given me diarrhea. I hadn’t slept more than a few minutes at a time. And I stank.”
Berry lived to tell his story. But the story that got through to the Western media and won some brief attention was the treatment of the leaders and activists of the Opposition.
OPPOSITION DEFIES PITILESS ONSLAUGHT
I myself have not revisited Zimbabwe for many years, and am dependent for information on second-hand sources. Nevertheless I have no doubt as to what happened to Morgan Tsvangirai, the Leader of the Opposition. The multiple assaults upon him took place at Machipisa police station in Harare. The perpetrators were a dozen drugged soldiers from Cranborne barracks who three times beat him into unconsciousness with sjamboks, boots and rifle butts. They revived him by throwing water over him and began mercilessly beating him again.
Mugabe said publicly that his opponents “deserve to be bashed.” And they were - and continue to be - bashed. Lovemore Maduku of the National Constitutional Assembly, Mrs Sarah Holland (married to an Australian), Grace Kwenje (now in the UK), Arthur Mutambara (another Opposition leader),with hundreds more, were treated in hospital. There were some six hundred hospital cases. Some (such as Sarah Holland with her broken limbs) attempted to fly to South Africa for treatment, but were seized at the airport. Mrs Holland was one of the few who got to a South African hospital in the end, but their treatment was inevitably belated. Medical services in Zimbabwe have all but collapsed.
In every instance the assaults were instigated by Didymus Mutasa and his feared Central Intelligence Organisation, with the blessing of Mugabe, and always the culprits acted with impunity.
The Institute for War and Peace has published an article by the journalist Trevor Grundy: “What has happened to Didymus Mutasa? He describes Mutasa’s early days at Cold Comfort Farm where he was a Christian black nationalist and was considered a “near-saint” by liberals. But he does not go back to Mutasa’s still earlier days at St Faith’s Mission where I myself knew him as an unscrupulous activist - and suffered at his hands. Grundy compares the young idealist with the fanatical evil genius, which he has become since his contact with Mugabe. To me the development seems less spectacular, though when I wrote my book “Too Bright the Vision?” I felt, perhaps mistakenly, it was wise to remain silent over his past.
Mutasa’s latest statement is typical: “Food shortages or no food shortages, we are going ahead to remove the remaining whites. We would all rather die of hunger but knowing full well that the land is in the hands of black people.”
The results of Operation Murambatsvina (“to clean up filth”) - again the joint work of Mugabe and Didymus Mutasa - are still widely apparent. Homelessness and hunger affect countless thousands of people. Those still in work often have to walk long distances to get to their jobs. South America-style hit squads, operating in unmarked cars, arbitrarily seize men and women, beat them and leave them naked in the bush in distant places. The legal system still operates after a fashion, but can have little influence on the course of events.
When Mugabe is “re-elected” as president next March - “elections” are neither free nor fair - he will still be in office at 90! But presumably skyrocketing inflation will have caused the country to implode long before then. Attempts at a coup have been reported, with dire consequences for the conspirators.
CHRISTIANS IN ZIMBABWE
Perhaps it seems that I am writing only of the evils in Zimbabwe, while in fact there is still so much good. There are “Women of Zimbabwe”, who face gaol, beatings and endless harassment by the police but who continue to demonstrate for the needs of ordinary people. Apart from the astounding courage and determination of the men and women working for change - and the endurance of ordinary folk - there is much kindness and unselfishness in day to day life. The Christian churches have not worked and do not work in vain. Nor have church leaders remained silent in the face of oppression. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo is still acting and speaking with great courage, and he is not alone. The R.C. bishops led the way with their Easter pastoral letter, and so have lesser-known leaders. The Anglican bishops strove to give comparable leadership, but were hamstrung by Nolbert Kunonga of Harare, their senior. Bishop Kunonga is a traitor, a vocal supporter of the régime. Not only has he received a stolen farm for his treachery and wrecked it: he has driven out the workers and installed his own family! He has done and continues to do huge damage to the Christian cause. It has proved impracticable to suspend him - the Central African archbishop is his friend and Mugabe’s - and all that the Archbishop of Canterbury can do is to withhold his invitation to the Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly gathering of Anglican bishops world-wide. Yet Kunonga cannot be beyond the reach of prayer.
It is important that friends and supporters of the Rhodesia Christian Group should have some idea of what is happening now in the country, which was once our beloved Rhodesia. The Group was founded in 1972 to save a Christian country from communism. We failed. But today we have a vital job. We cannot rescue Zimbabwe, but we can remember that its people are people.
From the UK Sunday Times of July 1st in an article about Zimbabwe: "One man murdered his 10-year-old son for eating four mice that were meant for the family dinner."
More than a quarter of the population is now living outside the country. With your help we can do something for just a few, inside and outside Zimbabwe. It is worth all the effort and the sacrifice to bring relief to those we can reach. I forget how many times I have said it before, but I say it again. It is better to light a small candle than to curse the dark.
I have written little about prayer, but in the end it is prayer that matters. God does listen, though He does not necessarily give us what we want. Pray for Zimbabwe. Pray for our Group. And may He continue to bless you always.
P O Box 74