Ngomakurira – Donkeys

In 1966, in the months after UDI, there was much discussion about the closing of the Feruka fuel pipeline from Beira to Mutare as a result of sanctions against Ian Smith's regime. In 2006, 40 years later, donkeys cross the

mountains from Mozambique laden with containers of the same precious liquid. True, the economy is not totally dependent on donkeys, not yet anyway. But these patient animals, which have served us for millennia, could be symbols of where we are.

The French have a saying, reculer pour mieux sauter (take a step back so as to make a better jump). The saying commends the practice. If you travel the growth points of Zimbabwe – a growth point is not quite a town but it is much more than a ‘business centre’ – your will often notice, even today, vibrant small industries. You will see people with small homemade welding machines making ploughshares, hoes and sickles, scotch carts, school tables and chairs. Sometimes they employ up to 11 workers.

Others make shoes and handbags or school bags ‘for the Indian shops.’ Where there is an enabling environment people are very creative and industrious. Their industry is at an earlier stage than the one that produces tractors and combined harvesters but perhaps it is better founded.

And what is true of the economic life of people could also be true of their politics. Small communities, women’s groups, residents associations, burial societies and similar civic groups are discovering how to order their affairs and find their voice. The grand politics of sovereignty and liberation, that may have served us for a time after independence, is now giving way at the grassroots to something much more modest but also much more solid.

Christians call this time of the year ‘Lent’ – a word that perhaps comes from the len(gh)t(ening) of the days (in the northern hemisphere). It is a time of preparation for celebrating the mysteries of Jesus’ death and rising. This means that it is a time for reflecting on our own ‘death’ and our own ‘rising’ as persons and as a country. The first stage is the death.

That is where we are now in Zimbabwe. There is a kind of death of the high dreams and longings of the first years of independence. There is a passion and a kind of death in every person’s life one way or another. And the same can be true of a community – even as big a community as a country. But the more we live that process positively and searchingly – even if it means going back a step or two – the more we prepare the resurrection. And, by the way, when Jesus entered Jerusalem he was riding a donkey.

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