ncy (37 years for men, 34 for women), the highest rate of inflation (782%, followed by Iraq at 40%) and the fastest declining economy in the world. We know that malnutrition is widespread and that people are dying of hunger although sometimes they die of AIDS before they actually starve to death.
All these facts are well documented. Indeed some of them appear in the government-controlled press. Yet the same government is in denial consistently refusing to acknowledge the extent of the suffering or to welcome help from all sides to alleviate it. In fact they are doing the opposite as numerous reports show:
‘Children in ragged clothes clamour for food while women sit around with dulled expressions, chewing seeds. Many have been affected mentally, according to Pastor Edwin. “Whenever I try to sleep, I see my wardrobe being smashed and my house going up in flames,” said one woman. Every few days police come and chase them out again, but they have nowhere else to go. “We’re losing an average of two people a week here to starvation,” said the pastor, showing some abandoned shelters where the inhabitants have died. “Several times I’ve been called to places urgently, only to find they have already died of starvation. I see the signs everywhere – the hands and feet grey like bark. “The government doesn’t care about these people.” Sunday Times (UK), 2 April 2006
We are celebrating Easter. Celebrating? Luisa Guidotti was the doctor in All Souls Mutoko Mission hospital during the war. She used to treat everyone including guerillas who came by night. And then the soldiers would interrogate her by day. She lived a terrible tension. A few days before government soldiers killed her, she came to our house and walked round and round a small table almost overcome by the tension, the Gethsemane, she was living. Earlier she had come for a weekend of reflection and with her beaming Italian smile and broken English said, ‘do not talk to me of the Passion. I have it everyday. Speak to me of the Resurrection!’
How can we speak of the Resurrection in the midst of our suffering? After Gethsemane, the classic scriptural narrative of exile, alienation and suffering is Babylon. By its waters ‘we sat and wept. …How could we sing one of Yahweh’s songs in an alien land?’ (Psalm 137) How can you celebrate Easter in the midst of this dreadful affliction of the people of Zimbabwe?
There is no easy answer, except to say that it is precisely in the midst of suffering that a new people is born. It is through grappling and struggling and at the same time trying to remain honest and upright that we come to new life. Everywhere in this country today there are people doing just that. They are planting the seeds of a new society. Most to be pitied are those who live a daily lie, concocting strategies of survival, which have no foundation in the truth of what most people live.
‘There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics,’ Churchill is said to have snorted when some bad news was brought to him. We have our fill of all three but they don’t change hearts. Take statistics. We now know that we have the lowest life expecta