a Tonga. The book is called Silent Voices (published by Weaver Press). This event was in the back of my mind when a colleague told me of a meeting yesterday about development in Zimbabwe. There are many organizations wanting to contribute to the growth of our country. The problem is bureaucracy. If you want to do something with your own resources you have to have an ‘understanding’ with the relevant ministry, local government office and party officials. In the end you can be so overwhelmed by the ‘red tape’ that you give up. Someone said to the government officials at the meeting ‘you are treating us as enemies, not as partners.’
The reply given was that ‘you people’ are always bringing in politics. This charge, thrown at development workers, church leaders and anyone who says anything about the present situation, is an expression of fear. It is true that politics are involved; the price of bread, the slashing of zeros, the availability of fuel, the rise of school fees – all of these are ‘politics.’ What is wrong with ‘bringing in politics’? It is the air we breathe. It is the sign of a scared government when it gets worried when people ask questions. Or that wants to have endless ‘understandings.’
The ordinary life of people is boxed in by restrictions and in their desperation people turn on each other. Since those above squeeze us we squeeze those below. When someone dies – and many are dying these days – relatives are easy prey. You have to get the body out of the mortuary. You have to buy a coffin. You have to buy a grave. It is a seller’s market. The seller is tempted to push the price as high as it will go. Fairness, equity, justice. What are they? There is the story of the boss who shouts at his worker. The worker is afraid to reply so he bottles up his frustration inside only to release it on his wife when he gets home. She is shocked but afraid to answer him back and shouts at their child. He is hurt but swallows his anger and goes out and kicks the dog, which chases the cat and a mouse dies that day.
So there is always the tendency to transfer our anger to ‘softer’ targets. But something has been happening these six long years. People are interrupting the transfer sequence. They are finding their voice. They are no longer silent. They are speaking up directly against those who constantly call for submission. They are challenging the climate of control and heartlessness prevalent in government structures. Media reports abroad often report the apparently hopeless situation in Zimbabwe. It is far from hopeless. People are wide awake, searching, questioning, struggling and speaking. It is only a matter of time before the new struggle for freedom, a deeper one that the former, gives birth.
23 August 2006
Last week a book was launched in Harare about the struggle of minority language groups in Zimbabwe to have their languages taught to their children in their schools. The keynote speaker arrived for his first day of school twenty-five years ago to discover only English and Ndebele were spoken. He is