Hold on to hope

Dear Family and Friends,

The Litany Bird has flown the nest for a while over the Christmas/New Year period so I am filling in for her. She will miss Christmas at home but apart from the joy of being with one’s family it’s hard to see that the festive season will bring much cheer to Zimbabweans still in the country. The nightmare has been going on for so long that it’s hard to remember the last time there was a ‘normal’ Christmas when people were able to go home kumusha/ekhaya loaded down with groceries and gifts.

The days of the 13th salary are long gone, I suspect. With unemployment at 80%, the workers are in the minority and even if you’re lucky enough to have a job and lucky enough to receive a bonus, it’s not likely to go far with inflation shooting up like a rocket on a daily basis.

And just to complicate matters further there is nothing to buy in the shops. The shelves are still empty six months after Operation Dzikisai Mitengo. A friend phoned me this week from home saying that even if he had the money to buy new shoes for his kids, there were none in his local Bata shop. The shelves are completely bare. Not one shoe in a shoe shop! It reminds me of that wonderful old spiritual ‘I got shoes, you got shoes. All God’s chillun got shoes.’ Not in Zimbabwe they haven’t!

The truth is that Zimbabwe is in a sorry state and despite the much-hyped Million Man March at home and all the strutting and posturing in Lisbon at the EU/AU Summit no one is deceived any more. The African leaders may gather round the old man in a protective laager but the truth of Zimbabwe’s collapse is there for all to see. For me, the picture of Robert Mugabe hand in hand with Sudan’s President Al Bashir said it all. In the words of the old English proverb: Birds of a feather flock together. But there are signs that there are splits in the protective laager round the old man. Mugabe may shout as loud as he likes about the ‘racist’ Europeans and endlessly repeat his slogan that ‘Zimbabwe will never be a colony again’ but it is not only white Europeans who see the truth.

Last Sunday a black British clergyman John Sentamu, originally from Idi Amin’s Uganda, made a dramatic gesture of condemnation of the way Mugabe has destroyed his country. Interviewed on a widely seen TV chat show Sentamu suddenly whipped off his clerical collar and cut it into pieces to demonstrate what Mugabe was doing to his country.

The collar is the public sign of my identity said the outspoken Archbishop of York and in cutting it up I am showing the world that my identity as a priest cannot continue normally while my fellow human beings are suffering at the hands of a despotic ruler. ‘I will not wear a collar again until Mugabe is gone’ declared the priest.

It was a hugely symbolic public gesture, live on TV and seen by millions. It may not seem very important but such gestures demonstrate to the world and, above all, to suffering Zimbabweans that they are not alone. Another brave clergyman, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu also spoke out very strongly begging the Summit leaders to intervene to save Zimbabwe from absolute destruction. It is surely a sign of HOPE when men of such integrity have the courage to speak the truth about crimes against humanity committed by an African brother.

And Hope is what Zimbabwe needs more than anything else this Christmas. May the light of Hope shine in our hearts this Christmas and into the New Year.

Until next time.  Ndini shamwari yenyu, PH.


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