God hears the cries of the oppressed



This week The Reverend Temba Rugwiji begins a three-part analysis of the situation in Zimbabwe – from a human perspective, of course, but with a belief in the divine.

Some people have been brought up, not only under mysterious circumstances, but also under extremely difficult conditions. Think of a baby, soon after birth, the parent decides to dump the newly born child, leaving the innocent soul for dead.

According to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (1994), human life from the moment of conception until natural death is sacred. No-one must deliberately and directly kill an innocent human being. But, some people do not regard a human being with value.

In this example, having been miraculously picked up by a good Samaritan at the eleventh hour, the baby finally gets medical attention and feeding. The care-givers, such as children’s home or a foster parent, support the baby through life’s challenges to finish college and university education. He or she becomes a prominent personality in society.

When the episode of the escape from the tragedy is explained afterwards in the days of the survivor’s fame, and a reflection on the past experience is replayed’, one can just summarise by saying: God hears the cries of the dumped.

[xhead]The Israelites cried out
Quite often, particularly in Africa, life is punctuated by such ambiguous experiences. Zimbabwe is going through a similar experience: hunger, shortage of foodstuffs, exodus of professionals, lack of foreign currency (to procure medicinal drugs for health institutions), prices changing on an almost daily basis, incomes that do not sustain basic commodities, unemployment, company closures, high inflation rate, etc, have haunted people’s lives in Zimbabwe. And the cause is the political situation, such as the land seizures, use of arms of government to suppress emerging voices, persecution and murders of people with opposing views, lack of investor confidence, corruption, violence during both the pre-and post-election periods.

The Israelites in Egypt cried out because of their oppression and their cries rose up to God (Ex. 3:7-10). Similarly, the cry of the Zimbabwean people has reached up to God.

When one looks at these prevailing challenges in Zimbabwe, there arises an urgency to conclude that people are going to perish. Looked at from a human point of view, doom is likely. However, there is another side to things: the divine side.

How can life have meaning in the absence of the creator, as far as defining the existence of humanity is concerned? Human life is always eschatological; always hoping for the good in the future. In the contemporary understanding, the term optimism explains it much clearer. We hope things will be all right! In theological circles, it is called faith.

[xhead]Life is at stake
Zimbabwe was once the pride of Africa. Our independence from colonial domination was celebrated in style in 1980. According to Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, today all these achievements of the 1980s look deeply flawed and the sentiments of that time tawdry. Our critics continue to ridicule us as if there wasn’t any success story in the first place.

Properly speaking, life in Zimbabwe is at stake at the moment. Other examples of countries going through turbulent periods after gaining independence from colonial rule are those of Mozambique and Zambia, to name a few. Unfortunately, I foresee that many factors suggest South Africa is heading towards that direction in the near future, unless she changes the tone of her music.

Zimbabwean politics have had a negative effect on the country’s economic environment. Incomes cannot sustain the cost of living; prices of basic commodities have gone up beyond the reach of many consumers. As stated by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, a great crime has been committed against the poor and helpless people who are already facing many hardships in the country. But, where exactly is Zimbabwe’s problem?

Society at large and the prevailing atmosphere in African countries have both contributed to the hardening of heart’ by President Mugabe. In my view, there have been outrageous and contagious sentiments spreading like veld fires amongst people initiated by emotional tempers, pointing to the notion of Mugabe’s trial for human rights violations after his exit from office as head of state.

While I personally empathise with people’s suffering and that Mugabe’s rule has caused too much discord and distortions in the country, I don’t subscribe to that idea.

[xhead]Humans are erring creatures
This is the time for an aspiring new leadership to plan ahead in preparation for a new change so as to remedy the damage to the country, rather than redirecting energies and efforts into manhunt, which for a long time, has been the trend in Mugabe’s style of leadership.

I feel that people with such mentality are not worthy to be leaders of a nation composed of people of diverse cultures, opinions, thought-forms, characteristics and so on; otherwise you will kill everyone except yourself, because a human being is typically an erring creature.

In fact, such an attitude carries with it retrogressive tendencies. One must not carry this baggage of hatred into State House. Being head of state is a calling, because one is made an overseer over God’s precious people on earth. Unity and reconciliation embedded in nationhood are the pillars which will hold all the people together, defying world opinion on the treatment of perpetrators of human rights abuses.

In fact, one methodology of addressing a problem may not be appropriate in every context. This is why it is important for people to change their mindset and concentrate on Zimbabwe’s future.

If Zimbabwe’s political stance changes towards a positive direction, things will improve gradually. But, still the question remains: how will this change in politics come about?

It is the responsibility of all stakeholders: government and the people of Zimbabwe, collectively. Zimbabwe should reconstruct itself in a broader sense, taking account of the criticisms levelled against the country’s governance by both the insiders and the outsiders, what I would want to describe as being introspective, rather than shift blame on other people.

We must admit that we are erring somehow, and consultations will help to highlight this position. Despondency on the part of the majority of Zimbabweans is also expressed in the election results. The opposition party almost snatched away the lead from the ruling party in the previous polls, and if this trend continues, in the spirit of free and fair elections, history will have to be rewritten. Coupled with these assertions are both Zimbabwe’s international relations as well as loss of output from agriculture, resulting in food shortages in the country.

In the forthcoming elections, democracy should be allowed to prevail above all things. Above that, peace and tranquillity form the bases for democratic elections. It is of paramount importance that contesting parties should create a social, political and economic climate, and a conducive atmosphere for elections to be described as free and fair.

Continued next week

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In the contemporary understanding, the term optimism explains it much clearer. We hope things will be all right! In theological circles, it is called faith.ed faith.

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