Bradburne of Mutemwa

They came by foot, by bicycle, by open truck, by kombi and by bus. They came from Mutare and Bulawayo, from Kadoma, Kwekwe and Harare as well as the areas round Mutoko. September 5 was the anniversary of the abduction and killing of John Bradburne of Mutemwa. Bradburne of Mutemwa.

It begins to slip off the tongue like Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi or Teresa of Calcutta. John himself would be horrified at being bracketed with such great people but he is beyond the place where his protests are heard and whatever his reputation will be it will be.

What is sure is that thousands come spontaneously to that spot at the foot of Chigona hill where he lived among people with leprosy in the 1970s.

Years ago there was a group who tried to establish a place of pilgrimage at Mazowe. But people did not come unless they were organised and when the organising died so did the pilgrimage. No one is organising Mutemwa. People just come and from different churches and maybe from no church. In the last five years their numbers have swelled. Why do they come? Why do they spend scare money on such a journey?

We can be fairly sure of the answer. They come for healing. They do not seek dramatic cures, casting away crutches. There is no celebrity calling them forward to stand up and walk. They come mainly for inner healing. They come because they sense this place is holy. They sense that in this place someone wrestled with the evil one and triumphed; that this person became more human as a result and so approached the divine more closely. And they feel that this was not for himself alone but for all of us.

When John was alive just a few people knew him and visited his tin hut built outside the compound. That hut still stands and when I visited it on September 4 people were arriving in their numbers. This forlorn spot where just a few of us would come to see him in those days when he was alive is now a hub where the crowds gather to pray and spend the night on Chigona hill.

John had nothing; no suit, no car, no bank balance, no title and nowhere to lay his head except his tin hut, stifling in summer, freezing in winter. He was the happiest person I have ever known, which is not to say he did not have his trials many of them but he never let them get him down. While he was hurt by them he could draw their sting. He was deeply upset when the Mutemwa authorities sacked him because they thought he was crazy and inefficient (too generous) with rations. But in a throw away line he would say, theyre probably right.

His last years, when the war was all round him, were made up of a taxing routine of prayer, care and constant anxiety for the patients and writing poems. Certain people wanted to get rid of him. He was killed and his burial took place the day the Lancaster House Peace Conference opened.

What goes on in the heart of each one who comes to Mutemwa today will never be known. It will not reach The Herald or be shouted from the roof tops. But we can be sure that deep inner healing is silently taking place and people know it and experience it. May ripples spread out and touch more and more people so that Mutemwa can contribute to the healing of our country!

Post published in: Opinions

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