A defining moment

Forty nine years ago I was twenty four months into my new life, teaching history at St Ignatius College, Chishawasha, when a serious effort was made to resolve the then “Rhodesian problem.” Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of “Britain”, as he called it, was negotiating with the unconstitutional leader of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, who had led his followers into a Unilateral Declaration of Independence three years earlier. They could find nowhere to meet on dry land – a sign in itself – and so came together in a ship at sea.

Between classes we hurriedly checked the news and after a few days they hammered out some kind of an agreement. From the African point of view it was flawed as it effectively left power with the whites for a considerable time ahead. But from the point of view of hard liners in Smith’s coterie, it went too far in hinting at majority rule albeit in the distant future. It was rejected.

So as we wait now, nearly fifty years on, I seem to be having a déjà vu experience as we await the outcome of the present talks. Sometimes I wonder if we have ever had a moment of “normality” since the days the Rhodesians skewed the country in their own interests. There was a brief honeymoon in 1980 but after barely two or three years, a balance of interests was vanished and we have lived with the consequences until Tuesday last.

This 14th of November will, we hope, go down as a turning point or, if you will, a tipping point. Tough negotiations are in progress and it seems hard to imagine that, after all we have been through, the different sides will fail to come up with a solution that is just to all sides. The image of two school children, one back and one white, nonchalantly walking past an army tank in the Harare says much for the calm, absence of threat and hope in our new situation.

There is a torrent of talent, damned up over the past twenty years, ready to burst into the civic, social, economic and cultural life of Zimbabwe. Our earnest prayer and longing goes with all those who are in a position to facilitate the change we want. We are ready, not just for a government of all the talents, but a country where each one can use his or her gifts for the benefit of others and, in consequence, of themselves.

Generations yet unborn expect this of us. Let us pray that our present leaders will rise to the occasion.

19 November 2017                 Sunday 33 A

Proverbs 31:10 … 31              1 Thess. 5:1-6              Matt 25:14-30

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