zimbabwe :: worse and worse

I have a soft spot in my heart for the southern African nation being mismanaged into shambles by an octogenarian autocrat who has been in power for far too long. In the 1980’s Robert Mugabe helped to lead the people of “Rhodesia” to Western-style self-rule, distancing the country from the legacy of diamond-guru Cecil John Rhodes and the lingering imperial presence of the British. He has been in office ever since.

The soft spot in my heart has begun to tear in the last few weeks as almost daily I read some new bit of news on the BBC about the state of the country. Here are a few links:

— The country with the world’s highest rate of inflation (previously 2,200% per year), now has a rate of 3,791%. I’ll give you an idea of what that means. Average inflation in the States hangs around 4%. That means that the milk you buy this year for $2.50 will cost $2.60 next year. If you were to buy a half-gallon of milk in Zimbabwe today for $2.50 (keep in mind that inflation has been running at rates in the thousands for years now), a year from now, that milk would cost you just shy of $95 dollars. Your employer can’t afford to give you a 3,000% percent raise annually, so you are trying to buy this milk on the same salary you’ve had for as long as you’ve been lucky enough to have a job. Money isn’t even worth carrying as toilet paper in Zimbabwe. Thousand dollar bills are literally worth less than the shiny bit of aluminum wrapped around your chewing gum.

–While we’re talking about work, let’s not forget that unemployment runs at 80% in the little nation that used to be the jewel of southern Africa.

–Speaking of food, the price of maize, what everyone eats three meals a day (when there are three meals a day – most families are down to one…), artificially supressed by the government to keep people from starving, has increased to seven times its former level.

–Despite this, Zimbabwe’s delegation to the UN has ironically been chosen to chair the committee on sustainable development! After all, they are clearly experts on both sustainability and development.

The church is speaking:

“The situation is desperate,” said Pius Ncube,“There’s many a family that I know spending two or three days without food. A lucky family will have one meal a day.”

“I hope people get so disillusioned that they really organise against this government and kick him out by non-violent popular mass uprising. ”

“The only things that matters is the regime’s staying in power. They wouldn’t mind if half all Zimbabweans die. Didymus actually said that. He said they only care about the people that support them.” [In 2002, Minister for State Security Mustasa Didymus said: “We would be better off with only six million people, with our own (supporters). We don’t want all these extra people.”]

“Our only problem is Mugabe. He thinks Zimbabwe is his property. He prevents everything. We cannot live. We cannot breathe. But we are not his property. We are not his donkeys. He is riding us. We need to get this guy out.”

[Speaking on the phone] “This phone is tapped. They could kill me any time if they wanted to. They say that when you have 20 people together, one or two of them will be Mugabe’s spies. He has infiltrated everywhere, even the Church. I don’t care. I will say what I want to say. I will not be quietened. I am not their slave.”

The outspoken archbishop has called on the people of Zimbabwe to take to the streets, to free themselves from President Robert Mugabe. But he acknowledges that many are afraid.

But Mugabe won’t listen to the “inveterate half-wit liar cleric.”

Mugabe: “Once [the bishops] turn political, we regard them as no longer spiritual and our relations with them would be conducted as if we are dealing with political entities and this is quite a dangerous path they have chosen for themselves.”

–Why wouldn’t you be afraid to speak out, when speaking against the government comes at the price of your life or well-being?

Shame on the government of Zimbabwe. There is a God to whom we are all responsible – how can you treat your brothers and sisters like worms? Have you no fear? Have you no respect?

Shame on the police officers and others who beat their brothers and sisters, promulgating fear in obedience to unjust orders. Please, stand with the people who are supposed to trust you.

I bring these stories to light in this setting because they affect millions of people. These stories affect millions of people whom God loves. Africa is still the dark continent when it comes to news coverage. I’m putting these stories up in hopes of spreading the word a bit further than it usually goes. While we watch breaking news about the latest hairstyle on some camera-hounded California-blonde, our voiceless brothers and sisters wait and hope for change. When we start to care more about what goes on in Africa than about the antics in the stadium and silver-screen, the news we get will reflect that – and we will be better people for it.

Shame on the government of Zimbabwe. May God deliver the people, the land, and his whole creation from oppression.

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