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Inside the Zimbabwe blast furnace

Mugabe and TsvangiraiA fractured nation of resilient Zimbabweans sighs for a return to normalcy to a country that still brings death and poverty to them. Hope springs eternal that the country could be the pride of Africa again.

Close to three million Zimbabweans haven't seen the country in the past five years. Political and economic ructions drove tens of thousands off into neighbouring nations. Zimbabwean exiles scattered the world over mull over the prospect of going back, but the old fears of poverty and persecution still hold them at bay.

The country has suspended its own currency, naming the South African Rand as the currency of reference. The 80 per cent unemployment record still stands. Electricity is a rare visitor. Some hospital wards remain closed. Water taps have to wait longer before water can flow again. It's a blast furnace of hardships.

Still, yesterday's political archrivals are today's strange bedfellows. A year ago, President Robert Mugabe contested Zimbabwe's presidential run-off alone after Morgan Tsvangirai refused to participate, out of protest against a campaign of torture against his voters.

Today, we find the descent into socio-economic hemorrhaging ground to a halt with the coalition government of president Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara in February 2009. Now that a thin veneer of progress in the country exists, can Zimbabwe heal itself?

The unity pact has survived its first 100 days, but the former ruling Zanu PF party still appears desperate to call the shots. President Mugabe declared that the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono will not go — he saved the country in its hour of need. Gono earned the reputation of raiding foreign currency accounts of institutions without consent.

But the Media and Information Commission that selectively licensed journalists has now been archived by law. Under the unity government, too, people are salivating at goods that now fill the shops, though the majority cannot afford them.

Strikes appear to be on hold for now. For the first time in ten years there is a promise of economic growth, no matter how small.

The international community is cautiously providing monetary support to resurrect dead services. The survivors of the catastrophe in civil society and the churches see hope.

Zimbabwe's post-independence churches, especially their leadership, have historically been divided, leading to silence over Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian rule. But the early 2000s saw grass-roots leaders in various denominations organising themselves against the government's dereliction of duty.

When 'Operation Murambatsvina' (clean up filth) began after the 2005 elections, the broader church displayed some boldness by trying to defend the slum dwellers who were driven out of cities and towns.

The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) expressed displeasure in their pastoral letter, 'God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed', blaming the government for all the problems. The letter roused the ZANU-PF machinery, which went into overdrive. The vocal members of  the church and civil society were punished.

Problems on the political front mounted, economic decay worsened, and the tensions went out of control. Neighbours became enemies and relatives became foes. It was like the Rwanda genocide all over again, though at a lower level.

The coalition government has sown glimmers of hope. There is an opportunity to rebuild morally. Shattered Zimbabwe had risen from the dead.

'Give consideration to the setting up of a mechanism to properly advise on what measures might be necessary and practicable to achieve national healing, cohesion and unity in respect of victims of pre and post independence political conflict,' says the GPA signed by the coalition government.

This support has led more than 25 civic and church groups to meet in May under the Church and Civil Society Forum — National Healing and Reconciliation. They admit that people have been killed, some maimed for life, so that national healing needs to come.

The forum includes ZCBC, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Council of Churches and civil society. It wants to consider grassroots views on how the healing process should proceed.

'We cannot wish each other away as we are coming from different political fields, but we need to recognise each other,' says John Nkomo, the minister who represents the organisation on national healing and reconciliation.

As the search for healing slowly rolls on, the country can only smile as it longs for the peace and harmony of 15 years ago.

Munyaradzi MakoniMunyaradzi Makoni is a Zimbabwean born journalist. He writes from Cape Town.

Topic tags: Munyaradzi Makoni, zimbabwe, mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara



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Existing comments

What a travesty of justice.

Thank you for this insight into the unfolding situation.

We need to intercede as never before for these innocent victims that the leadership would bow to the sovereignty of Jesus and that there be genuine healing in this land.

Stephen Coyle | 26 June 2009  

Thank you for providing a view from the position of being on the ground with the oppressed

Ray O'Donoghue | 26 June 2009  

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