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Zimbabwe needs the ballot, not the bullet

  • 30 June 2008

Gangs of party youth, drunk and high on marijuana, rampaged at night through blocks of flats in Mbare, an old and very much neglected working class area of Zimbabwe's capital Harare. Anyone suspected of having voted for the opposition, opting against the 'ruling party' of Robert Mugabe was assaulted.

The chairman of our parish council had all his furniture thrown out of his tiny flat. He was beaten and left out in the cold with his wife and small children. Anyone who gives him shelter must be prepared to suffer the same fate.

An elderly parishioner, mother of a candidate for the opposition party, is now in hospital with serious injuries. Night after night gangs of fanaticised party youth knock at people's doors and force them to attend all-night brainwashing sessions where they must sing 'revolutionary' songs and shout party slogans.

The 'ruling party' which came to power after a long, bitter and bloody 'war of liberation' is re-living those glorious days when they were fighting the racist Rhodesian regime under Ian Smith. The same tactics then and now. Power comes though the bullet, not the ballot, through force and violence, not through free debate and the democratic vote.

Mugabe is still fighting the 'whites', the British and the former colonial powers in general. 'Britain wants to recolonise Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's 'sovereignty' is at stake,' he screams at party rallies which people are forced to attend at gunpoint. 'Anyone voting for the opposition is voting for Rhodesia, colonialism and imperialism.'

Party youth, uneducated, unemployed, frustrated, ignorant and unable to see that their plight is precisely the result of Mugabe's failed policies of patronage and self-enrichment, are high on this ideology of hatred and resentment. When they are killing an opposition member, they think they are destroying an enemy who has committed treason, a traitor, and defending Zimbabwe's 'sovereignty'.

This 'sovereignty' thing justifies the horror of cutting off a woman's feet and a hand, before killing her, as they did recently. The official count is 86 people killed, but a group of independent doctors, worked off their feet treating about 2000 seriously injured victims of violence, think the true figure is more likely to be 500.

The Bishops of Zimbabwe, in their April 2007 pastoral letter 'God hears the cry of the oppressed', said they were aware that 'there are Christians on all sides of the conflict; and there are many Christians