Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Zimbabwe's disappeared


Jestina Mukoko Jestina Mukoko (pictured) used to be a television presenter. Then she left and became director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project which has been documenting many atrocities and crimes of Mugabe's regime. Maybe she had become tired of telling all those outrageous lies day in, day out on behalf of government propaganda, maybe her professional conscience woke up and longed to tell truth, nothing but the truth.

Last week she was abducted by a group of armed agents, consisting of seven men and one woman, with some more manning a fleet of vehicles. She was taken in her nightdress, not allowed to get her medication, her glasses, anything. She has not been seen since. Police have been silent, courts reluctant to take any action.

Who is responsible? The secret police? Gangsters acting on behalf of the 'ruling party'?

Many more have been 'disappeared' and remain missing. The regime is as hostile towards the opposition (who won the march elections) as ever.

South Africa wants the 'unity government', as envisaged in an agreement in September, set up as soon as possible. But how can there be unity where there is blind hatred, torture and murder? Would it not be better if South Africa insisted that the regime produce all its abducted, tortured, maltreated opponents? Or have they all been murdered?

The agreement promised that the rule of law would be reestablished. But the regime, its police and even the courts have as little respect for the law as ever. They break their own laws without hesitation. Police don't touch anything declared 'political', even murder.

Where promises are broken, how can there be trust? Would it not be better if South Africa denounced this lawlessness and criminal behaviour? Especially in view of its own excessively high crime rate which may yet deter the world from coming to South Africa for the Soccer World Championship in 2010.

Medically speaking, cholera should be a thing of the past. Any cholera outbreak today is due to a breakdown of public health in times of war or social decay.

The president claims the cholera epidemic is over, the minister of information blames the British for it, like for anything else that goes wrong in this former British colony. Priests visiting cholera treatment centres to pray with the seriously ill and dying tell a different story. The faithful too: they see desperately ill people being taken on wheelbarrows (ambulances are not running or too expensive) to the clinics.

The 'ruling party' does not know public service, working for the common good, caring for the poor and the sick without discrimination. Its number one priority has always been to stay in power, never mind the cost. The 'comrades' and 'war veterans' and 'liberation fighters' were never concerned about the nation as a whole, but only about the 'party' and its supporters. Who does not belong to the 'party' is guilty of treason.

Sewage runs along our streets, women and girls fetch water in contaminated streams since the water taps have run dry, power cuts leave people in the dark, government hospitals are closed, there is hunger and famine in a country that used to be highly productive, with food security never a problem. Maintaining, extending, modernising public services has not been a priority.

Africa must no longer tolerate leaders of failed states. Negotiating towards compromises is the essence of politics. It presupposes good faith, honesty. But you cannot negotiate with tyrants. There is no compromise with autorcrats who insist on total power.

In 2009 the Catholic Bishops of Africa will meet with the Pope in Rome for their second Special Synod, on 'The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace'. Since the politicians lets us down, the Church has to give a lead and teach the continent about good governance and sound principles of serving society.

Oskar WermterFr Oskar Wermter SJ is Parish Priest of Mbare, Harare, and Director of Jesuit Communications in Zimbabwe.



Topic tags: oskar wermter, robert mugabe, zimbabwe, jestina mukoko, south africa, tyrant



submit a comment

Existing comments

As Fr Oskar says, the church has to give a lead and the universal church will need to hear Pope Benedict confront the Zimbabwe horror head on when he meets with the African bishops next year. To do less would be to do nothing.

The Zimbabwean people are accustomed to disappearances in their landf....this happens in all tyrannies.The greater anxiety should be about the vanishing voices outside Zimbabwe....such as within Australia where Prime Minister Rudd has been accused by the Opposition of going "missing" on Zimbabwe,insisting that's because Mr Rudd is looking to garner as many African votes as he can in support of Australia's bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council, and doesn't want to upset some African leaders.

There are times when it suits Mr Rudd to let his Foreign Minister speak up but he will "bump" Ministers aside if he feels there's he can do a better job...as exampled by him sidelining Environment Minister Wong to address the media on climate change at the national press club in Canberra this week.

The Australian newspaper last Monday took a strong stand in its editorial, declaring the world must stand up to the Mugabe regime, suggesting a first step would be to deny the legitimacy of Mugabe's illegal regime.

Australia could take the lead in that regard by expelling Mugabe's envoy to Canberra and recalling our own...and urging other nations to do likewise.

Brian Haill | 17 December 2008  

Where are you Chairman Rudd when a voice is needed on the horror of Zimbabwe. It is very easy to try and get support for things political but when it comes to doing your Christian {?} duty in respect of those being affected by this brutal regime, your voice is strangely silent. Why Mr Rudd?
Let us pray that Jestina is well and not being mistreated by those in authority in Zimbabwe.

Neil | 17 December 2008  

Although countries are regarded as sovereign states, surely there is some world authority that is able to step in and intervene to curb such reprehensible abuses of human rights such as are happening in Zimbabwe, (the Congo, also, and anywhere abuses are perpetrated) as human rights apply universally and equally.

Charmaine Storey | 17 December 2008  

It pains me to hear of the continuing injustices that are occuring in many African countries. I pray that the Church will be a sign of hope to those who suffer at the hands of tyrants.

Anita Davine | 17 December 2008  

Okay. So the African bishops are meeting with the Pope, but why has it taken us Christians so long to help? Are we waiting for the entire population to get cholera?

Mary Maraz | 18 December 2008  

I am an ex-Zimbabwean and find it strange that the world swiftly applied international sanctions to the country when Ian Smith declared UDI but now under Mugabe, when these absolutely appalling human atrocities, terror and genocide such as the country has never experienced before are taking place the world sits back and watches. How many more millions must die? How can we allow another 'Idi Amin'.?

Zim used to be the bread basket of Africa - now there is no potable water and mortality rate is high from AIDS and now cholera. Doing nothing while knowing what is happening is moral cowardice - the bystander complex going into overdrive.

Sue Pearson | 20 December 2008  

Similar Articles

Seasons greetings to our readers

  • Michael Mullins
  • 23 December 2008

Our decision to make Eureka Street content free of charge has been a resounding success. Traffic to our website has more than doubled. We have received only a few expressions of misgiving from readers who would prefer to pay for the content.


Police shootings have many victims

  • Michael Mullins
  • 22 December 2008

Just ten days after the killing of Melbourne 15-year-old Tyler Cassidy, a Sydney woman was wounded at the weekend, in yet another police shooting. It's time to question the extent to which we should be proud of the anti-authoritarianism in our culture.