Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Merry Christmas, Zimbabwe

Received this poem by John Eppel from Zimbabwe.


They beat me with branches wrapped up in barb-wire,
they beat me with branches wrapped up in barb-wire;
my baby she crying, her face is on fire.

They say you are sell-out, you vote Tsvangirai,
they say you are sell-out, you vote Tsvangirai;
my baby, she dying, please God, tell me why?

They beat first my head then my back then my bums,
they beat first my head then my back then my bums;
they laugh and they say is like playing the drums.

I beg them for water, they say go ask Blair,
I beg them for water, they say go ask Blair.
Please, put out the fire in Mucheche’s hair?

My bottom is broken, can not sit or stand,
my bottom is broken, can not sit or stand;
Mucheche can’t breathe with her mouth in the sand.

They burned all our mealies, our chickens, our dog,
they burned all our mealies, our chickens, our dog;
my uncle, they hit him to death with a log.

For hours they beat me, for hours I cry,
for hours they beat me, for hours I cry;
please God, save my baby, do not let her die?

When they leave, like a tortoise I crawl very slow,
when they leave, like a tortoise I crawl very slow;
but my baby stopped crying a long time ago,
mwana wangu stopped crying a long time ago.

Mwana wangu means my child. John sends an article of just six days ago by Mary Ndlovu, whose husband died after having been a political prisoner for many years. In it she says:

Soldiers go on the rampage against civilians, nurses steal medicines to sell to patients, teachers abandon their schools, the government spends money to buy judges plasma screen televisions, while the nation starves and dies of cholera. Civil servants obtain their ‘salary’ by charging for ‘services’ provided, police arrest suspects only to get the bribe required before releasing them. Groups of unidentified men, undoubtedly state agents, kidnap and abduct people from their homes and offices. And party politicians – rejected by the electorate – masquerade as ‘ministers’ issuing threats, denials and insults even as the waves of disaster lap around their feet.

Surely this is a moral crisis above all else, a crisis of leadership, a crisis of citizenship, a failure of human beings to demonstrate the human spirit in any form. Zimbabwe has joined the league of societies whose collapse demonstrates how a venal, self-interested leadership can destroy an entire nation; political structures, economic structures, families and many individuals all crooked, twisted, debilitated and dying as expressions of any positive human endeavour. And we the people have allowed our most precious institutions to be destroyed and our nation to disintegrate....

... Zimbabweans simply cannot understand the apparent perversity of the South African government. Why can they not see the obvious, even when they are themselves in danger? Are they blinded by the 1990s success of their own political history? Are they mistaking Robert Mugabe for another De Klerk? Or are they too absorbed in their own political survival to deflect their attentions to the north?

If effective power-sharing or coordinated international administration does not replace ZANU-PF within the coming weeks, the alternative could be calamitous for the region. We could see the increasing flight of Zimbabweans to neighbouring countries, bringing with them disease of various kinds, desperation, and crime, along with the country’s coming to resemble the eastern DRC or Somalia, with lawless bands of armed men preying on the population, disappearances rising from dozens to thousands, and a haven for all kinds of international criminal activity, including drug running, illegal diamond trading, human trafficking, illegal small arms trading, and even terrorist training. The choice seems now almost beyond the reach of Zimbabweans. Having preferred individual over collective responses to our tragedy, we have passed on the collective response to the region. If the region fails to take up the challenge to insist on effective administration, preferably by an internationally supervised transitional authority, they will also suffer the consequences. Within a few months Zimbabwe will have tipped over the edge, and the failure to intervene to prevent further tragedy will bring disaster on all of us.


Dave King said...

As human beings and as democracies we seem unable to act in concert and within the law unless the threat to ouselves is seen as real and imminent. (It is so much easier for totalitarian states to act forcibly.) Otherwise action seems always to veer towards chaos - or am I being uunduly pessimistic?

George S said...

Force must, I suppose, involve some degree of totalitarianism since democracy is, theoretically at least, government by consent. Not that any state is an absolute example of either extreme. Even a tyrant requires some consent.

I was having a long conversation a few days ago with a historian who was very sceptical about the effectiveness not only of democracies but of democracy itself, citing low poll turnout figures.

For myself, I think the idea is as important as the practice, granted the practice is imperfect. I vote even though I know the party I vote for is unlikely to be elected where I live.

Whether the models of democracy we currently employ are the best or the only ones available is another matter.

In the case of Zimbabwe, it isn't the other democracies - democracies that we would easily recognise as democracies - that prevent intervention, but countries that themselves tend towards totalitarianism or some form of paternalistic power.

Isn't it interesting that while, in economic terms, we may talk of global powers, in local or regional politics the local still holds most of the cards?

I suspect the UN has a lot to answer for. But then it would claim to be a democratic organisation too, with some justice.

Perhaps the term we are seeking is 'enlightened democracy'. But then who decides what is enlightened?