Grantham, PA. As days drag into weeks following the March 29 election in Zimbabwe with no word about the outcome, tensions are mounting across the country and life for the average citizen is growing increasingly desperate. Yet the people remain committed to peaceful resistance, including a nationwide strike called by Zimbabwe's opposition to force the release of presidential election results.
In an email message received in the BIC Church offices in Grantham, a Christian worker in Zimbabwe writes:
I came into Bulawayo early this Tuesday (April 15); several errands needed early doing. . . I walked the bike along the sidewalks towards Matopo Book Center, stopped to scan the papers at the street corners, and bought "The Zimbabwean," mainly because it had the front page headline "MDC Plans Mass Action".
Passing through the Market Area of Bulawayo, the source of all fruits and vegetables that the hundreds and hundreds of street vendors access early, early, every morning for their own designated intersection sales, the "stay-away" was even evident here. About a third of the usual number were loading scotch-carts and setting up their tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, chimolia a.s.o.
I open the newspaper, page through it, and read the following headlines:
- War Vets Threaten to Invade ZITF (International Trade Fair)
- Military Junta (Zanu-PF) Extends Control to Media, Airline & Finance
- Food Situation Precarious
- Zanu Resorts to Forging Letters
- Cops Face Discipline for Refusing to Vote
- Witch-hunt Turns into Militarization of Country
- Wheelbarrows & Computers Offered in Exchange for Votes
- Education in Chaos as UZ (University of Zimbabwe) Stays Closed
- Mugabe Backtracks on Land Pledge.....as gangs of thugs invade more farms.
- Western Union Agents Shortchange Customers
- Youth Movement Warns of Violence
- Election Violence Predicted for Second Round
- Mugabe Has Staged a Coup
- Country Faces Starvation as Mobs Rampage through Farms
The editorial is headlined "People Still Have the Power.” The second paragraph states, "That a bad loser can hold the nation to ransom...demands international intervention. This is no longer an internal matter. When people are being abused by the state machinery, the world cannot stand by and hide behind spurious respect for sovereignty, and craven fear of being branded neo-colonialists.”
It goes on with, "The people of Zimbabwe have done their utmost. They have spoken through the ballot box...We urge the peace-loving people of Zimbabwe to stand firm at this their darkest hour. They should not allow themselves to be provoked by Mugabe's vicious militia, who are spoiling for a fight. They must remain peaceful at all costs..."
Below the editorial is a picture of a lit candle, the flame conveying steadfastness, silence. Next to it is a smaller headline, Word for Today, which quotes ancient David, David of the sling, the giant killer, the seeker after God's heart. His word to us on April 15, 2008 here in Bulawayo:
Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
I ponder "...his righteousness to the nations," and I think, you over there may well have a clearer picture of what that looks like, and I yearn for the accountability, transparency, and genuine responsibility of public servants, notwithstanding the periodic discovery of corruption. And the desire to impute integrity to those in power, and how much easier it is for us to do this than it is for these increasingly powerless people here. Presently, in this nation, "his righteousness" appears unclear, at best, and a perversion, at worst, as fear and faith, anguish and adulation, despair and devotion play themselves out in the day to day lives of both the powerless and the powerful.
And the song sung most poignantly on the sidewalks of the city, the trails of the thornveldt, over the fires of the homestead, and in queues for bread and mealie-meal, is one sung by peoples around the world when called to participate in "revealing his righteousness" to their nation; namely, "We shall overcome....someday. Deep in my heart (1person, 1vote) I do believe.....we shall overcome someday."