Zimbabwe - Into the Abyss

After a series of court cases the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (now unhappily divided) established that, on the number of votes cast, it actually won the 2000 presidential election. Morgan Tsvangirai, its leader, should have been president.

However, the election then was rigged, as has been each election since. Robert Mugabe had long learned the secret of communist rule. Once you are in power you are in power for good. You control the army, and the army controls the elections. The elite andthe military still have food, even if the country is ravaged by starvation. For the starvation is not entirely the result of mismanagement. It is planned. Its object is to drive millions out of the country and to leave the wealthy few ruling over a poverty-stricken peasantry. Mugabe has learned much from Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. And he does not fear the military coup which finally overthrew Pol Pot. He can quite happily leave the country in safe hands.

At the beginning of August, Mugabe was on holiday in Malaysia, staying in a five-star £800-a-night beach-front villa. Ostensibly he was attending an international conference on poverty. By the 14th of the same month he was in Lusaka, Zambia, for the summit of the Southern Africa Development Community. He was received by his fellow African leaders with rapturous applause and a standing ovation. He was still the black nationalist hero who had thrown off the colonialist yoke from his country. A few days later he had stormed out in a rage when Mwanasa, the Zambian president and chairman of the meeting, had tried to secure discussion of Zimbabwe's problems - overflowing into neighbouring countries - by placing Zimbabwe on the agenda of the meeting. He returned to Zimbabwe to continue to impose his pitiless plan whatever his neighbours might think.


With the forthcoming March 2008 elections there is a carefully planned and ruthless exercise to reduce the urban voting population.

The attempt of course is to get rid not only of the remaining white population but, in spite of the best efforts of the World Food Programme, to starve out as much of the "disloyal" black population as possible. Some four million - a quarter of the population - have already left for South Africa, the UK or other destinations.

It is quite true that at long last President Mbeki of South Africa has, at the behest of the Southern African Development Community, had some success in bringing together the governing party ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC. But his re-drawing of the urban (opposition) constituency boundaries has incapacitated the MDC in the cities as effectively as "Operation Muambatsvina" ("to clean out filth") scattered, enfeebled and subdued the rural areas. Mugabe and his forces are firmly in control and unlikely to be dislodged. There is little likelihood of a military coup. Flight, not fight, is the response of Mugabe's victims.

In The Daily Telegraph of September 13th the BBC's Sue Lloyd-Roberts writes of her latest visit to a mission hospital in Zimbabwe.

" `It is just that I cannot find the food that will make my baby grow,' said the mother of an 18-month-old boy who weighed just 10 lbs (5 kgs).

"Another child howled in pain as she sat on her mother's lap. Her skin was raw and pink as if she had been severely burned.

"The ward sister explained: `It is the most extreme form of kwashiorkor or vitamin deficiency.' The child was so malnourished that she was losing her hair and skin.

"When I visited the same hospital two years ago there were as many mothers and children. But then the mothers were spooning the staple maize-meal and gravy into the mouths of their malnourished children. This his time the same ward was filled with hopelessness and despair.

" `We do not have space for them all and there are hundreds more in the rural areas,' said Sister Lilian. `Mothers cannot get here, and, most certainly, those children will die.' "

There is no space to write of the ruined forests, the burnt-out countryside, the massacred game, or indeed to write adequately of the countless and unimaginable human tragedies. Judging by its September Provincial Synod the Anglican Church throughout Central Africa is in so chaotic a state as to make the needed moral leadership at feast very difficult.


It is no use pretending we know why God allows the Zimbabwe disaster to continue. We only know that He will have the last word, and that our job is to continue to pray and to offer every practicable help in our power to those Zimbabweans whom we ourselves can reach.

The black Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, can hardly be thought a white colonialist. He writes in The Observer of September 16th: "Zimbabwe cannot any longer be seen as an African problem needing an African solution - it is a humanitarian disaster... It is time for Mr Brown (the UK Prime Minister) to slay the ghosts of Britain's colonialist past and to lead the way in a coordinated international response. The time for `African solutions' alone is now past.' "

Rev. Arthur Lewis


P O Box 5307

Bishop's Stortford


CM23 3DZ