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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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Tea, Cricket and Truth
October 9, 2010, 12:54 pm

 

 

Dear Family and Friends,

When South Africa’s Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu turned 79 this week and announced he was retiring from public life, I felt very sad for Zimbabwe. Desmond Tutu has been an earnest, dedicated and unflagging supporter of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. Throughout the last decade he has been consistently outspoken about the abuses inflicted on Zimbabweans by their own leaders. Time and time again when all other African leaders were struck dumb, Desmond Tutu raised his voice for ordinary people. 

In 2002 when legislation curtailing freedom of speech, movement and association was introduced, Desmond Tutu was interviewed on the BBC. He strongly criticised Mr Mugabe and said Zimbabwe was: “On the slippery slope of perdition.” Most of us had to look the word up in our dictionaries to find that it was a religious term referring to eternal death and damnation. 

When South African election observers came to Zimbabwe and their cars were stoned by militant Zanu PF youths, they witnessed at first hand an atmosphere laden with violence, intimidation and extreme harassment. The head of the South African observer mission was jeered and laughed at by journalists when he went on to say that Zimbabwe’s elections had been: ‘legitimate.”  Again Archbishop Tutu stepped forward: “I am deeply, deeply, deeply distressed that our country could be among those who say the election was legitimate or free and fair when we are claiming to be adherents to democracy.”

Five years later, in 2007, African leaders were still dumb struck and tip-toeing around the bloodshed, hunger and chaos tearing Zimbabwe apart but Desmond Tutu was not afraid of upsetting the old boys club. He and Madeline Albright, the previous US Secretary of State, published a joint article in the Washington Post. They appealed, not to the world, but to Africa, saying:

“Given Mugabe's consistent unwillingness to respect the legitimate complaints of his people, this is not the time for silent diplomacy. This is the time to speak out. It is especially important that members of the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) raise their voices, for they have the most influence and can hardly be accused of interventionism.”

Later that same year Archbishop Tutu used the International Day of Peace to again cry out for Zimbabwe. He spoke about the harassment of political opponents, detentions without trial and torture  and said : “It must stop now.”

He closed his speech saying: “We are one family, the human family, God's family. Zimbabwe's plight is all of our plight. To ignore its suffering is to condone it.”

Honest and forthright, Tutu’s unique combination of empathy, humility and humour will be sorely missed in Zimbabwe. We wish him well as he turns his time to reading, writing, praying and thinking; and to drinking lots of tea and watching cricket on television.

As one of the loudest voices for ordinary Zimbabweans falls quiet, there is hope that at last, another has returned. MDC Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has finally made a statement about yet more breaches of the power sharing agreement. Mr Tsvangirai said that all along he had been: “ prepared for the sake of our country to sit alongside my yesteryear’s enemies and tormentors to rebuild a stable and democratic country. “  But now he said, the re-appointment by Mr Mugabe, on a Sunday, of Zanu PF governors was one breach too many. He said that with immediate effect the MDC will refuse to recognize unilateral appointments that have been made by Mr Mugabe including the Attorney General, The Reserve Bank Governor, 10 Provincial Governors, 5 Judges, 6 Ambassadors and the Police Commission. The PM said the continued refusal to swear in Roy Bennett as Deputy Agriculture Minister was a personal vendetta and part of a racist agenda.

The Prime Minister will do well to pick up where Desmond Tutu has left off and raise his voice for us, the ordinary people.  Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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