Zimbabwe – Still limousines and beggars, pointed guns and cries of peace!

My year in Zimbabwe, when it was the ‘jewel of Africa’ and the ‘breadbasket’ of that vast continent, was one that to this moment continues to speak to my heart and profoundly influence my thoughts and ideals. From almost my first rendezvous with this vibrant, majestic land, my soul embraced it as home, and I knew very early in my ‘settling in’, that I could live here, not as a visitor, but as a friend who has found a place where it is comfortable, and very easy to be content.

I remember vividly one particular Saturday morning, and what took place as my friend and I were driving on the highway from Kadoma to Harare – a drive of just over an hour depending on traffic or road works. One moment, we were cruising steadily on the open road, chatting, anticipating another wonderful weekend spent with dear friends, the next, we heard loud sirens and car horns descending in our direction and I felt the car swerve suddenly to the left and off the road. It happened in seconds, and as we waited in the dust, a convoy sped past us, headed up by police on motorbikes and followed by several army trucks with soldiers perched on the top pointing machine guns in our direction.

My first thought was that a terrible accident had happened somewhere along the road. Then I saw the black limousine rushing past, another army truck with more soldiers and guns and lastly, another motorbike with a policeman and accompanying siren blaring. Through all this, my friend calmly sat at the wheel, saying nothing, and when the drama had passed, he started the car and slowly pulled out onto the road and we continued our journey.
“What was that?”, I asked, not waiting for the explanation that would have come. ” The President most likely-he travels like that,” he replied softly. “But why did we have to pull off the road, there was plenty of room?” I questioned. “That’s the way it is. All vehicles have to get out of the way or they shoot – security you know.” “You mean they’ll shoot your tyres?” “No”, he said, “If you look like you’re posing a threat his soldiers will shoot you, and then ask questions.”

That was 1991! The image of that black limousine has never left me – in fact I wrote a song based around it. That black limousine also became a symbol of the ‘other’ Zimbabwe’ that I did not know, but that would increasingly manifest itself in the years to come.

Two weeks ago I received an email telling me that our friend John and two neighbours had been arrested in early January, and had been incarcerated in Chikurubi maximum security prison. The charge was treason, the penalty for which was death by hanging. The three men had been accused of training bandits in league with the MDC, for the purpose of overthrowing the present regime. In actual fact, John has been running adventure camps on his property for some years now and is one of a handful of white farmers and businessmen, who has chosen to stay and see change come. The email we received was from his wife Jenny. If you have read my post, ‘Would you go outside the camp?’, John is the one who, whiskey glass in hand, invited me on that evening walk on the banks of the Zambezi River.

The night of John’s arrest, it was not a black limousine and a convoy of army trucks that arrived in the middle of the night at his property on the outskirts of Harare. According to reports, over 300 militia and state police burst onto his home with no warning, with helicopter gun ships hovering overhead and machine guns and grenades poised in the hands of the invaders. I have since tried to imagine what that would actually be like, and how I, as a wife and mother, would feel should that have happened to me in Wauchope Australia.

Having spent almost every weekend with John and Jenny and their kids in the year I lived in Zimbabwe, I have lain awake at night seeing their home, every room, in my mind and the beautiful gardens and mountains surrounding, and have wondered what it must have been like on that night in early January, when the ‘black limousine’ in all its terror and intimidation and violence descended on that quiet sleeping home.

John and his friends were released last week on a Supreme Court directive, after an unimaginable experience in a Zimbabwe prison. John and Jenny are now in hiding and John, as described to me by his daughter, is just skin hanging onto bone – and he fears rearrest.

Last week Susan Tsvangirai, described as The ideal First Lady we never had, and the ‘Mother of Zimbabwe’s struggle,’ died in a car accident. Her husband, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, survived and has openly declared that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding this tragedy.
No black limousine, no pointed guns – simply a terrible accident. Around 40,000 Zimbabweans mourned at her funeral, and after 31 years of marriage, Mr Tsvangirai is left to not only grieve, but to continue the long walk to freedom for his country without his life partner and ally.

Susan, humble and servant – hearted, was admired and respected across the political divide, both at home and in the Diaspora. As one journalist has written, ‘May Susan Tsvangirai’s painful and shocking death be the alpha of national healing. Let her innocent blood lubricate Zimbabwe’s wheels of justice.’

I believe deeply that change is coming, and that we are witnessing that phenomenon of ‘the hour darkest before the dawn’.
I pray for the day when black limousines, in all their horrible forms, will cease to intimidate and terrify, and when cries of peace become the anthem of a new and free Zimbabwe.

One Response to “Zimbabwe – Still limousines and beggars, pointed guns and cries of peace!”

  • B Pregnall:

    I served on a missions team to Africa University, Old Mutare, and was in awe of the beautiful people living there. Also, students from all over the continent were learning to love and appreciate one another, as they were finally able to communicate through the English language (English was a requirement the first year). I talked with students from Nigeria and the Congo, and instead of hatred and war, there was peace and comeradery. The hope was that these feelings would spread to their individual homelands when they returned, and all of Africa could work together to restore peace and cooperation, working together to restore and prosper and combat poverty and starvation and disease.

    I was devastated to learn of what was happening there, and pray for all of Zimbabwe and Africa and the innocents caught up in a struggle for power and greed for the few.

Leave a Reply