Jemma and I visited Zimbabwe in April 2000. We found a stunningly beautiful country and extremely generous and hospitable people. As part of the trip we spent a short amount of time in Harare, the capital city. My memories of what we saw there will always stick with me and as I’ve followed news developments this week in Zimbabwe my mind has turned to April 2000 and our stay there.
Anti government demonstrations had been taking place as we arrived from the uk. Land reform was underway, mainly white landowners were being forced off their land. Jobs were lost, the agriculture sector began to collapse and there were lots of reports of brutality. Exiting the airport we found a heavy military presence and a few demonstrators who seemed to be in small clusters along the road side. We didn’t think much of it until we noticed many of them had blood stained clothes, bruises and bleeding faces. Something nasty had happened to these protesters, it was in plain sight of everyone and a warning to all who witnessed it had been issued.
In the city centre, around the presidential and government buildings were groups of heavily armed soldiers and road blocks in place. The soldiers were agitated and intent on moving traffic and pedestrians on as quickly as they could. It felt like a level above normal security. Our guide calmly told us we would be shot if we tried to break the security line.
What shocked us most was the sense of normality that surrounded these events. To us it wasn’t normal and it seemed a pervasive fear was being spread by those in control.
I have tracked from home the news from Zimbabwe for the last 17 years, some of it has made pretty grim reading. Robert Mugabe has clung to power and reports suggest the levels of brutality towards anyone who poses a challenge have continued to rise over that period.
Eugene Peterson @PetersonDaily wrote this week, “The kingdom of self is heavily defended territory.” It is still unclear as to what has happened in Zimbabwe this week is the end of Robert Mugabe’s ‘heavily defended territory’. He still holds some popularity for reclaiming land that was taken by the British in the 1920’s and is unlikely to resign without resistance. There are also suggestions of Chinese influence.
But the principle of defending your territory happens in workplaces, churches, families and organisations all over the place. Born out of insecurity and fear, it is always ugly and there are usually casualties.
Jesus taught his followers that the key to finding life is losing it for His Kingdom’s sake. In God’s kingdom success is not measured by how much you have rather how much you give away.
My prayer is for peace and stability in Zimbabwe.