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Monday, December 17, 2007
"Church needs new, innovative ways to confront Mugabe" says Sheunesu Hove
QUEENSLAND, Australia – This article is in response to an article carried on ZimOnline on Monday highlighting the protest by Anglican Archbishop Dr John Sentamu. First of all I am in support of the Bishop's action. I share his concern, like every one else, about the situation in Zimbabwe.
We seem to be all concerned about the human suffering, human rights violations, bad governance and a lot more of the current problems in Zimbabwe.
It is good for a man of God to show that where people are suffering, you do not sit back and say one day God will bless them and remove their suffering. You make a step, no matter how small.
That then becomes the beginning of a big process. Bravo His Lordship.
Even in the Bible, (Mat. 5:23-35; John 4:20) we read that man cannot be reconciled with God unless and until they are reconciled with each other first. As such where there is conflict among human beings God may not even receive our sacrifices or offerings until we reconcile first.
However, because my Lord Bishop is not a politician, and I guess even if he has no intention of becoming one, that does not absolve him from making sure that God's people are not subjected to human suffering by the actions of politicians who purport to be concerned about the same people they make to suffer.
He may not be alone, as I believe there are other clergymen and women who share the same views and sentiments, but have not come out in the open yet. Politicians, more so leaders like President Mugabe, have for a long time found solace in the doctrine of Sovereignty.
Although it is one of the fundamental elements of a modern nation state and is written in black and white in the UN Charter that no state is allowed to interfere in another state's internal affairs, of late it has been subject to abuse and misuse.
This abuse and misuse is meant to legitimise criminality through state action, especially crimes against humanity. Such is the situation in Zimbabwe. For example, the use of political affiliation and loyalty in food distribution is a typical example of structural violence by the authorities.
Sovereignty has become a political rhetoric President Mugabe remembers very well every time he is given an opportunity to address an audience.
Even funeral gatherings have not been spared either. Unfortunately, the UN Charter does not provide for protection of the abuse or misuse of the same provision by those who head different states. Had there been such a provision, we could have put it to test in the Zimbabwean situation. However, it has become a wish which will not benefit the beggars anywhere.
Nation states exist in an environment characterised by lack of a supra government over other governments. That in itself leaves citizens of every state at the mercy of their heads of state.
Such is our situation, not only in Zimbabwe, but the world over. Mugabe uses the politics of identity and memory very well and carefully.
It is a deliberate and calculated move to strip people of their true identity and then give them a preferred political identity cemented by frequent and programmed propaganda based on politics of memory. For example, political jingles played every thirty minutes on radio and television and the frequent reference to the war of liberation which has become the norm in speeches at every level.
Be that as it may, there is nothing wrong in referring to that important epoch. But if it becomes a shield and smokescreen for poor governance, then it becomes cheap propaganda reminiscent of a regime devoid of new ideas to provide solutions to the national crisis.
Any approach to find solutions to the situation in Zimbabwe cannot therefore be a parallel process as it serves only to play into the hands of the regime. I agree with the Anglican Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu when he says President Mugabe has “taken people’s identity” and “cut it into pieces’’.
A people without identity are a people lost, reconstructed and dehumanised. It is a people with confusion and cannot say who they are. They suffer from an identity crisis. As such they are vulnerable to abuse by those who purport to give them an identity. They can only identify themselves differently in different situations, but never permanently.
It is good that the clergyman identified that and realised the need to symbolically show the world what he thinks, can do and will remain doing. However, I do not to agree with the Archbishop when he said he will wear the dog collar until Mugabe gets out of power or is gone. That statement in itself is political and hence confrontational.
It is a statement that can only come from those who have political ambitions and are interested in politics. That approach then ceases to be a non-violent one and therefore may fail the test of time just like all other confrontational approaches have failed.
The opposition in Zimbabwe and the civil society organisations are in a better position to tell my Lord Bishop that Mugabe is the champion of confrontational approaches.
He has always won the confrontational tournaments since Zimbabwe gained independence. We have experienced on numerous occasions boycotts and stay away, but none of them have yielded any tangible results to date.
In every case Mugabe was the winner, may be not only a winner, but became even more hardened. I would rather the Archbishop focus on bringing change by combining effort with other clergymen and approach the regime from an international church Initiative using constructive dialogue.
Such an approach can then strengthen the shaky and seemingly ineffective initiative by the Zimbabwean churches, which has become known as 'The Zimbabwe We Want'.
This approach has been bed-ridden for some time and it may benefit very much from the nourishment brought about by an international church initiative.
This gives those concerned with helping the people in Zimbabwe, as well as the eventual beneficiaries, an understanding of the framework of the political realm in Zimbabwe.
As it is now the regime is prepared for any confrontation from any angle.
John Buchan once likened the building of peace to fishing, ‘it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope’.
I believe and have hope that a solution can be found for the crisis we have in Zimbabwe. It may appear elusive and for as long as we want a quick fix, then it will even appear impossible.
Peace is a philosophy and, in fact, a paradigm with its own values and precepts, which provide a framework within which to discern, understand, analyze and regulate all human relationships in order to create an integrated, holistic and humane social order.
Let’s not do more harm than good. It is good to be very careful when approaching a trapped leopard which has not eaten for days. All I want to say is that dialogue in this case is the only way forward.
Let’s try and engage each other as a way to find solutions to problems. Lets give dialogue a chance.
* Sheunesu Hove.
Hove is a Rotary World Peace Fellow, studying for a Masters in International Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia. He can be contacted at - email@example.com