One Day the Birds will Sing

In a few days time, Victor Angelo will leave Zimbabwe to take up a posting as the UN Under Secretary for Peace Keeping. A quiet and effective man he has been the senior UN representative in Zimbabwe for the past 5 years. During this time he has managed the relationship with the Zimbabwe government with consummate skill. Kept his head when others were losing theirs and at the same time represented the views of the world community to a rogue State with some honesty.

This is not an easy task. However what is also not fully understood is that Victor has been the main co-ordinator of the international response to the humanitarian crisis which is the consequence of the "misguided policies" the Mugabe regime. Perhaps more than anyone else he has been responsible for saving many hundreds of thousands of lives during the past four years as the agricultural sector here has collapsed under the weight of shortsighted and chaotic policies. Like many good civil servants, he will receive little recognition for this and his benefactors in Zimbabwe - the millions of the absolute poor who live in the rural areas, will never know him or of his role in their lives.

We said goodbye to Victor the other night at the Japanese Ambassadors home in the company of a few others. Two things stand out for me from that very pleasant evening.

The Japanese Ambassador, who is the epitome of courtesy, made a short speech in which he told the following story: "Several hundred years ago, three Feudal Warlords in Japan had the same problem - their favorite bird would not sing. What to do? The first turned to the cage and said, "if you do not sing, I kill you." The second addressed his bird and said equally sternly, "if you do not sing, I will force you to sing." "The third warlord loved his bird very much and he said to the bird as it sat on his hand "if my bird does not sing, then I will wait for him to do so."
The Ambassador said, "we are waiting for Zimbabwe to sing again".

Then Victor responded in his usual way - self-depreciating, but honest. He was going to a tough assignment he said, but he will miss Zimbabwe and its people, he was also sorry he was going as he was sure, change was imminent. He also said that he had felt that an important aspect of his job here had been to keep the candle of hope burning.

MDC is often criticized for not being more militant and for not confronting the regime en masse in order to force change. We have chosen a different way. The path of democracy and non violent action. In doing so we have perhaps chosen the long way, certainly not the route that would keep us in the headlines and so it is people like these two outstanding diplomats, one working for the UN and the other Japan, on whom we depend to understand our crisis - to see the extent of the suffering and human tragedy, without the benefit of the TV cameras. To understand the issues and the problems - and do what they can to keep the light of hope alive while solutions are found.

When finally change does come (perhaps next year), these are friends who will be ready to help us put this damaged and bleeding land back together again. To give us a new start and to help us build a new and better Zimbabwe.

Just one other thought - as you know Morgan Tsvangirai faces yet another treason trial shortly. This relates to a statement he made at a rally in 2002 and which was given widespread publicity in the local media. In it they claimed, he called for the violent overthrow of the Zimbabwe regime. Those of us who know Morgan well know that this is simply a wrong interpretation of what he said. A deliberate distortion for their own propaganda purposes. How they would love to find an MDC arms cache or any evidence that we planned violence!

What the regime did not know at the time they moved to charge Morgan with this second allegation was that the speech in question was routinely recorded by the MDC and that we have a full video tape of the speech in question. They now know we have this as we have to disclose our defense to them in advance of the court hearings, but pride prevents them from doing the right thing and quietly closing down the case. Instead, once again they are going to spend huge amounts of State money on the case and are tying up the MDC leadership in more futile legal battles they simply cannot hope to win. But I guess that always was the real intention anyway. Back to bird watching!

Eddie Cross Bulawayo.
22nd October 2004