A few years ago our local Church sent two volunteer nurses to Somalia
help with an emergency refugee problem. When they had completed their
in the field they came home and on a Sunday morning they were asked to
to us about their experience. They described their flights to Nairobi
then by light aircraft to the camps and then they talked about the
conditions they found there and the suffering of the people.
Then came a tense moment in their presentation. The more senior girl
talking and she started to say that the worst part of the whole
was the children. Then she stopped, she could no longer carry on and
not cope with describing the plight of small children in those dreadful
I know how she felt. I am a father and a grandfather. My own two
are grown and have children of their own. Our son and daughter are very
special to us and so are their spouses. We lost Sue’s husband to a
attack three years ago and still grieve over his passing and the gap he
in all our lives. Our grandchildren are something again – they all say
parents wish they could have grandchildren first – without having to go
through parenthood at all! I have never felt like that but what I can
you is that having grandchildren is a very special experience and I am
glad that both our parents spent their final years in our home and
I do not know what we would do if anyone of our five – Gary’s tag team
four special and gorgeous girls and Sue’s son Keith who is so much like
father it is scary, were to be lost to us. I can say without any doubt
I would do just about anything to defend those kids and to protect
futures. What we are so grateful for is that both our children have
such great parents. I certainly know that Gary’s girls love and adore
a very special way and Sue has a very special relationship with her
So when it comes to the plight of kids in a country like Zimbabwe,
forgive me if I get a bit emotional. I kind of lose it when I must
what sometimes happens, just like that nurse in our Sunday service in
Harare. I still cannot get out of my mind the image of those 60 men and
women who had just crossed the Limpopo River and faced a hazardous
through the bush to Johannesburg 500 kilometers away. They had just
baby’s mother washed away and lost, they were left with the baby – what
do? They collectively decided that there was no choice, none of them
take the responsibility of a young baby with no name and he or she was
thrown into that river to join the mother. Now I do not know about you
cannot talk about that incident without tears. I hope I never can.
This past week a member of the MDC National Executive died of cancer at
age of 61. I traveled to Beitbridge with three others for the funeral.
Georgina Chadzingwa was a Dadaya girl – raised and educated by the Todd
family at Dadaya Mission. She had become an activist early in her life
spent most of her life fighting for the rights of women. Then she had a
serious stroke that left her paralysed down one side of her body. It
deter her and my last memory of Georgina was as she painfully climbed
stairs at our Head Office – six floors, taking her time on each floor
gather her strength for the next set of stairs.
At our Congress in March she insisted on climbing onto the platform
other women even though it took her 10 minutes to make the effort. She
elected the national treasurer of the Women’s Assembly and held this
until she died.
The funeral was a large one as you might expect – many women and a
men who respected her for her work and courage and her family. We sat
through the Church service and then went to the gravesite in the local
cemetery. I had not been there before and parked the car on the side of
area and walked through the Cemetery itself to the gravesite.
At first I was puzzled. Why are the holes for the bodies so small?
were hundreds of these tiny miniature graves. How do they get the
those small spaces I thought? Then I came up to the gravesite and there
a row of “normal” graves excavated for the coffins of people like
I suddenly realized that I had been walking through a cemetery that was
mainly made up of the graves of small children.
While we were putting Georgina to rest a small funeral arrived for
burial. This time it was a child and the relatives carried the tiny box
gravesite near us. The mother was completely bereft. I said to the
did they see how many hundreds of children’s graves there were? I had
idea that we were burying more small children than adults in places
Beitbridge. But the physical evidence was there for all to see. It is
thing to bury a woman of 61 who has raised a family and served her
community. We grieved for a life lost but well lived. But to bury a
whose life has yet to begin, that is another matter.
This experience drives home the reality that our average life
declined from 60 years to 35 in the past 20 years. I know that Aids is
partly to blame but it is the potent mix created by the Mugabe regime
makes matter so much worse. Malnutrition, starvation, poor medical
homelessness, despair and broken families are all to blame. We
families that were displaced by Murambatsvina in May 2005 and were
by our churches for a few nights before the Police forcibly relocated
to the rural areas. Our Pastors reported that up to half their number
died in the past year. What I did not appreciate was that one of the
causes was simply despair. The adult men felt they could not protect or
provide for their families. Pushed from one place to another, denied
dignity or hope, they simply gave up and died.
Jesus said in Luke 17:2 “It would be better for him to be thrown into
sea with a millstone tied around his neck, than for him to cause one of
these little ones to sin.” Those who create the conditions that lead to
deaths of so many thousands of young children in often, horrific
circumstances, must be held to account. We may be forced to compromise
justice just to get rid of these modern day monsters. God does not and
that I am grateful.
Bulawayo, 12th October 2006