Diamonds in the Sky

Sometimes I feel sorry for people who do not live in the drier regions of the world. In a place like Bulawayo we have zero humidity at this time of the year and it can get pretty chilly at night, with wonderful clear blue skies and mild temperatures during the day. In weather like this there is also the temptation to stay indoors after dusk. If you have a fire of real mopani wood, even more so! It is a mistake.

Last night for example, at about 19.30 hours my wife and I walked home under a sky that was ablaze with stars. Venus was near setting in the western sky and what a sight. It was so bright you could mistake it for a light in a passing aircraft only it flashed and sparkled like a 100-carat space diamond. Absolutely beautiful and free to all of us who occupy planet earth. Right overhead was the Milky Way - spiraling across the night sky like a splash of diamonds. No moon, no clouds, no moisture, just the black African sky and the diamonds of space.

Sometimes I think of Africa in those same terms - beautiful, exotic but with a backdrop of darkness that sometimes overwhelms us. I have often pondered what it would mean to mankind if there were no stars, just black, empty space going on into infinity. I am sure it would have profound psychological implications - let alone the philosophical questions it would pose! We would then be quite justified in asking how did we get here? Who was responsible? The possibility that there might be life somewhere 'out there' is always a consolation in a universe crowded with millions of planets, suns and stars.

But we do have Venus and a plethora of other stars to keep us company and to force us out into space in an attempt to find life elsewhere. When he was President, Ronald Reagan had a programme under which he recognised outstanding human achievement in the USA. He called those who were recognised and rewarded under this programme Stars in the night sky of America. I have always thought this was a great idea.

In any dark situation there are always stars that light up the sky and give us hope that we are not alone. Stars that illumine their universe in a unique way and in the process light up our world. Here in Zimbabwe we are no exception. Last week I attended a small community meeting of 20 or so individuals who have just taken a lease on 96 hectares surrounding two small dams known as the 'Hillside Dams'. There they are intending to build a restaurant, establish a botanical garden and aloe collection. They are also going to put in fences and security and create a small game park. All work carried out by volunteers and all costs met by donation.

In my sons church there is a remarkable woman who has taken it upon herself to help the children's wards in the local hospital. With over 3 500 beds, the hospital is a giant medical facility but being State owned and operated is just about on its knees. The children's wards are freshly painted and clean and every child gets a toy when they are checked in. Drugs are fully available and supplied free of charge and nursing staff are assisted. All wards have television and visitors from the Church pay regular visits to children in the wards. Another remarkable women in the same Church runs a massive programme for the absolute poor and destitute in Harare. She helps thousands in camps at various rubbish dumps on the periphery of the City, has pastors ministering to their spiritual needs as well as food and clothing. Whole families are selected and sent out to a training farm where they are taught farm skills and then settled on vacant land as small-scale farmers.

Driving into Harare after 400 kilometers of empty farms and abandoned homesteads you suddenly find yourself looking at a string of three farms where the fences are repaired, cattle graze the land and superb crops grown on well-prepared lands. All three have housed their staff well and produce milk on a large scale for the nearby City. How they have been able to remain on their farms and keep going is a mystery to me - one day I will stop and pull in to ask, but I already know that behind these islands of sanity and prosperity are individuals who have just stuck it out and have shown every determination not to give in and quit.

Of course there are many who do not contribute, many who in fact like the dark because it suits their purpose. But those who do struggle against the odds, who still plant trees and flowers and tend their lawns, they are heroes in every way, bright stars in the night of our time. The marvel of this process, is that in becoming stars in our universe, we discover light always wins and that gives us hope.

It is really tough right now to give people hope and faith in the future because things look so grim. We now know that Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube were actually in South Africa waiting for the Zanu PF representatives to pitch up for the meeting. They did not arrive and gave no apologies. On Monday Zanu PF submitted their response to the request that they set out their basic position. We have now had sight of that and I am told it resembles the ramblings of a lunatic - I am not surprised, we have long known this was an asylum with the inmates in charge.

The Zanu document in fact does not deal with any of the issues that are on the table. They ramble on about 'recognition of Mr. Mugabe as President' and the suspension of 'sanctions' as well as the well-known diatribe about the MDC as a 'violent Party'. As if it would make one iota of difference to anything if we did do those things! We do not control the standing of Mr. Mugabe in international circles - he does. We do not control the imposition of personal travel and financial restrictions on the 100 or so worst offenders in terms of human and political rights abuse - those who control visa regulations and money markets do. I think we have shown quite clearly who sponsors political violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe - it is Zanu who holds degrees in violence!

I really do feel sorry for these Zanu PF types - they know now that they are really up against impossible odds. Their only way of avoiding the dip tank is to stay outside the holding pens. Once they are in, the only way out is either over the fence or through the dip. On the other side we wait with expectation - we have all the ingredients for a national braai and celebration that will make the record books. I already have picked out a couple of fat, corrupt, lazy oxen to provide the nyama for my braai - I am sure everyone else is equally ready.

I am waiting to see just what Mbeki is going to do next. He has no choice now but to exercise leadership and get this process underway. The deadline for the SADC leadership is the end of June and this time I am sure we are going to see that cattle prod in action - all 10 000 volts applied in the appropriate place.

But for all of you who are in my universe and are little spots of light against the night sky, hang in there, you give hope to all of us and you make this dark place a place of beauty.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo June 10th 2007