It's all for Chipo
The other evening I spoke to a great friend of mine in Johannesburg who
makes his living as a political analyst. He is perhaps one of the best in
the field and his opinions are read and followed by many key decision
makers. He told me that on the issue of Zimbabwe he was in the slough of
despondency and could not throw it off.
His publisher had asked him to look at publishing his weekly column and in
preparation he had read through his past writings and found a number in 2000
where he had predicted the end of the Mugabe era and the start of a new
beginning here in Zimbabwe. Eight years ago and no end in sight, only
further collapse and even greater human suffering.
Then I think about the Congo and my own memories take me back to the early
sixties. I was a student at Gwebi College outside Harare when the first
refugees began to arrive from the Katanga Province of the Congo, fleeing the
violence that had followed the withdrawal of the Belgium administration. A
few of us went into town to volunteer to help the refugees at the show
grounds and there we found hungry, frightened people, nearly all had lost
everything they owned. I can still remember one couple arriving in a sedan
vehicle with bullet holes in it and a dead child on the back seat.
Today, not far from Katanga, two million people are fleeing the fighting
once again - only this time no one knows just why they are fighting. 45
years later and it seems as if there is no progress, just violence and more
suffering. 5 million people have lost their lives in eastern Congo in the
It is easy to give up in despair when it comes to Africa and many, perhaps
most of my own friends have done so and left for other parts of the world -
just anywhere where it seems the rule of law applies and people can make a
living and raise their children in relative safety and security.
My own family and I have elected to stay and to help struggle for a better
future for those who live in Africa. I have just had my son and his wife
here for the weekend and they have 4 little girls - 3 to 10 years old. We
elect to stay and have to work every day at finding food and other
necessities of every day life. In Harare they often have no water or
electricity. They could be living just about anywhere they choose - why
There are many reasons, we were born here and this is home. We love the
country and its people; the climate is fantastic - most of the time. But
that is not enough. There are risks as the rule of law is tenuous and we all
have friends who have been dispossessed of everything they had built up over
years and it could happen to us - at any time.
We are all Christians and for us this means we try to obey what we feel God
wants us to do. Back in 1976 when I thought Ian Smith would never let go and
allow change and the country would go up in flames, we took a serious look
at other countries. Our neighbors told us that we were selfish to think only
of ourselves and not our children - then young teens. We prayed and after a
lengthy process concluded that God wanted us to stay. We still feel that way
and none of us have ever really doubted that or felt a need to revisit the
We honestly cannot say that God has not met our every need - He has and in a
marvelous and often miraculous way. He promised that in the Bible and if
that book is truth then we should be able to depend on its promises - and we
have in every way. But even that is not enough. I cannot speak for the
others of my own family, but for me it's all about Chipo.
Africa loves kids and gives its children the most attractive and inspired
names. Chipo is often used, it means 'gift' and I think parents feel that
way about a little girl when she is born. We have about 200 000 little Chipo
's born every year and in the Zimbabwe of today, they face an uncertain
future. My own passion is that every Chipo who is born in Zimbabwe can
expect a life where they will have every opportunity, as I had when I was
born, to go to a good school, get a high school diploma and perhaps go on
the University or College and make a life for herself that is fulfilling and
The majority of our Chipo's are born in a simple village - in a round house
made of mud and poles. I want to see a new Zimbabwe arise out of the ashes
of this one where she can leave home every morning and walk to school where
she will find herself in a first world environment able to study and learn
what children in other countries take for granted.
As she grows I want her to have choice, to be able to choose to be a
teacher, or a scientist, or a homemaker. To be able to earn an independent
living and make money of her own, to be able to stand up in a crowd and
argue for change in one thing or another and be respected.
Why Chipo? Because if we get it right for her, the boys will also be ok -
but if you get it wrong for her, she will be condemned to a life of struggle
she will never able to stand up as an independent woman because our culture
treats her as a minor all her life. Never able to make choices or a better
life for herself, never able to help a new generation make a better tomorrow
and help build the dream.
Mugabe has destroyed all that and the Congolese war lords and criminal elite
are responsible for denying generations any chance of a better future. Yet
is that cause to quit the fight for what is right? No it's not and it is not
really sacrifice for you to pour out your life in pursuit of the dream. It
is actually a privilege and I am so grateful that we have a chance to fight
where it matters.
On Tuesday Americans will elect the first black American to the highest
office in the land and the most powerful post in the world. In the 20's and
the 30's in America, when racism was rife and the cost of change was often
innocent life, who would have dreamed that Martin Luther King's dreams would
come true. I supported Obama from day one; I respect the way he has run his
campaign as it shows capacity and ability. But most of all I support him
because he will enable all of us to dream for just what is possible if we
work and believe.
We struggle to give our grandkids the opportunities we want every child to
have, everywhere. When they are grown we hope they will see that we spent
our lives, not pursuing safety or prosperity and ease, but a better life for
every little girl like my sons four girls. Making dreams come true is what
real life is all about. History shows that eventually evil comes to an end.
We will win this struggle, it's like a marathon - when your legs hurt, its
time to increase the determination to stay the course.
Bulawayo, 2nd November 2008