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 past decade.

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 Africa?

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 subject.

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 worthwhile.

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.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd November 2008