Newspapers hold the crown of news consumption in South Africa and as you drive through the streets, the headlines of the many papers here are posted on the poles by the side of the road. Recently the headlines have been littered with news of Mugabe. Some of you at home might be wondering if we’ve seen a reaction to the recent election, but in my experience it’s been quite mild. It’s not something a lot of people want to talk about. Zimbabweans are fearfull, others are angry, frustrated, and no matter who you talk to, the resolution of the debate always seems about the same: other countries need to intervene.
One of the papers mentioned the US stepping up with harsher sanctions, but it didn’t explain what that meant.
As we drove to Pillanesburg we caught a news brief on the radio (they have a lot more news on the radio than we do). The anchor said very seriously, “We’ve all been waiting at the edge of our seat to see who is going to win…it’s been a tight race between Robert Mugabe and Robert Mugabe.” But the Zimbabwe election was not a joke. We’ve all been discussing the reasons why Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out. Perhaps he thought he’d be murdered and that by pulling out so late, he’d draw attention to Zimbabwe and force other countries to step in. At this point everyone is left to wait and see. Let’s just hope they don’t have to wait too long.
While at the Bed and Breakfast in Pillanesburg, we were able to watch the news for a little bit over breakfast. I watched footage of a crowd cheering at Mugabe as he waved to them in a stone face. It’s hard to believe such a thing could happen. It’s hard to understand how a man like that can destroy a country and still own the key. We’ve met so many Zimbabweans who have fled their native country becuase they were beaten, afraid of being attacked, had no food, no job…there is nothing for them there. There is no hope when a country is ruled by fear. People turned out to the polls to have that ink stain on their finger. They voted for the only candidate, the man who has saved and ruined their lives in a single lifetime, just to have that ink-covered finger that might save them from being attacked. It’s a double-edged sword and there is now way out; except through the border.
I wish we could get in there to see the situation for ourselves. I wish we could talk to people to understand their struggles first-hand, help to reunite families, help to give hope. But it’s too dangerous for anyone. I just hope that the rest of the world truly understands the turmoil in Zimbabwe. I feel like the focus is so steadfast on South Africa with these xenophobic attacks. I hope it turns heads to the source, the cause, the country in peril. I think this recent election will make that happen.
The only problem with trying to save a nation is that you realize how many others also need help. The whole southern part of Africa seems to be in crisis; why else would all these refugees be here?
Enough politics. In about six hours we’ll be bording a plane back to a place of tranquility and peace relative to here. And then the real work begins.