Since I returned to Zimbabwe just over a month ago, I suppose an update is in order. A big thank you to all of you who have helped with our efforts here.
Truth be told, I needed to come back here to Zimbabwe for several reasons. First, I needed to reassure myself the extraordinary events of March, April and May of this year were in fact real. That may be a surprise to some of you but after years of resistance to my story here, I was completely caught off guard by what happened. I found myself wondering if it might have been a one-off situation I had extrapolated into a long-term mission project of my own volition. It turns out that it was all very real, there is in fact a long-term mission and God continues to reveal more and more daily as I follow the breadcrumbs. My biggest struggle at the moment is patience and trying to not to get ahead of developments and force things.
My second reason for returning, was to fulfill a request from my longtime friend Joice Dube. She has worked for decades in her village of Mbizingwe to put salve on a 31-year-old wound which has never healed. It’s my wound as well so therefore deeply personal and of course spurred my interest in wanting to help her. I have been so impressed with the villagers and their desire for grassroots, bottom up type of event, unwilling to wait any longer for the political leadership to take point. I could not help but find myself inspired by their determination and desire to repair their relationships and move forward.
They started this recent chapter on their journey by returning to the place where many of their friends were buried in 1987 and began restoring the grave-site. For years the villagers have been forbidden from visiting the site or walking on the land which was formerly theirs. As a result, the grave-site area had fallen into disrepair and become overgrown. When I tried to visit the grave-site in April of this year I was initially forbidden as well. Joice went to work appealing to the authorities and I was eventually granted permission. What ensued when we returned a week later was truly astonishing. As we shared the story of the Community of Reconciliation people’s hearts melted. Those who had taken over the land had no idea what had happened there. I was shocked when later they asked if I would be willing to return and rebuild the community!
It was decided that we would continue the healing process with a Peace & Reconciliation event on November 25th of this year. That was the date 31 years ago the villagers lost everything as their friends were killed and their businesses burned to the ground. Putting on an event of this magnitude is always interesting especially when human nature is involved. One would think healing our broken relationships would be at the top of everyone’s list, but it isn’t. We have had to fight through so much resistance to what we are trying to do as some people are more worried about the threat to their influence or income than healing the nation. Another issue has been fear of the unknown. We are entering into uncharted waters for Zimbabwe and area leaders, though they know this event needs to happen, they have been nervous of about untended consequences. On Nov. 12th, Joice and I drove out to the Umzimgeane District Council to meet with the CEO Mr. Ndumiso Mpofu. I was really nervous as the fate of our event rested in his hands. During our dialogue the two of us discovered we had a common bond in wanting to heal the nation. We had a long discussion on what it was going to take and he agreed that more events of this nature must happen going forward. As we neared the end of our conversation he asked me the question I have known for years was going to eventually come. I have dreaded hearing it but know I have to face it! “Would you allow me to bring the man who killed your family to the event as he needs to be healed as well?” If this nation is going to heal, and if I have a place in the ongoing healing process, it starts with me. I have to be ready to forgive on Nov. 25th. Pray for me!!!
My third reason in returning was to establish an NGO (Non Government Organization) to help with the peace and reconciliation process here. I have been carrying some “crazy” ideas in my heart for years. The reason they seemed crazy was there was no context for them, so they seemed like disjointed thoughts with no relevancy. Turns out that maybe I wasn’t so crazy! The events of March thru May seemed to indicate that I was just ahead of the times and needed to wait until now. As I write this, we have now established the National Centre for Peace Trust. The focus of the organization will be twofold; learning from the past and leaning towards a new peaceful future. Over the last 4,000 years of human history we have had approx. 287 years of peace! It seems peace is not humanity’s default setting. When passive and not vigilant, we tend to fall back into our violent tendencies. As James so discerningly wrote in his letter now included in the Bible, “wherever you have selfish ambition and greed, you are going to have every form of evil and chaos!” It is my goal to raise up a generation of Peace Warriors in Zimbabwe who will be passionate about healing their nation and raising up future generations of Peace Warriors like themselves. I have some exciting ideas but will need some serious financial investment to pull it off.
In other news… not long after I arrived, I was privileged to have been invited by my friend Dr. Geoffery Chada to attend the National Peace & Reconciliation Commission’s Strategic Launch. I sat next to the country’s Vice President Kembo Mohadi. Several of the Commissioners and I developed a close relationship after I did some consulting work for them earlier this year. As I entered the meeting room a couple of them hurried over to give me a big hug and let me know how much by book “Saving Zimbabwe” had impacted them. It was such a wonderful feeling to be welcomed back to a place which has been the bane of my existence. My interaction with the Commission has convinced me that most of them are sincere in their efforts to heal the nation. The only thing holding them back is funding. Something I have held under wraps until now is that the Commission has given me the designation of Peace Ambassador on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe. It’s a role I take very seriously, and I’m fully committed to implementing.
My first few weeks here were wall to wall meetings, 3-4 in a day, as I was revisiting my path from earlier in the year. The contrast between now and then is stark. In March the national spirit was upbeat and hopeful. I remember the sense I had as I cleared immigration of how the heavens felt open above me. The sense of oppression and things pushing down on me was gone. People were excited and expectant thinking change was coming.
The nation I came back to is in a state of chaos and the national mood has fallen precipitously. All of this was a result of a highly contested election where the electorate by and large was not convinced of the outcome. The subsequent Constitutional Court battle and their decision did little to reassure voters that a free and fair election took place. Exacerbating the situation, when some of the masses protested, the military was ordered into the streets and fired live rounds into the crowds killing several people. Whatever legitimacy the new government had wanted, they ended up proverbially shooting themselves in the foot.
Making matters worse, the government grossly overspent while propping up the facade that all was well with the economy as an election tactic. Once they had secured power, they dropped the facade and people saw for the first time how dire the economic situation really was. It was horrendous! The new Finance Minister, in an effort to generate income for the government, implemented a 2% tax on all electronic transactions which are 90% of the economy. This just sent things into a tizzy and suddenly inflation started to kick in. The nation doesn’t have its own currency and uses the US$. The problem is corrupt government officials took a great deal of the US currency out of circulation and sent it out of the country to pay personal overseas debts. The government then created a Monopoly game money called a “Bond Note” and said it was equivalent to a dollar. Well “the street” says differently and the Bond is trading a 3.5 to $1 now. This of course created chaos in the retail sector as manufacturers started raising prices to not be caught on the downside of price fluctuations. The consumer in the end is always the one who suffers. There is an old African proverb which states “When elephants fight it’s the grass which dies”. The people of Zimbabwe continue to get trampled while the elites cruise along unaffected by the madness.
Since I’ve been here the situation is calming down some. The long lines at gas stations where people were waiting for hours to get fuel have all but gone away. Some prices at the grocery stores have come down but not to their pre-panic state. Interestingly, some of the dire situation was self-inflicted as people panicked and started hoarding food stuffs. The demand overtaxed the supply chain and sadly some retailers took advantage of the situation. There are some lessons to be learned as the nation does a post-mortem on the how the situation developed. The first place to start will be a badly worded announcement by the Finance Minister that created much of the panic.
Given the uncertainty of purchasing fuel, driving from Harare to Bulawayo was too much of a risk, I decided to fly which turned out to be cheaper given the power of my US dollars! I arrived here on Nov. 1st and stayed for a few days before needing to purchase another ticket to head down to Johannesburg for some last-minute strategic meetings. At first, I was going to fly down on the morning of the 5th and fly back later in the evening. That little inner voice started talking to me and I’m glad I listened. Since the meeting was in the morning, I didn’t want to risk missing it and decided to fly down on the 4th. Well, my first booking was mysteriously kicked out of the system. I then booked a second flight which was later canceled! My third flight was a success but cost me twice as much. Nonetheless, I made it to the meeting and I’m glad I did as it turned out to be not only strategic but tremendously encouraging. Being with men who understand me and saw what God has put in my heart lifted my spirit. I ended up staying for 4 days and was the pampered guest of businesswomen Judy Corney. I dragged her along to a couple of my meetings which she too found quite stimulating. As things unfold in tangible ways I will share more.
I am currently back in Bulawayo for the rest of the month with a busy schedule ahead. My priority will be in helping Joice get things set up logistically for our Nov 25th event. Its crucial we get this event right as we are hoping to do many of these healing events across the nation. For over 30 years people have been intimidated into silence and have suffered alone in their pain. It’s time to let people tell their stories and heal in the process. I will try and update you after the 25th on how things went. Until then, thanks for your support and prayers.