Friday 7 August 2009

Hilary Clinton announced in Pretoria today that the US will not be ending their sanctions against the leaders of Zimbabwe. I should hope not, too. Britain and the European Union maintain the same stance and it is to be hoped that this will continue until the rule of law is properly and fully re-established, elections are free and fair, there is an end to intimidation and violence and the political institutions have regained their integrity. Contrary to Zimbabwean propaganda, the sanctions do not inflict suffering on ordinary Zimbabweans or their economy; they stop Zanu PF leaders from travelling abroad, freeze their foreign-held assets and boycott arms sales. Imagine what could be done if the foreign assets (including Mugabe’s stashed millions) could be appropriated and spent on rebuilding the schools in Zimbabwe?

Well, having read in previous posts about renewed optimism in Zimbabwe, you might well wonder how this sits with the paragraph above. It is quite simple. Mugabe has been brought to the point where he could not govern and could not save the economy – hence, he had no option but to accept a Unity Government and the compromises that would come with it. The country is not out of the woods, but that does not and should not stop us from recognising the good that is now coming. The optimism is real, despite the realism about the long way still to go.

St Patrick's 001St Patrick's 006Today I saw real signs of progress and hope. Two years ago we stayed at St Patrick’s Mission, just outside Gweru, and asked questions about how little progress had been made on just about every project there: school, church, pigs, agriculture, clinic/hospital, water, etc. Nothing seemed to be happening. Yet, as I have been constantly told this week, 2007 and 2008 were lost years. The situation was so bad that almost nothing could be done anywhere about anything.

But, today I visited St Patrick’s again and found:

  • St Patrick's 011The new hospital walls are up to roof level and should be there by the end of August. Door and window frames are gradually going in.
  • The mortuary was being roofed while I watched. The fridges have already been ordered.
  • The clinic has just received a large order of equipment (syringes, gloves, sterile packs, sharps boxes, etc).
  • There are now 13 pigs and plans to get another ten sows for breeding (which, apparently, could give up to 70 piglets each year).
  • Chickens are being reared and I saw the runs being built above ground to protect them from snakes.
  • Plans are being made to site and install generators to allow electricity in different sectors of the site by order of priority.
  • St Patrick's 012Plans are now in hand to establish a new water tank to supply the lower part of this huge site: nurses houses, school dormitories and the hospital.
  • The agricultural gardens that were derelict are now fully planted and being carefully cultivated for sale and feeding the 700+ children at the school.
  • The grinding mill bought by the Croydon Episcopal Area is working and the ground maize is being sold locally at profit for the school and clinic.

St Patrick's 019The ambulance and the lorry are both now in full working order.

This is remarkable. Add to this the fact that this school stayed open when most other schools were shut for months on end and you see the achievement. The key to this has been leadership from the bishop (both visionary and practical – he used to be a mining engineer), the appointment of a very good young priest to oversee all the projects run by the diocese and a renewed sense of possibility now that money means something again and thought can be given to feeding animals and not just people.

This turn-around is very impressive. There is a huge amount to do and a long way to go. But it all now looks possible and achievable again. Today saw the first power cut in a week – which might sound rubbish to the rest of us, but is a cause of both surprise and celebration here in Gweru.

Tomorrow we leave at 6am to drive to Gokwe for the first day of a diocesan youth conference – with nearly 500 young people. I can’t wait for the singing and dancing. Given that a West Indian mate of mine says that if he wants a laugh, he watches a white man ‘dance’, I’ll just watch and take the pictures…