On Zimbabwe: Hope and Patience

I was going through my BBC news feeds today, and discovered this fascinating article about Zimbabwean President Morgan Tsvangirai’s trip to Washington, London, and elsewhere.  It’s worth a read, if only to broaden your knowledge about the larger world.  But one passage, in particular, struck me:

All the world needed to know was that Zimbabwe was now stable – there is food in the shops, the 500bn% inflation has vanished like a witch in the night to leave 3% as the shining new number.

And the 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note can be found in wallets from Harare to Helsinki only as souvenirs of the kind of figures which give calculators a heart attack.

But as soon the wandering prophet paints this version of peace, unity and development, Amnesty International lands in Zimbabwe and says the picture on his canvas is pure fiction:

Human rights are still precarious; citizens are still living in fear; the poor have no real hope of laying their hands on scarce foreign currency, which is the only currency in circulation.

Do you mean to tell me that the enormous economic problems caused by Mugabe’s reign of terror haven’t simply been fixed by getting a new prime minister?  But it’s already been a year!

Years of brutality can’t be erased so quickly, and economic prosperity isn’t delivered merely by changing leaders or economic policies.  Impatience is a prominent vice in our democratic age, but we cannot think that simply throwing off dictators will deliver the things Westerners think of as given.  Strength and prosperity are not the product of any political system, but of strong civil and political institutions developed over time.

Zimbabwe has been shaped in harmful ways by colonialism, racism, civil war, and decades of brutal dictatorship.  Cracks are finally beginning to show; the election of an opposition candidate, unthinkable only years earlier, has brought renewed hope to an oppressed nation.  It is amazing–and welcome–that a man who has faced such personal devastation at the hands of Mugabe’s regime would be so forgiving for the sake of the peace in which alone his nation can achieve progress.

Zimbabwe is still a troubled nation, and needs our prayers.  Keep the people and the government there in your thoughts.

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