Friday, October 31, 2008

Conclude the Talks - We are dying of hunger plead the women of Zimbabwe

Young woman in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe

Conclude the Talks - We are dying of hunger. These harrowing words have been issued in a statement from the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WcoZ) after riot police in Harare descended on hundreds of women peacefully protesting over the delayed conclusion of the power sharing negotiations between Zimbabwe’s political parties on October 27.

At least 47 women were arrested and over 100 were beaten after WcoZ had mobilised nearly 1000 women to gather at the venue where talks were taking place.

National Coordinator of the WCoZ, Netsai Mushonga is amongst those arrested and information reaching their offices said the group has been denied access to lawyers. “The major concern by women is manifest hunger, amongst other emergencies and the dire concern that failure to resolve the impasse will further exacerbate the situation,” said Emilia Muchawa, WCoZ Chairperson.

The situation in Zimbabwe is increasingly fragile after the recent summit of African leaders failed to reach a deal and end the political crisis. As ordinary Zimbabweans continue to suffer, many are turning to the church for leadership.

However, at a tray lunch on Zimbabwe at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, October 28 hosted by World YWCA and the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) a leading theologian and human rights defender from Zimbabwe said the ‘church has been burying its head in the sand’.

Bishop Dr. Levee Kadenge, Convenor of the Christian Alliance of Zimbabwe and Director of the Institute for Theological Reflection and Liberation Today was a guest speaker at the discussion and was candid about the role of the church in Zimbabwe amidst the crisis. “There is a vibrant church community in Zimbabwe. On every corner of Zimbabwe, someone is glorifying God but the church has been burying its head in the sand and I don’t know why.’ said Kadenge. ‘If you look at God as someone who we claim to follow, when I look at the church in Zimbabwe and the world over, we are doing the opposite of what Christ came for; to liberate people, to show people that they can be themselves. In terms of the church looking at issues on the ground in Zimbabwe, there is a lot to be desired.’’

The issues on the ground are complex and along with the persecution and torture still taking place in Zimbabwe, there is a food shortage of catastrophic proportions. ''If you ask how are people surviving, then the answer is…miracles. There is nothing in Zimbabwe. It is not a question that we don’t have money. The reality is that there is nothing to buy. You go to the shop. There is no drink. There is no food,'' said Kadenge.

Kadenge is no stranger to the reality in Zimbabwe having been arrested four times for various speeches and publications that were deemed as anti-government. ‘ You have to understand the persecution and suffering we have gone through in Zimbabwe. During the recent elections, I couldn’t leave the house for 11 days before they took place. We were forced to vote.’’

Although Kadenge is critical of the role of the church in Zimbabwe, he admits faith has pulled him through the difficult times. ‘’I pray the church which I love can realise its mistakes. In all that has happened as me as an individual and as part of the Church, I give credit to God.’’

As the future of Zimbabwe hangs in the balance the World YWCA will continue to call for an end to the violence in Zimbabwe and for the protection of women and girls in the country. ''The World YWCA stands in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and advocates for an urgent and peaceful solution to the situation,” says World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. "Zimbabwean women must continue to effectively contribute to the critical decisions that define the future and recovery of their nation."

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