My husband and I have been reading the classic "A Christmas Carol" to our children. Every night at bedtime we take turns reading portions of the tale. The book represents our countdown to Christmas. With imagination, I create a self-absorbed, grating voice to mimic Scrooge as I read. I can't help but get sidetracked in my mind to the situation in Zimbabwe. I try to keep reading to the kids and feel some solace from the idea that there is a place like the one Jacob Marley describes to Scrooge, a place where Mugabe will have to pay for his behavior, his callousness and perhaps sit somewhere near Adolf Hitler in the bowels of hell. I desperately hope so.
I received three emails from non government organizations (NGOs) in Zimbabwe panicked about the rumor that the United States was changing its currency. At first, I wanted to laugh at the absurd notion, and then quickly realized there was a complete lack of information from those still stranded in Zimbabwe. With the worthlessness of Zimbabwe currency, the US dollar has replaced it. (Ironic, isn't it) The idea of US currency being changed was causing a desperate anxiety to these groups who had already lost a great deal. I sent out a note to assure them this would not happen. (At least it has never happened before). Again, I saw Scrooge in his warehouse, counting out his coin, as he forced his clerk to sit by an inadequate fire. Mugabe too, behind a roaring fire, counting his fortunes and delivering Christmas spirit only to those who raped and pillaged on his behalf.
In the tale of course, Scrooge has been forewarned by his ghostly partner, Jacob that he would receive visitors.. He was prepared. "Are you the spirit whose coming was foretold to me? Asked scrooge. "I am" said the voice. Who and what are you? I am the ghost of Christmas past,"
He led Mugabe by the hand as they passed through the wall and down a narrow road. There at the end of the road, was a small schoolhouse. In the classroom, sat a boy of ten, Robert Mugabe himself, looking bereft and alone. Similar in many ways to Scrooge, abandoned by his father and with a mother who had five other children to attend to, he shouted in delight as he saw the priest that raised him. He saw himself at a podium accepting one of the many degrees he had earned. At this point, Mugabe had a smile on his face.
The Ghost settled into a casual pace as they walked onto a country road. This was a portal into Zimbabwe at its finest. Before both of their eyes, were miles and miles of green land and trees bending over from their bounty. It was harvest time. Golden leaf, Spinach, vegetables, the market was teaming with people carrying various items stacked on their head. Excitement and chatter danced in the air, as people readied food for the market. Food was plentiful, people were laughing-a time of abundance. The Ghost turned to Mugabe, his eyes bore into him and moments later Mugabe found himself in bed with that damn clock striking twelve again.
I am the ghost of Christmas present" said the Spirit. Mugabe is once again led out onto a street. The spirit points to a lone car driving down a rutted, dirt road. The small car is stuffed with people who moving up and down uncomfortably from the conditions of the road. There are three boys in the back left corner of the car. The youngest boy is on the lap of another boy. It is obvious by the similarity in their facial features that they are brothers. The young girl next to them is crying silent tears; she has just lost her mother to Cholera. She will soon follow her mother though as her kidney will stop working soon. The last woman in the back seat, an older white haired woman next to her is dying of cervical cancer. They carry oil and bread on their lap, the only items that lie between them and starvation.
He continues to walk with Mugabe and they soundlessly find themselves in a suburb of Harare. It is 4 am. A group of 20 men are surrounding a small house. Four of the men break off and head into the house. They come out quickly, carrying a pajama clad woman who is flailing and screaming as she is flung into the backseat of an unmarked Mazda. Mugabe recognizes her as Jestina Mukoko. A Zimbabwe peace project director who has been a vocal activist to help people survive. Her son comes running outside screaming after the car that races into the night. She disappears.
All around Mugabe were people being arrested or raped. Even the offices of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in the southern city of Bulawayo were in the midst of a break in by the Central Intelligence Organization. Scare tactics, beatings and deaths abound. Mugabe thought for a moment of Jacob's Marley's eternal travel as redemption for his sins. He began to sweat...just a little. Once again he awoke in his bed-kicking off his covers and hoping this was all a bad dream.
As he swung his foot over to the side of the bed, a sudden piercing scream and the sound of rattling chains came though the wall. Mugabe screamed as the ghost came forward. "I am the ghost of Christmas yet to come". Mugabe was on his own. No henchman for defense, no CIO to kill and maim. He panicked. "No, Mugabe shouted at the ghost, it is the Western's worlds fault, it is not mine. They are brainwashing everyone."
The spirit ignored him and nudged him forcibly outside. Mugabe's cockiness faltered as he walked with the ghost into a den of despair. Everywhere in Zimbabwe, families wept over their dead. As they sobbed, they rushed to bury them within their 20 minute allotment. Cholera has spread faster than the fires Zimbabweans continue to set to the fields to find rodents to eat.
He sees a young 15 year old girl accompanied by her mother, carrying the coffin of her infant, dead from Cholera. Behind them and covered by grass are thousands of graves of people stretching kilometers and miles and feet.
All around the ghost and Mugabe are howls of pain and anguish. Suffering knows no worse place.
A newspaper boy yells from a busy corner. "Extra, Extra, Botswana's, President training bandits' to raid Zimbabwe!" The ghost turns to Mugabe with eyebrows raises. He shows President Khama working with refugees, assisting Cholera victims. No where is there any "bandits" of any truth to the State Run government newspaper, The Herald's claim.
The ghost finally speaks-only his eyes can be seen beneath the black hood. Do you lie about your neighbors? Is there anything that you take responsibility for? Mugabe, felt a deep, penetrating fear and he finally and he cracks. "Yes, yes, the situation in Zimbabwe is mine. I will change, I will change. The people loved me, they can love me again."
And at that promise...the ghost nods slowly and disappears. Mugabe sits alone in his room. He is a well read man, he knows this Christmas tale. He is shaking, deep breathing to calm down. He realizes that finally, he is given a chance to change. He knows that the people of Zimbabwe are resilient and forgiving...it won't take much. Food on the tables, hospitals open, clean water and a way to eek out a small living.
He thinks about it for a moment, and then another moment and then he begins to laugh. His fear of the ghost has dissipated. His arrogance and tyranny return. He begins to calculate and tally... "If I wait till next year, many more people will have died. I will have to give up less money, and less power. Besides, those that are going to die are Zanu-PF supporters anyways. Another maniacal laugh, almost mirroring the ghost of Christmas yet to come:
"Zimbabwe is mine! "