On January 25th, thousands of Christians in Zimbabwe fasted and prayed for healing in their country, hoping that their prayers were joined by millions more from around the world.
After two months of dragging his feet and throwing verbal tantrums, on February 11, Zimbabwe's tyrannical President Robert Mugabe gave in and swore in opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister in a power-sharing unity government. Those who support Tsvangirai believe that this is the beginning of a new era of hope in Zimbabwe. Facing a devastating cholera epidemic, hyperinflation, a collapsing infrastructure and 90 percent unemployment, Zimbabwe needs a major boost up.
Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential elections in March 2008, but he withdrew before the election run-off because of violent attacks against his supporters. His success in finally breaking into Robert Mugabe's iron-handed government has offered hope to the imploding country. The very fact that somebody other than Mugabe now has a say is itself a miracle. Still, Tsvangirai's victory is just one step in a long hard road. Skeptics believe the unity government will not function well, but hope it may offer a transition to the creation of a new Constitution and new elections. Tsvangirai’s people will have control of the Ministries of Health, Education and Finance, but will have no money to work with. International donors are waiting to see some real change in the government before investing in the country.
Tsvangirai has already said some things that concern practical people. Hours after his inauguration, he promised that the country's civil servants would all be paid in US dollars by the end of the month:
"As Prime Minister, I make this commitment that, as from the end of this month, our professionals in the civil service, every health worker, teacher, soldier and policeman will receive their pay in foreign currency until we are able to stabilize the economy,"Analysts are wondering where Tsvangirai gets his confidence. They doubt anybody will give an unstable government money to hand out to civil servants who don't actually produce anything. Tsvangerai did not mention opening mines, which would contribute to the country's funds.
In the meanwhile, Mugabe still has not given up on his racist policy of evicting white farmers and handing their farms to supporters. According to The Sidney Morning Herald, Mugabe plans to chase the last of the white farmers from their lands as an 85th birthday present to himself. While his country suffers from starvation and serious sanitation problems, Mugabe is already ordering caviar, lobster, and champagne in preparation for the event on February 21st.
More than 4000 white farming families have been evicted since 2000 under Mugabe's land redistribution program, which has been a major cause of Zimbabwe's current problems. White farmers, criticized as remnants of the British colonial system, have been systematically chased off their properties by mobs of Mugabe supporters. The problem was not only that Mugabe's racist policies forced out farmers who had lived in Africa for generations, but it pushed off people who actually knew how to farm. Those who took over the farms did not necessarily know the business of growing crops, and many farms failed under their inexperienced hands.
One very visible British African, Roy Bennet, has been appointed deputy minister of agriculture by Tsvangirai. When he served in the Parliament, he was very popular with the people as a man born and raised in Zimbabwe, who speaks the local Shona dialect fluently. He spent a stint in jail years ago and only recently returned after a two-year exile in South Africa. Mugabe has had him arrested under charges of terrorism. Bennet has remained upbeat even in jail, but he knows his imprisonment represents Mugabe's deep unwillingness to truly give over control of the government.
There is hope for Zimbabwe. The country is continuing to struggle along, which is good because there is a lot of mountain still to climb. Remember the Church in Zimbabwe in your prayers, that God can use even this terrible time to further His Gospel in Africa.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe Surrenders, Swears in Tsvangirai as Prime Minister - All Africa
Mugabe's Birthday Present: Purge of Last White Farmers - Sydney Morning Herald
'Zimbabwe Needs Emergency Aid' - BBC
Tsvangirai's Promise On Civil Service Pay Raises Questions - NewZimbabwe.com
Zimbabwe's Political Farmer - BBC
Jailed White Farmer's Case Tests Unity Deal - The Washington Times