God's Politics

God's Politics

Linda Martindale: The Trouble with Quiet Diplomacy

Having spent the first ten years of my life in Zimbabwe, and still feeling a somewhat deep sense of loyalty to the country of my birth, my ears prick up when the news turns to our troubled closest neighbor. Understanding the broader issues around what has gone down in Zimbabwe during the past 25 years is crucial and helpful in trying to get into the previously brilliant mind of the current dictator. That Britain has played a controlling hand regarding land issues, patronizing the first democratic government and isolating President Robert Mugabe in the process, cannot be ignored. That there was no significant process of truth and reconciliation, as happened in South Africa, to draw a line in the political sand; that nothing significant in the way of restitution on a national level took place – these issues cannot be seen in isolation to the current mess. That being said, what is happening just north of our borders is unjustifiable on any grounds and affecting the lives of thousands of Zimbabweans in unimaginable ways.


Even more puzzling than the spiral of a beautiful and successful nation into its current demise in a relatively short space of time, is South African leadership’s well-publicized “quiet diplomacy” in the face of despotic behavior that smacks of our condemned previous regime. Having given up trying to get into Mugabe’s mind a while back, I try to get into my own president’s mind. But there comes no further understanding yet. For Thabo Mbeki, and other African leaders, to not only stand back and allow the blatant abuse of human rights, but openly welcome Mugabe into the proverbial fold, is more than mind-boggling to citizens of a nation that prides itself on its high regard for human rights and recent struggle for freedom.


The journalist who shot footage of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai leaving official government hands after severe beatings, was murdered in Harare recently – one of the first glaring signs of a crumbled democracy. Unheard-of inflation rates, increasing poverty and a dictatorship that has some blindly bowing and cheering whilst others are beaten and arrested – on the surface level alone, Mugabe’s regime is slowly sucking the lifeblood out of the once priceless country. The South African Council of Churches has come out in grave opposition to the state of Zimbabwe and her current wave of human rights abuses. The Zimbabwean church holds on during this time of persecution – many seeing it as just that – persecution. And the South African government, for whatever reason, insists that the current foreign policy is the best way forward. In the meantime, people are intimidated, beaten, murdered, and forced to flee their homes because of an old man who clings to power, pulls the race card, and is mildly affirmed for it by his African peers.


Probably one of the saddest twists to this tale is the fodder that this is giving to doomsayers and colonials, one of whom told me to “wash my hand” after I had excitedly shaken Mugabe’s when I was ten years old. As my heart sinks when I hear of another level of downward spiraling in our beloved Zimbabwe, I am reminded to pray for the peace of that nation, for her children, for her churches and for her government.

Linda Martindale is a journalist in Cape Town, South Africa. She is the author of Celebrate Hope (City Mission Press, 2002).

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posted May 2, 2007 at 4:05 am

I will be praying. p

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posted May 2, 2007 at 5:04 am

thanks for your comments. This statement (url below) on Zimbabwe was sent to President Mugabe from the Micah Challenge, and I think is worth a read.

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john robinson

posted May 2, 2007 at 8:21 am

hay linda. shout it out.still, the women in the fields will go out and do what she can do for those around her. when the storm clouds come she gathers the little ones around her. she knows that the storm will strike the trees around her. but it will end and the sun will shine another day and her seeds will push out and up. bestest. john.

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Paul Aarden

posted May 2, 2007 at 9:57 am

Another sad commentary on what has become the norm – one has to believe that anyone thinking Mbeki will make an iota of difference is deluding themselves – can he “play for or buy time” forever? It would appear the answer might just be “yes” and the naive majority in the west will misplace their faith in someone who either will not or cannot deliver any real progress at all with regard to the Zimbabwean debacle. There are agendas and undercurrents at work here that the rest of the world cannot even dream of – the pity of it all is that millions continue to pay the price – and that is not just the poor Zimbabweans at home. We can but pray even as we continue hoping for a seemingly non-existent solution (what would any replacement actually mean, if it were at all possible etc?)

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posted May 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Once it is realized that there is true and personified evil in the world, and that relativism and the enlightenment are only ideas and not reality. Then, understanding how Mugabe (and many other Satanic people, organizations and forces) can be welcomed into any political and social fold, is more understandable. Christians suffer persecution today for the same reasons as they did in the first century Church. Only now, it seems even more politically and socially acceptable.

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posted May 2, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Why is this man still being given money from the UN and others. Why is the world community still helping him rape his country financaly? He has taken away land from 4th and 5th generation white africans that Zim. is their home too and many did not agree with ‘white’ rule and paid the people that helped them work their farms a higher wage than many around them did. He has jailed several white african people that were part of the gov’t who have invested their money in Zim. future. Educated their children in Zim. schools etc. While he has the money he has stolen in foreign banks and realistate. Educated his children in private schools in european countries, etc. Mr. “M” is about as evil and dirty as they come. But the UN still gives him money as he takes more than what they give and uses it for his personal pleasure. Get him out of office – Later – .

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Carl Copas

posted May 2, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Modlad, how much $$$ has the UN given him? I’d like to read up on it. Thanks in advance.

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posted May 2, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Carl Copas | 05.02.07 – 12:13 pm | #My understanding is that “M” has taken about 22 billion Ren from his country every year for the past 5+ years if not longer. The world community give all of Africa over 26+ billion Ren each year for AIDS and those in poverty. Can you imagine where Zim. would be today if they had the money that they should have had if not for Mr. “M”? Have a great day .

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Sue Badeau

posted May 2, 2007 at 10:35 pm

In the meantime, people are intimidated, beaten, murdered and forced to flee their homes because of an old man who clings to power, pulls the race card and is mildly affirmed for it by his African peers. What a powerful statement. With a few small wording substitutions, this could describe any number of countries in our world today. How sad that we still live in a world where, but for a brave few, people are afraid to say “The Emperor has no clothes.”This emperor HAS NO CLOTHES . . . . many prayers for the people of Zimbabwe and for all the courageous people like Linda willing to speak the truth.

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posted May 2, 2007 at 11:10 pm

moderatelad, Next spring I will begin taking elective courses for my MPH. I’ve not made any decisions about which courses to take, but Monday, as I was looking through the school bookstore, I came across a required book for an international health course on how international aid can either help or be detrimental to the recipient country. I don t recall the title of the book, just the course number. One of the chapters was on diversion of aid by military or despotic leaders. I thought that might be a course to look into, since I have concerns about the politics of my future occupation. Even if I don t end up taking that class, the book sounds well worth reading. Peace!

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