The Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe had a letter read out in all churches last week condemning the oppression of the Mugabe regieme. In addition, Pope Benedict singled out Zimbabwe in his Easter sermon.
The flash point of change was the beating and arrest of those at the prayer rally last week. Since then, the photographer who took the dramatic photos of a beaten Morgan Tsvangirai at a prayer meetitng last week.
Alas, since then, opposition leaders have been rearrested, although a few have been released on bail thanks to courageous judges.
A general strike called by the Trade Unions was not a success.
But the really bad news is that Mugabe continues to be supported by Mbeki and other leaders of neighboring African countries.
Who then will protest the oppression of the poor?
According to the UKIndependent, the actions of the Catholic bishops is aiming to promote peaceful governmental change in the spirit of the People Power Revolution (AKA The EDSA revolution) which deposed Marcos here in the Philippines.
Well, there are a few differences and similarities between these two cultures and I am not encouraged. Pinoys are more open in expressing anger than the Mashona for one, although as the proverb reminds us: Even a small snake has a tooth.
So here are some observations and comparisons between the two countries:
One: Filipinos have a indentification with Christ crucified, and the willingness to die for their faith and for freedom. Few people except Pinoys remember that 600 000 Filipinos died trying to stop the US from taking over from the Spanish in 1899, or that 30,000 Filipinos died in the Bataan death march.
Zim has a history of the Ndebele and Mashona uniting to revolt against the early white settlers, and then later their own revolution that put in Mugabe. The spirit of freedom is strongest among the educated, but many have fled to other countries to find jobs, or were dispersed by “operation cleanup” into the countryside.
Two: Ninoy Acquino was jailed, and then released, but returned even though he knew he might be killed. Much of his “spiritual” power was like Mandella, his transformation in jail from a playboy to a leader.
Tsvangarai’s beating makes him a possible leader in this way. Will he stand up as a leader of courage? Some thing so.
Three: Thanks to pressure from President Reagan, Marcos allowed free elections. Filipinos were willing to vote against Marcos, and those counting the votes got word out they were threatened when they counted these votes.
But in Zim, famine and food shortages allowthe government to stop food aid to areas that vote against Mugabe.
Four: The Army backed Cory when she was elected. The “EDSA” revolution was when a million mostly Catholic Filipinos came out singing hymns led by Cardinal Sin and a statue of the Virgin of Fatima. Why “EDSA” (a major street)? Because that’s where the main Army base is located, and General Ramos (a protestant) courageously decided to back Cory. When Marcos, who lost control of his Manila based Army, brought in soldiers from his own province up north. And the crowds blocked the street, led by Cardinal Sin and a statue of the Virgin of Fatima. Then a miracle occured: when ordered to shoot the crowds, the soldiers refused. They claim the Virgin Mary appeared and ordered them not to shoot my people”.
In Zimbabwe, would the Army or Police refuse to beat peaceful demonstrators, or back the opposition? But the presence of youth gangs and rumors of drug induced violence against political opponents is a wild card. People in Zimbabwe fear witchcraft, even when they don’t really believe in it.
I suspect much of the fear of Mugabe is due to witchcraft, but that is rarely spoken about by Zimbabwean opposition leaders, who rightly know that such claims would be seen as fantasy in the Western press. However, in the Pentecostal type religion of Africa, the day of prayer and fasting is well know to counteract the demonic, and the combination of spiritual leaders and invoking the deity is a powerful weapon against evil.
Yes, I know, pooh pooh on talk of demonic and spirtual warfare, after all, how many armies have the Pope? as Stalin asked. But when a million Poles can bring down the Iron curtain, maybe it should not be discounted here.
Five: In the Philippines, Marcos was a good friend of then President Reagan. Marcos expected Reagan to continue his backing in the election because of his history of Anti communism. However, when a democratic alternative presented itself with Cory and mass demonstrations, Reagan pulled the plug on Marcos, and he had to leave.
Again, in Zimbabwe, the “kingmaker” will not have to be Mbeki of South Africa. Without backing of Mbeki, no “perople power” revolution will succeed.
Nancy Reyes is aÂ retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs on Zimbabwe at MugabeMakaipa Blogspot.