Robert Mugabe was an arrogant, violent, corrupt tyrant. If there are to be eulogies, they should be for those brave enough to challenge the regime of the vile former president.
Robert Mugabe’s achievement was to reduce his people to penury, reduce them to a state where they depended upon the efforts of brave individuals for their very survival. Among the brave was an Irish Anglican priest who had endured arrest and imprisonment and who refused to be intimidated by the thugs employed by Mugabe.
On one occasion, news from Zimbabwe was so bleak that the Church of Ireland primate decided that money should be sent to the priest to assist him running a clinic that provided the only medical care in a poor community. It was during the search for a telephone number that I discovered the Extent to which the priest had been persecuted. There were news stories of the priest’s arrest by the Zimbabwean police for organizing a prayer meeting in defiance of the authorities and of the priest’s appearance in court. How insecure Mugabe must have felt if he believed prayer meetings could threaten him.
It was 2008 and Zimbabwe has virtually collapsed. To contact the priest was a challenge. An internet search brought a 2005 newsletter which included notes about the priest asking for volunteers to assist at a medical clinic at his church and a telephone number to contact. He had issued an appeal for retired medical staff for the clinic he was running for poor and destitute people. Health care in Bulawayo had been reduced to ad hoc efforts by a man who had been harassed by the government.
Three years was a long time in a country that had crumbled further each day, and there would be no guarantee that the priest was still in that parish, or that the phone would still be connected, or that people would not be listening to the conversation.
I hesitated before keying in the number. It was a call into darkness. There was a ringing tone and then a voice. The line was not brilliant, but it was adequate. The electricity was off there, as it was for eight to twelve hours every day.
It was sobering to be in direct touch with someone at the very front line of facing the achievements of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
A single aged Irish priest did more for the people of Bulawayo than the monster who had ruled over them.