You Are My Witnesses: Thugs Attack Mothers Union Meeting

Ruth Gledhill – Times Online – WBLG: Zimbabwe: The devil came late today.

Ruth Bakare, wife of the interim bishop of Harare, was the main speaker at a Mother’s Union meeting at an Anglican church in Zimbabwe. Over 3200 women had arrived for the day’s activities and Mrs. Bakare was partway through her talk, which included commentary on a text from Isaiah, “You are my witnesses.” The Mother’s Union is one of those Anglican bodies that evokes images of ladies drinking tea and enjoying a nice day out with educational speakers and fun activities. Not a rout with bully boys (and one bully girl) intent on breaking the meeting up. Part of the context is political, and part of it is that the thugs were apparently there on behalf of the deposed former bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, who’s a major ally of Robert Mugabe’s.

Half way through my address I saw a truck with riot police drive into the yard towards the crowd in a rather aggressive way. I asked Vimbai whether I should continue and she advised me to ignore them. So I did.

And just as I said in my address: “What have we not seen” (or witnessed in today’s Zimbabwe), the second truckload of police arrived, and a policeman came to the front of the tent where I was and requested us to leave immediately. The women started saying a last prayer, and many were shedding tears. Then they began to disperse one by one, with some older ladies on walking sticks trotting behind.

The Bishop and I took our time leaving and followed other women who were driving out of the gate. Most of the women had gathered just outside the church grounds by the gate and were now singing hymns on top of their voices. When our car went out of the gate, it was like a “triumphant exit from Jerusalem”, the way the women responded – was it joy or anger?

Certainly they sounded happy and confident and some were saying, “The devil came late today. After all we had nearly finished our day.” When they saw me moved to tears at their singing and cheering us, they called to me “Musatye” (don’t be afraid”), and indeed I was not, carried by so much joy and love and hope.

I knew that what we are going through is only for a while. “We shall overcome!”