Zimbabwe’s latest rigged election: what does it mean to love peace and justice both?
Zimbabwe held an election. Old man Mugabe won. Unbelievable stories of election rigging.
What else is new?
I sat with a family of Zimbabweans yesterday listening to their lament. They mourned the thousands of people Mugabe has killed… the ways corruption is becoming the norm in the very fabric of society… the newly ousted minister of education who has done so much to keep education as Zimbabwe’s final outpost of hope… the fact that with a two-thirds majority Mugabwe’s Zanu PF party can now change the constitution… the ways their own father was sickened by stress as he fought for justice in land redistribution to the poor instead of government cronies… the ways justice is shredded and trampled.
At one point a man rubbed his head in frustration and asked, “What I want to know is, at what point is anger justified?”
He mentioned words to a psalm that feels so starkly appropriate: “How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant?” (Ps. 94:3, quoted in its entirety below).
Here’s a selection of news quotes to give you a taste of what might cause anger:
African and local observers raised concerns over the voters roll, the printing of extra ballot papers, and the turning away of voters at polling stations. …
The poll’s credibility was further tarnished by the resignation of one of the nine official electoral commissioners over “the manner” in which the polls “were proclaimed and conducted.”…
A senior source in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, who asked not to be named, said the outcome was already clear: “We’ve taken this election. We’ve buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win,” the source told Reuters.
Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party says there is no need for the MDC (the other party) in the new government. “We have received over 60% of the vote, we have two-thirds majority, why would we want to bring someone else on board?”
Zanu-PF says sanctions on the country are not United Nations sanctions, but imposed by “a club of white people who were never satisfied that we are repossessing our land.” …
The influential 15-member southern African bloc SADC implored “all Zimbabweans to exercise restraint, patience and calm”. A top SADC election observer said, “We have said this election is free, indeed very free. We did not say it was fair…”
Regarding how the election was rigged, observer Eddie Cross, in Bulawayo wrote:
We have been unable to get a copy of the roll in electronic format (costing about $15 and on one small CD which can be produced in 30 minutes) and therefore have to rely on a copy we obtained some six weeks ago. [The voters roll] contains at least 1 million dead voters; goodness knows how many absent voters who now reside in the Diaspora. We know that there are over 350 000 people who are over 85 years old and 109 000 over a hundred years old, one of which – an army officer is 135 years old.
We found 838 000 duplicate names – same name, same address, same date of birth, different ID numbers. All the IDs checked were genuine and had been issued by the Registrar General. We found 500 000 people had been moved out of their resident areas to other electoral districts, 45 000 people had their ID numbers changed without their consent.
They moved hundreds of thousands of people into strategic areas in preparation for the poll. … These people were told that they … were expected to vote Zanu PF. To reinforce this, their registration details were changed to a selected electoral district and they were told where to vote and that the Party would thereby be able to tell how they voted. Eviction was the threat. …
Zanu-PF maintained tight control of all media, the security forces and police, tight control of the Registrar Generals Office, the Electoral Commission and its minions as well as all polling stations.
…We could plunge the country into chaos – like Egypt, but that would just play into the hands of the army and the hardliners who would lock us all up and declare an emergency and run the country through a military junta (just like Egypt). … But what regional leaders need to know is that they allowed the Zanu PF to mount what we have called an electoral ambush and … they must again take responsibility for this mess and sort out a solution.
I was in Zimbabwe for the last election in 2008, and I remember then hearing a similar questioning from other Zimbabweans about what could possibly be done short of war. Their people, they told me, are incredibly bent toward peace. They predicted that no matter how bad things got, people wouldn’t rise up to fight Mugabe and his government. They might leave to make a living in South Africa for years or decades, but they wouldn’t fight. Most had lived through a Civil War, and they weren’t going back to fighting.
Peace, I generally think, is a very good thing.
And yet, was there maybe a tougher stance they were missing by clinging to something that felt like peace? Were their prayers for patience and God’s deliverance blinding them to some way they’d missed to stand up and claim that deliverance?
It got me asking, at what point is anger just? Is there a point where peace needs to be disturbed so justice can win? And what does it mean to strive for both peace and justice?
As usual, I’m not proposing any easy solutions on this one.
The one thing I do marvel at today, though, is that to make peace and justice fit together is pure impossibility on human terms. To boot corruption out of this continent and world would take nothing short of a miracle.
It’s easy to make trite Christian statements that “justice will prevail in the end,” and “no matter the suffering now, we know that in the end every tear will be wiped away.”
I believe God is about rolling up his sleeves and tearing into the battle for justice in the here and now, too. But I also think he has a whole different style of fighting than anybody you or I has ever met, and it’s that style of fighting I’d love to learn from him.
In an article I read this week, a Christian author pointed out, “Who are the angriest people in the Bible? God… and Satan. But how they express their anger and what causes their anger is 100% different. God’ anger is for deserved punishment, but is poured out on Jesus in our place, and is used for our change and improvement, and is in the name of love. We as people have a choice which kind of anger, and which results of our anger, we’ll use.
I find the following psalms all the more mind-blowing in this context, as a model of the God-style fight, our role in it, and the mind-blowing idea that justice and peace can somehow “kiss.”
Psalm 85 (called in some versions, “A national lament.”)
Love and truth will meet;
justice and peace will kiss.
Truth will spring from the earth;
justice will look down from heaven.
Yes, the LORD will grant his bounty;
our land will yield its produce. (verses 10-13)
1 The Lord is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
2 Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
3 How long, Lord, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, Lord;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
7 They say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
8 Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
9 Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
10 Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
11 The Lord knows all human plans;
he knows that they are futile.
12 Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
the one you teach from your law;
13 you grant them relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
20 Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
21 The wicked band together against the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
23 He will repay them for their sins
and destroy them for their wickedness;
the Lord our God will destroy them.