Jonathan Bellamy talks with Zimbabwean Robert MacDonald

On Thursday 21st June, City Drive presenter Jonathan Bellamy interviewed Zimbabwean Robert MacDonald in response to the tragic news that on Sunday 10th June two members of his family had been murdered by soldiers when the minibus they were travelling in was stopped at a roadblock.

From our news reports we get a little feedback of what life is like in Zimbabwe but there's nothing more revealing and clear than hearing it directly from people who live or have lived in Zimbabwe and have gone through some of the trials that have taken place there over recent years.

Jonathan: Good afternoon Robert

Robert: Good afternoon

Jonathan: Robert, I just want to ask you a little bit about your background, cause at the moment apparently more people die in Zimbabwe than in Iraq which sounds like a staggering statistic cause we get so much focus of what is happening in Iraq. Can you try to give us an overview of what life is like in Zimbabwe at the moment?

Robert: Well more people die in Zimbabwe than Iraq and the Dhafur regions put together. Life is a living hell in that country.

Jonathan: And this is all with Robert Mugabe's administration. How do you view the administration then Mr MacDonald, living under it?

Robert: People are crying, we are free at last, we are free at last; but they didn't know the hidden agenda of Robert Mugabe, and as the years went on he's tightened his grip on the political situation in Zimbabwe by eliminating vast amounts of his opposition. In one area of Matabeleland, he sent in the foot brigade that killed 20,000 people by slaughtering them.

He has apologised for this, but what does apology do; and we find that people are disappearing never to be seen again. Families are ripped apart; people are burnt in their homes. Political people are assaulted and killed, even people like Morgan Tsvangirai are assaulted and near to death and there are no medicines; the hospitals there have no medicine; no food for the starving millions, and he's refusing international aid.

Jonathan: Mr MacDonald, I know that you yourself have gone through torture and beating. Would you be able to describe that and just explain the background to it as well?

Robert: Well I had a very profitable mixed farming ranch business in Zimbabwe and 40% of my profits were shared between the workers on the farm. It was highly profitable. One evening I was raided by the so-called war veterans and the CIO, which is the Central Intelligence Organisation. I was dragged outside and tied to a tree, and they left me there and went to the village where my workers were and they herded the villagers into a house and set the house alight, and my co-workers perished in that fire. They came back and they started beating me and they started to have a wild party, slaughtering some of the cattle, feasting, beating me every now and then. After three days with a broken arm and a broken leg and a broken nose, I was taken down to the river and thrown in and left there for the crocodiles to eat. I came too and managed to crawl to a village three miles away to ask for help.

Jonathan: Why did they do it Robert, what's the motivation?

Robert: Well, Mugabe is colour blind. He's not just after the white farmers and the white businesses. He kills more of his own people, and there's a hatred of the past colonial system and he's never forgiven that and he's trying to eradicate that. But meanwhile he's making his own people suffer.

Jonathan: For yourself Robert, you're a Christian I believe aren't you?

Robert: I am.

Jonathan: How, as a Christian, do you look back on what you've suffered at the hands of the hit squad, how do you focus and reconcile the experiences you've been through?

Robert: Well, it's difficult you know. But when I think of what my Lord went through for me on Calvary, that He went all the way and died for me while I was a rotten sinner, I got nothing to hate. I don't hate that man, I hate what he's doing. I pray for him that somehow he might find the saving grace of God. Because in the eyes of God there is no big sin - no small sin. Sin is sin and God loves the sinner and wants the sinner to repent. So I've got no business to hate. But I'm fighting for change. I'm telling people to become aware of the problems in Zimbabwe; the suffering, and for them to pray and try and pressurise their peers and the political systems in the West to do something concrete and active.

Jonathan: You mention how you're facing it in terms of your own history and experience, but I understand in the last couple of weeks since we put the article up on the site, you've had some more sad and terrifying developments in your own family?

Robert: Yes

Jonathan: Can you just explain what they are?

Robert: They were travelling in a mini-bus and they were stopped at a roadblock and everybody in the mini-bus was shot dead.

Jonathan: This is your sister-in-law and nephew?

Robert: That's right. You see, the soldiers haven't been paid for two years, and they pillage, they rape; they murder, they raid the farms wherever they can get a bit of food. They kill and take for themselves. You know there's no law and order left in the country anymore.

Jonathan: How did you manage to escape from Zimbabwe?

Robert: It took me a month to cross the border. I swam across the Limpopo into South Africa where I was hospitalised for six months.

Jonathan: And what about the rest of your family?

Robert: My wife and my daughter were placed under house arrest in a town called Bulawayo, and she had been beaten several times and arrested. And then just before Christmas I managed to raise a bit of funds and she escaped through the bushfelt, through the jungle, and people helped her to swim across the crocodile infested Limpopo river.

Jonathan: Wow. Robert now that you are here in the UK and you can honestly speak out much more freely. What is your focus? Obviously you are doing this interview with us, you're raising awareness. What would you want to encourage listeners in a response to what you're sharing?

Robert: To pray, to pray and to pray, and then to get hold of their local political figures, their MPs, and speak to them. Write them letters. Pressurise them to go up into the parliament of this country to tell them - please act, save some lives and act; cause it's only through us waging international condemnation and the governments pressurising the border countries like South Africa to stop treating Mugabe with gloved hands, that something can happen.

Things are dreadful you know, words cannot explain what's going on there. You know you can paint a picture, but people can't realise the true horror story called Zimbabwe. They cannot realise really what is going on. When the graveyards are overflowing, villages are empty; just young children are there - no grown ups. Why - because of Mugabe. And yet the West is soft-pedalling. You know it's a difficult thing to ask another country to act; but I'm praying that if the people in England get together and pray, and persuade their political figures to do something concrete, things may change and thousands of lives may be saved.

It might sound dramatic, but I assure you it's not dramatic. It's far worse than what you've heard about this afternoon or what you've read in the newspapers. It is far far worse.

Jonathan: Mr MacDonald, we really appreciate you coming on Cross Rhythms and sharing some of your story. Like we said, there is an article on the Cross Rhythms website which expands what we've been talking about in more detail. It mentions in there that EU sanctions might perhaps be beginning to work on the Zanu PF party and also that like you are saying, there are ways that we can respond in the West. There's a draft letter that we can send to MPs and an on-line petition. But I just want to thank you very much for coming on line. I just wonder whether you would like to pray for the people of Zimbabwe? And we just stand with you in prayer as you pray for that nation and the people, for that to end.

Robert: O God, you hear the cry of the tens of thousands, of the hundreds of thousands of people lifting up their hands and crying out for help. Lord we pray, move on us of the people in the free world to stand together in prayer that there might be some action and some precious lives may be saved not only from a Christless eternity, but that they might have the opportunity to live a normal life to hear the good news, that Jesus is full of life today. That there is hope, feel not hopeless. Lord we need people to stand together. Lord, make it happen. Amen.

Jonathan: Amen. Mr MacDonald thank you very much for sharing your story and it's a privilege to have you on Cross Rhythms.

Robert: Thank you. Bye.

Jonathan: If you want to get involved and you want to help support from a Western perspective, there are things you can do. You might think you can't, but there are things you can do.

The article on the Cross Rhythms website was written by Difference Magazine and they have a website where you can log on and join an on line petition. You can also download draft letters, which you can send to your MP, so that the issue gets raised within parliament.

To read more about the situation in Zimbabwe please read the Cross Rhythms Life Article - 'A Chance For Change In Zimbabwe'.áCR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.