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The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Epiphany Day
Sokwanele Reporter: 6 January 2004
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” is a Christian tradition. It links Christmas day (December 25) with Epiphany (January 6). “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation”. In a Christian sense we think of God manifesting (or revealing) himself to humankind in his coming into the world in physical form in the person of Jesus. Hence the link with Christmas, marking the birth of the Christ child, and hence too the tradition that remembers, on the twelfth day, the coming of the “wise men” from the East to witness that miracle for themselves. The twelve days between are days of joyous celebration. On the twelfth day of course all the Christmas decorations come down and life returns to “normal”.
Christmas and Epiphany are essentially Christian festivals, but the event they celebrate is of universal significance – namely that the Creator of this vast, complex and beautiful universe loves each and every one of his children. In fact he has revealed that he has a special concern for the poor, the lowly and the suffering. (Jesus was himself a victim of power politics; he suffered an appalling injustice, and was tortured to death) There is therefore in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” a message of hope for all, and a challenge to all, to show a God-like concern for the victims of injustice and oppression. Which is why Sokwanele selected this time to run a series of features that relate particularly to some of those “at the bottom of the pile” in suffering, crisis-torn Zimbabwe.
Christmas 2004 marked the 20th anniversary of Band Aid, an international charity initiative that set out to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia in 1984. While Band Aid celebrates their achievements in Ethiopia twenty years ago, many Zimbabweans starve today as a result of disastrous government policies. Sokwanele’s articles over the last 12 days have explored a range of ways in which food is manipulated, controlled and exploited in our country. Furthermore, we have shown that using ‘food’ as a tool for short-term gain is an established part of the ZANU PF political tradition. While this campaign recognises the suffering of people in Zimbabwe today, it also remembers the suffering imposed on Zimbabweans at the hands of ZANU PF twenty years ago. We remind those in power that Zimbabweans will never forget what has been done in the past, nor will we forget what is being done today.
The issue of food security in our nation is one that touches all of us. Our most recent articles, focussing on the impact of HIV/AIDS on farming in the rural areas, coupled with first-hand testimony from Binga, clearly show that the promise of a “bumper harvest” is a cruel deception. ZANU PF’s current policies, which set out to monopolise all aspects of food supply and use it to intimidate the general populace into voting for it, renders any such promise a total fiction.
Ida, the 73-year-old pensioner whose story we shared on Day 6 of our campaign, should be living comfortably in her old age. Her husband had worked hard to ensure that when he died, his wife would be taken care of. But Mugabe’s economy, boasting the worst inflation rate in the world, has eroded the value of pensions with the result that hundreds of pensioners like Ida cannot afford to eat today. Yet as difficult as her life is, Ida is ‘lucky’ in comparison to Belinda’s grandmother (Day 3) who is destitute and homeless. Like many other grandmothers in our country, Belinda’s grandmother found herself with the heartbreaking responsibility of looking after her tiny HIV positive granddaughter, orphaned when both parents died while she was still a baby. Without the help of a local organisation, both Belinda and her grandmother would almost certainly have died long ago.
Will organisations like this be able to continue helping once ZANU PF’s controls all NGO activities? We caught a glimpse of how many different lives were affected by one small feeding scheme in one of Zimbabwe’s cities (Day 7). In contrast, our article on Day 4 testifies to how the one institution that is totally dependent on the government for food, namely our prisons, exposes hundreds of human beings to malnutrition and a range of other diseases as a result of paltry amounts of unhealthy food being prepared and served in the most unsanitary conditions. Is this the way of our future once local and foreign feeding schemes are closed down? If this regime cannot feed a few thousand prisoners, how is it ever going to feed the hundreds of thousands – indeed millions -- of starving people who need help today?
Or perhaps it has no intention of doing so? Our articles on Days 5 and 8 speak of extensive corruption in the food supply system, and of the deliberate manipulation of food in our country for short term political gain. These policies and practices amount to state imposed starvation.
We started our campaign by saying that starvation, regardless of political or religious persuasion, is at its core a moral issue that concerns us all. We ask again today, that you put aside your own particular political allegiances, and consider what many Zimbabweans are experiencing today in that light.
And here are some of the practical things that you can do in response to that suffering:
1. Keep yourself well informed about what is really happening so you will not be taken in by the regime's propaganda. The following websites provide Zimbabwean news from a range of sources, both international and local: www.zwnews.com; www.zimonline.co.za; www.newzimbabwe.com; www.zimbabwesituation.com.
2. Help others to be informed. Share this knowledge with as many as you can in whatever ways are open to you.
3. Give whatever financial or material help you can to the various local organisations that are working to feed the starving and alleviate poverty and suffering in our country. Visit www.kubatana.net for the contact details of local organisations in your area.
We thank you for your support.