Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Death of a Politician

There is a young politician.

For the past several years, the incumbent party has been letting their government slide. Inflation is out of control, and there is no middle class. The opposition party is gaining ground. The people are ready - desperate, in fact - for a change. And from one of the poorest neighbourhoods comes this guy. He represents the opposition. He's promising the people of his city better health care, better infrastructure, more government accountability. He's a youth activist. He teaches tired, jaded people, disillusioned with their government, about their rights. He's young and charismatic and well-liked. He is a promising young individual, exemplary, a figurehead and a symbol for his party, for change.

Due to the recent election, he has been on the road a lot. He is exhausted. He hasn't seen his wife and two young children for weeks. His wife misses him. She begs him to please come home, to see her, to see his family, just for one night. He agrees.
That night, he visits with his family. He sees all his extended relatives, as well as neighbours and friends. They believe in him; they believe that he can change things and make a better country for all of them. He is happy to be able to see his kids. He hopes they will grow up with the same idealism and spirit, but in a country with a higher standard of living, with greater freedom. He hopes they will not spend their lives in a slum like this one. He makes love to his wife that night, and sleeps soundly, relishing the chance to rest.

The next morning, his wife wakes up early. She knows he needs to sleep, so she quietly gets the children ready for school. She is cooking breakfast for them when there is a knock at the door.
Several big men are standing outside her door. Some of them are armed, with huge black guns. They ask to see her husband. The sight of the guns frightens her, and so, trying to keep the panic out of her voice, she calls to her husband in the bedroom, telling him that someone is asking for him. He sleepily replies that he needs more rest, and tells her to ask them to come back later. Still scared, but putting on a brave face, she politely but firmly asks them if they can please come back later. They push her away from the door violently, knocking her down, and force their way into the house.
Now she is terrified. She gathers her children in the kitchen, tells them to be quiet and not to move. She is terribly afraid for her husband, but even more afraid for herself and for her children - she cannot hope to stand up to several armed men. The children are scared and confused and obey their mother out of fear and shock.
In the bedroom, the thugs beat the young politician.
His nose is broken. Blood is running down his face and over his lips and chin. His limbs are bruised. He is hit so many times that his head starts getting fuzzy. Finally, the men drag him out of the bedroom. He is wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. He sees his terrified family as he is being dragged through the kitchen, but he can't say or do anything.
The men throw him into the back seat of a truck. He screams, but nothing changes. His wife and children are standing at the front door, shocked and horrified as they watch the events unfold. One of the thugs stuffs a dirty rag into his mouth, and another wraps something around his neck and tightens. The politician can't breathe. He's panicking. He knows he's going to die. He sees his family through the tiny window, and then everything goes black.

His wife and children watch the truck pull away from the house.
Weeks later, his body is discovered, by accident, in a morgue several cities away. His face is so badly smashed that identification is difficult.

If this happened, why didn't anyone do anything about it?
Why were the thugs not tracked down and arrested?
Why didn't it make headlines?

Because it happened in Zimbabwe.
That promising young man, 30 years old with a young family, was just another victim of the violence in Africa which has become so characteristic that we barely even think about it anymore.