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Massacre of the innocents
Catherine Makoni
December 11, 2008

"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, it was Rachel, weeping for her children. She refused to be consoled for they were no more." (Matthew 2:18)

Rachel wept as they buried her 6 year old daughter. Who would have known that going to school would mean death for her bright eyed child? Who knew that she would come home barely able to walk, continuous diarrhoea a deadly torrent down her legs. They buried her frail body wrapped in a plastic bag thrust into a cheap coffin, purchased by the dozen by the do-gooder aid agencies. That day they buried 30 men and women. Was it supposed to be consolation that 600 women, men and children had also lost their lives to this plague? Rachel only knew that her child, flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood was gone.

Rachel wept when she buried her sister. When Leah's husband left to look for work in South Africa, Leah was joyful. Maybe the poverty that had dogged their family since the factory closed would now be a thing of the past. Maybe now their three children could go to school and go to bed at night with a full belly. Leah waited and waited for the money to come. The money did not come. She heard that he was living with another woman in Johannesburg. Then one day he appeared in the gloom of twilight. You could see the jut of his collar bones through the thin shirt he was wearing. He did not look like the man who had left home back in 1999 when the troubles in the country really started. He lived on and on for two more years. And Leah looked after him. He was still her husband after all. She sold all their meagre possessions to get him the medicines that he needed. Still he died. All Leah had left was poverty. And AIDS. Rachel thinks it is the hopelessness and despair that finally got Leah. Who wouldn't despair if they were forced to stand at the street corner, selling their body in order to feed three hungry mouths? Now Rachel weeps when she looks at her nieces. What future for them female, poor and orphaned? She wonders and worries; are they also destined for the streets?

Rachel wept when she went home. It had been a while since she had heard from her mother. Back before the economy collapsed she could go home to the village every Easter and Christmas holiday. Now she could only visit her mother once a year if she was lucky. Rachel's mother was an old woman living in the village with her 12 grandchildren. She gave birth to 9 children. Now only Rachel was left. And 15 grandchildren. All orphans. Rachel was taking Leah's 3 children to their grandmother. How could Rachel look after them in town? How would they live in the one-room they were now renting after their home was destroyed back in 2005? Rachel wept when she got to the village. There was no life here. Death and hunger stalked the land. The children were scattered. Driven from home by hunger. Rachel wept as she buried her mother. At 86, she was too old to survive for 4 days without food and water. With her grandchildren gone, no one thought to bring her water. No one remembered her when they went to collect their rations from the food aid people. Everyone said it is hunger that killed her but deep inside her Rachel believes her mother died of a broken heart. No mother should have to bury her 8 children and their wives and husbands. One was liable to go mad with grief or waste away from despair. She just gave up.

Rachel wailed when the baby came. This baby conceived from hate. You would think that nature would abhor such violation; that her body would refuse to nurture this product of a hateful crime. Her body refused to reject the pregnancy. It fed it and nurtured it. When the birth pains came Rachel wailed. The agony reminded her of the night of the violation. They came for her husband in the darkness of night, singing and chanting, carrying sticks and whips. He had gone into hiding when he heard that they were looking for him. When she could not produce him they turned on her. First beating her and then raping her. Now this child of a nameless and faceless monster had come. Was she expected to love him? Nurture him? Suckle him from the same breast that had been hacked by a whip, even as he was being conceived? Her husband was coming home. He always believed that one should not stand aside while evil prospered. All he ever wanted was for his children to live a life of dignity. Would he think that this child too deserved a life of dignity, though not his flesh? Could this innocent too be loved, though conceived in hate?

When Rachel walks the streets of Harare; she peers closely at the faces of the street urchins. Her heart skips a beat as she sees her brother's eyes in one child's grime-smeared face. Sometimes she imagines she sees her sister's smile in the face of that girl who tries so hard to look indifferent as she stands outside the supermarket asking for food and change. It haunts her.

Rachel weeps and wails. Loud crying and mourning for all the innocents who continue to be sacrificed. They told her to shut up and hush the wailing. Rachel could not. They came for Rachel as she slept the fitful sleep of the tormented. She wept as they chained her to the wall and beat her for daring to bear witness to the truth. Rachel wailed as they asked her to confess to speaking the truth. In her agony she recalled the words of one holocaust survivor watching as a young boy was executed and from the depths of her despair she echoed his words "where is God, where is He?

Come back home Jestia . . .

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