Wednesday, June 25, 2008

History as Nightmare, Pt. 3

Homeless and beaten political refugees in Zimbabwe have gathered at the South African embassy to plead for help.

One woman at a church in Harare held an 11-month-old baby with casts on his tiny legs. After her husband, an opposition organizer, went into hiding she said she got word that governing party supporters were looking for her too. She fled with the boy, returning home the next day.

That is when "the youth," as foot soldiers of Zimbabwe's governing party are often called, came looking for her, she said. Her baby boy was snatched up from the bed and hurled onto the concrete floor, she said, shattering his legs.

Afterwards, she stayed at home all day with her screaming baby, too terrified to move. At night, when all was quiet, she set out, only able to carry her distraught child, for Harvest House, headquarters of the opposition. The 12 mile walk took most of the night.

The building was bursting with refugees, but she made it to a hospital. Now his little legs stick out at an odd angle below his blue romper suit, encased in too-tight plaster of Paris.

Her blanket stolen, surviving on one meal a day, her thin skirt and jacket hang on her. Her impossibly thin legs look as if they too will snap.

Is it any wonder her milk has dried up? When she looks at her baby, her strained face softens and becomes beautiful again. He has had only water for three days, she says.

"I hate Zimbabwe," she said. "I want to leave."

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