When John Moore met a group of Jesuits in Gardiner Street to tell his story of recent years in Harare, he conveyed a vivid sense of what existence there is like: the menacing proximity of riot police, who may break into a church in the middle of Mass; the loss of electricity from the city’s grid, and then the loss of diesel on which the college’s generator depended; consequently the loss of online contacts, which are John’s special responsibility in Arrupe college; the shortage of water, down to one helping per person per week; the wonderful resilience of the African scholastics, who do much of the administration; the uselessness of money in an economy with inflation well over two million per cent – and now even the paper has run out, on which the worthless notes were printed; the frustration of having residence permits delayed or refused – the government’s revenge for the bishops’ critical letter “God hears the cry of the oppressed”.
But John finished on an upbeat note. He had seen a video of the historic agreement last week between Mugabe and opposition leader Tsvangirai, which was presided over by South Africa’s President Mbeki. The body-language was eloquent: Tsvangirai smiling and relaxed; Mugabe lethargic, frowning, like a man defeated, probably, John thinks, because Mbeki has told him: «I can’t protect you any more from international sanctions.” It was this video that encourages John as he plans to return to Harare – provided he can get a residence permit. All that will be after he has celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination here with four fellow-jubilarians.