Black to grey

Black to grey

The past week has really been an eye opener for me. We have been in Mozambique for seven months now, and I spend a lot of the time feeling like my heart is breaking. The inequality, inequity, lack, left behind, forgotten, it is all so obvious. And here in the capital things are much, much better than elsewhere. But I am starting to feel like all of this darkness is not black, it is grey. It is unclear and unforgiving. It is a balance between things being too much to bear and enough to get into action.

Late last week, my husband was walking a colleague’s dog when he came across a big group of people standing around a man who had been severly beaten. His face was swollen and bloodied, his clothes ripped, his arms loosely covering his head, still there from when he was protecting himself from the blows of machete, rocks, kicks. The group yelled at him ‘thief!’ although it is unclear what he actually did. People took videos, including my husband. The images left me feeling empty, disgusted, sick, and most of all, lost. How can the world be so dark?

A couple of days later, we went to see our landlady to pay our rent for the month. We mentioned to her what had happened to that man. Her eyes lit with fire, she became passionate as she told us that she supports the death penalty. She argued that human rights have meant that justice has crumbled in these parts. That criminals can enter your house, rape and kill you and your family, and nothing will happen to them, that you cannot give them what they deserve nor will they ever see justice through the courts. She likened it to countries like Indonesia, where the penalty for carrying drugs is death. That the penalty is well known and so those that dare to break the law, deserve the penalty. That here, if you rob or commit some other crime, then you deserve what the community does to you. Well, in truth it is complicated here. It is easy to treat it as black and white, but the reality is there are issues with corruption and inefficiency and lack of capacity in the courts (a lack of courts for the number of cases waiting to be heard).

Yesterday, we went for another walk with the dog, this time I went with them. We went past the place where the man was attacked. We went further, into a place of poverty. Where the reddy brown earth falls away with the drop of water, bringing with it houses and walls. Where garbage is piled up high everywhere. The amount of rubbish was incredible. And we saw gorgeous children that smiled at us and yelled and waved hello, young people and older people who looked at us suspiciously, wondering why we were walking through those parts, where surely no white person or foreigner dares, and also with fear of the dog (many people here fear dogs terribly). Seeing the difference in housing, small concrete block houses, compared to grand mansion structures only a ten minute walk away. Seeing the long walk that so many people have to make to reach a market or their work, without paved walkways nor roads, where no car can pass. I wondered about our place here. We are residents but perhaps we did not earn it, at least not the same way that one has to work to become a resident back home in New Zealand. We are not Mozambican but we are. This is our home, if only at least for now. I am an outsider here but an insider, seeing something that many back home will never know. But how does one write about what is seen here? How do I highlight injustice and poverty, while empowering those of whom I write? What right does one have to write?

I don’t know. This have become clearer and foggier. I only have more questions and no answers.