Rioting broke out early today in Maputo, spreading from one end of the city to the other. All main roads out of the city were blocked and at least two deaths have been reported.
Here at Zimpeto, we watched throughout the morning as rioters taunted police along the roadway at the front of the property. Our gates were locked, our guards vigilant, school cancelled for the day and all our children out of sight in the hall. They seem used to such upheaval and were excited at the chance to watch a DVD rather than sit in a hot school room all morning.
Zimpeto is on the outskirts of the city, located on the main road north from Maputo. Out on the road, tyres have been set on fire and cars overturned. Police and soldiers have been using tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the dissent. We have heard that the situation in the city is even worse. A pall of thick, black smoke hangs in the sky to the south.
The people are demonstrating against the doubling of chapa fares. Chapas, or minibuses, are the only form of transport for most people here in Maputo but the fare rise will make chapas unaffordable for many.
It is difficult to comprehend how a bus fare doubling to 70 cents could bring such a strong reaction. Imagine, if you possibly can, carrying a heavy sack of dull, dry corn through the dust and heat of Maputo to sell at the markets. You wrestle the sack onto the already-overloaded roof of a chapa and and then you squeeze in, bending low for the hour-long trip. If you can make some money on the corn, you will be able to buy bread and rice to feed your family this week. If the bus fare costs more than you can make on your produce, you will not be able to buy food.
I had hoped that living here for a year would bring perspective to my sheltered world view. I don’t know, though, how to process all that I see. Two weeks here and I am reeling from the stretching my soul feels as I try to make sense of the lives most Mozambicans live. Perhaps “making sense” is not possible. How does one rationalise such poverty and suffering?
I feel my heart’s not big enough to deal with all I see around me. And so, some days I switch off and refuse to notice. Other days, I fall into the refuge of the Father’s Heart and pour my confusion and frustration onto Him in prayer. And then there are days when the pure, guileless love to be found in the Baby House is my refuge. By pouring out affection on these precious babes, I am filled and refreshed over and over, and this is the economy of God.
As I watch from my door, the streets seem calmer now. We hear no more yelling or guns or army vehicles rumbling down the road. The children have been released from their confine, too late for any lessons today. Staff make their way to offices and classrooms at Zimpeto. Nobody will be driving anywhere until tomorrow. And I am sure that I can hear the Baby House calling…