Fasting for Zimbabwe: Update on Kumi Naidoo etc

: Kumi Naidoo says his 21- day hunger strike was prompted by a 14-year-old Zimbabwean boy who had not eaten in 11 days. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND from The Times

I had a call from Kumi this morning. It’s the 12th day of his hunger strike to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe . He has drunk only water since Jan. 21 but his voice sounded normal and even strong. He was calling to thank those of us from Jamaica who participated in the one-day hunger fast yesterday. And let me clear up a misconception up front–Kumi Naidoo is not an Indian, he is South African, and this strike is being conducted from Johannesburg and not from some corner of India. Kumi has been an ANC activist since the age of 15.



I’m sure it was a tremendous boost for all those coordinating this hunger strike to have 35,000 people from around the world join in, if only for a day. It’s also a test case of what can be achieved in terms of mobilizing people around the world to rally around a cause. For the latest information on this strike read Hungry For Change in Zimbabwe.

Conflicting reactions to the strike
Cynics are questioning how all these actions will ultimately benefit people in Zim. The starving people there would have been happy to eat the food all of us renounced for a day and so on. While that is true it overlooks the spiritual effects of such a fast on each of us individually and on citizens of Zimbabwe assuming they were aware of the worldwide fast yesterday. It must be of some comfort to know that people outside your country are aware of the hardships you’re undergoing and willing to try and draw attention to it in the hopes of improving your plight.

And then again there are people like my friend C. who argued against the strike on the following grounds:

“Against whom/what are these hunger strikes directed? Many people were un/critical supporters of Mugabe when others (me included) were critiquing the particular form of his neo-colonial regime, which is actually fundamentally similar to many in Africa and elsewhere, including ANC-Led South Africa.

My political response to Mugabe/ZANU-PF remains constant. I cannot, however, at all understand those who are blaming that leader and his regime for the current state of mass starvation, mass dislocation, health challenges and inflation, there. These are all, beyond a peradventure, the intended product of racist imperialism’s decision to punish the Zimbabwe people for having a leadership that challenged it on the African land question and to teach Southern African peoples (in South Africa and Namibia especially) not to try to restore African land to the African masses, excepting on terms agreed by international racism and imperialism.

This is their way of driving ‘regime change’: How many people in Iraq died and migrated because of the means they chose there? Or in Gaza, more recently – incomplete as yet in the latter instance? In my view, anyone who does not understand this and who lines up with the leader of the opposition (personally selected by the white farmers and funded by them and prepared to rely on the increasing suffering of the people of his own country as his ladder to state power) understands neither the race nor the class issues in Southern Africa.

The forces that are causing (and at the same time complaining about the ‘humanitarian’ crisis in Zimbabwe )are also exactly the ones that have caused more or less similarly ones in Palestine (Gaza, Now:asjustmentioned) and in Somalia. In respect of the latter place their media would have us discussing ‘international piracy’. They always have local allies. They are there in Darfur as well: causing the continuation of that ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ while using it to blame China and to allow the Christian right to make Anti-Muslim hay.

Why has the West not give military supplies to the African Union force in Darfur? It has no air cover whatsoever! Why has the humanitarian West not imposed a ‘no-fly Zone’ over the relevant part of The Sudan? Clearly only their allies like the Iraqi Kurds deserve that kind of protection. Not Africans, whose deaths are one of the ends desired and enjoyed by racist, imperialist Euro-Americans. Please don’t join in misleading people by giving publicity miss-directed hunger strikes that operate objectively in the interest of racist imperialism (White Power, as the Nationalists call it.) “

I think C. raises many valid questions about the treatment of Zim and other African countries by the West. I don’t agree with his labelling of the hunger strike as mis-directed. Another blogger (BasBasBas.com) who participated in the one-day fast yesterday from Bulgaria wrote an interesting post, Fasted For 2 Days & Why Fasting Works in which he said:

“No action exists by itself and any action’s vibrations will spread. I hope through fasting, I have encouraged others or at least informed others. Secondly, fasting is an important spiritual practice. I’ve never fasted and decided that now that the call for a fast was there, why not. Thirdly, I’ve always been curious what Muslims have to go through during their holy month of Ramadan (or Ramazan in some languages). I cannot imagine what it’s like to do this for a full month, but at least I got closer to understanding – and I have a lot more respect for it now. Finally, unlike the critical commenter, I do believe these small acts make a difference. How about you?”

i couldn’t agree with BasBasBas.com more. My own reasons for joining in the fast were manifold. I had never fasted before, not for a whole day although i too grew up amidst Muslims and Hindus who did so regularly. I also grew up in Ahmedabad, the city where Mahatma Gandhi had his Ashram, so it was very much part of the zeitgeist i grew up with. Yet i had never done it.

Also in the last two years i’ve come to believe more and more strongly that all or each of us has to take more and more radical steps to contribute to changing what we all agree is a completely untenable situation in almost all our countries. how can we justify starving children? how can we participate in systems that routinely condemn poor children to lives of sordid misery? how can poverty be tolerated or rationalized?

One of the things i realized after going through the fast yesterday is that we are all eating much more food than we need to–those of us who eat three square meals a day that is. I went for 20 hours with only water without any great discomfort and my body showed little stress from the sudden deprivation of food. Kumi too remarked on the resilience of the human body, saying that after 12 days his main complaint was dryness of the mouth. i definitely couldn’t do what Kumi is doing–fasting for 21 days with only water. but i’m really glad that I did what i did yesterday.

The change must begin with us. That is the only way to change the world.

Here’s a wonderful video of a Zimbabwe vendor selling carrots with a sales patter that sounds like it could be a riddim from here:

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Fasting for Zimbabwe: Update on Kumi Naidoo etc”

  1. Annie – I am glad that you decided to join the hunger strike. IMHO, I think your friend C has a very nuanced approach to Zimbabwean (or any) political situations around the world. Fasting to support the departure of Mugabe is not the same as fasting in support of the oppositional forces. Iraqis who were cheering when Saddam was deposed were not cheering in support of American occupation and war against them.Participating in collective action is a vital part of making any kind of change anywhere. It truly incenses and annoys me to hear fellow Jacn’s bigging up Barack Obama’s campaign win, as if he did it by himself. We have learned so well how to ignore and even to disparage movements, and to elevate the individual above the collective. And so, we miss the real lesson, yet again, and an opportunity to be inspired and to take a stand. But the trees and the forest are really part of the same picture. Solidarity is not an easy thing to make happen, and when it does, the people who are standing outside can’t comprehend what is happening in front of them. It is really a lot of work to constantly challenge the overt skepticism, and frankly, ignorance about the meaning and value of collective action in changing *any* political situation. But the work has to be done, and we have to put our bodies on the line to make it happen. Maybe we should create opportunities to talk about these things. We want change here but who’s working to make it happen?

  2. Hey LB,thanks for this. yes, completely agree. like i said this is new for me but i think a valid change i need to make. i wonder if the reason people react w hostility so often is that they feel that your joining in an action like this somehow shows them up? i don’t think this is true of C, he happens to have very strong views and is an activist himself but so many other people i know i think were made uncomfortable by my decision to fast for a cause.i don’t know just a hunch.tell me more about the opportunities you want to create. you mentioned this a long time ago and i didn’t respond but i’m more ready now to add my two paisa worth of effort.

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