WELL done the Church of Scotland. At a time when so much of the international community has been shamefully reticent over atrocities committed in a brutal crackdown in Zimbabwe, it’s been reassuring to see the church calling for intervention.

Some of the reports of human rights abuses emerging from Zimbabwe these past weeks have been appalling. Rights groups have already documented shootings, beatings, random arrests and the widespread use of rape and sexual violence.

Soldiers and unidentified thugs ostensibly seeking to quell protests sparked by a recent 150% hike in fuel prices by the government of president Emmerson Mnangagwa have sometimes gone door to door in neighbourhoods carrying out atrocities.

It’s all a far cry from the positive mood and pronouncements made by Mnangagwa last year when I visited the country and he declared: “Zimbabwe is now open for business.”

READ MORE: Zimbabwe's hope in flames as 'The Crocodile' turns on them

The decades of dictatorship by former president Robert Mugabe’s regime were declared to be over then and there was a renewed hope in Zimbabwe.

Up until now Mnangagwa has talked a good game, going on a charm offensive desperate to win the West’s approval.

Indeed his deception almost worked, but in the end what Mnangagwa said and promised and what he delivered in terms of deeds have been miles apart.

In light of recent events in Zimbabwe it’s been noticeable just how quickly those hopefuls in the international community have lost confidence in his capacity to bring about democratic reforms.

As these past weeks have starkly revealed, tyranny and misrule linger, and the current crackdown has all the viciousness of the Mugabe era when Mnangagwa earned his nickname the Crocodile for the ruthlessness and cunning he displayed in doing the dictator’s bidding.

The National: Emmerson Mnangagwa was inaugurated for the second time since the ousting of his mentor Robert Mugabe. Photograph: AP

Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed The Crocodile

What’s now so evidently clear is that Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF party political machine run by Mugabe since independence in 1980 is still in command and up to its old ways.

Troubling as this is, it’s equally disquieting just how scarce criticism has been from the international community. Is it perhaps that they placed too much store by Mnangagwa’s promises and now find themselves at a loss to admit their mistake and openly condemn him?

Certainly the UN and other bodies have denounced his government’s “excessive use of force”, but any practical diplomatic pressure being brought to bear on Mnangagwa remains thin on the ground.

Faced with such a desperate situation, ordinary Zimbabweans now need all the help they can get and from wherever genuinely they can get it, without the political strings so often attached from apparent do-gooders in times of crisis.

It’s to the Church of Scotland’s credit then that it has seen fit to speak out on the recent abuses being perpetrated in the country.

This week as a partner of the Church of Scotland, the Council of Churches in Zambia along with other civil groups urged the Zimbabwean government to stop the persecution of its citizens.

In what they described as a “deeply disturbing” crisis, the church group made a plea to leaders in Zimbabwe to be “magnanimous” and address the suffering of the people.

“The onus lies with President Mnangagwa to be all inclusive in finding a lasting solution to the many challenges that the country faces,” the statement said, noting that there is now a “warlike feeling in the air” in parts of the landlocked country, which borders Zambia.

Former Moderator of the Church of Scotland and current convener of its World Mission Council the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers said they fully endorsed the statement of their partners in Zambia and themselves urged the Scottish and UK Governments to make representations. “It is time to restore order and to allow the voices of the most vulnerable to be heard,” said Chalmers.

I for one always feel heartened by those bodies, be they the church, NGOs or civil society groups in Scotland, willing to step up to the plate and do the right thing even though such crises might be a long way from home.

Scotland, of course, has had a long historical connection with many African countries including Zimbabwe, not all of which have always been something to be proud of. Indeed one need only take a tour around certain suburbs of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare to realise this. At least 13 districts or neighbourhoods have names that are readily identifiable with places in Scotland or are of Scottish origin going back to colonial times, including Strathaven, St Andrews Park and Lochinvar to name but three. Many Zimbabwean citizens, too, have Scottish roots or connections.

During one of my earliest visits to the country, I recall meeting and interviewing David Coltart, a Zimbabwean lawyer, politician and a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) when it was established in 1999.

Born to a Scottish bank manager father and a South African nurse mother, Coltart’s Scottish grandfather was Deputy Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1938.

Back in 2009 when I met Coltart at his 14th-floor office in a run-down high-rise in Harare, he was to tell me of these family connections and the challenges he faced as newly appointed Minister of Education in a Zimbabwe under the iron rule of Mugabe. An impressive man once targeted by Mugabe’s thugs for assassination because of his opposition to the dictator’s rule, he remained undaunted.

“I’m a pathological optimist,” I recall Coltart saying while pointing out that “perseverance along with gentleness are the best characteristics of the Zimbabwean people”.

Such perseverance and desire to rid the country of the last legacy of Mugabe’s rule continues today with both David Coltart and his son Douglas, a human rights lawyer, still at the centre of that struggle.

Just last week, Coltart the elder described the silence of the international community over the crisis in his country as “deafening”.

On that point he is so right. Perhaps he can take some consolation, however, in the fact that here in Scotland there are those who have had the courage to speak out.

Here’s hoping, too, the Scottish Government acknowledges the Church of Scotland’s admirable lead and makes its own voice heard in condemning those human rights abuses taking place in Zimbabwe right now.