What on Earth is going on? (24-09-07)

Few decisions by the MDC have caused such an outcry – we are betrayed,
one group said, others said that the opposition has been dealt a fatal
blow, still others said that it is now clear that Zanu PF will win the next
election and receive a clean bill of

health from regional leaders.

The reality could not be further from the truth. Firstly, in making the
decision to co-operate with the SADC initiative, the MDC very clearly
understood the risks it was and is taking. Secondly, we know the nature
of the beast better than anyone. Thirdly, we are now satisfied that the
SADC States have changed their views on both the MDC and its potential role
in any future government and also the nature and true intentions of Zanu
PF and its beleaguered President.

Lets start with the last point, the changes in the SADC region since
2005/06. Up to now the SADC States have argued in private that an MDC
victory in an election in Zimbabwe would not be in the wider interests
of the region or their individual countries. They have used their
diplomatic capacity to lobby this point of view in Africa and beyond and have even
supported actions to reinforce Zanu PF’s position inside Zimbabwe and
its hold on power. The reasons are many and I will not bother you with them
at this juncture, but this perspective and assumption has exerted
considerable influence on the ability of the MDC both to press its point of view
home and to make itself heard.

Inside Zimbabwe, observers now know that the SADC States and South
Africa in particular, have been pursuing, not a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe,
but a reform agenda with the present regime remaining substantively in

The truth of the matter, is that had Mr. Mugabe cooperated with his
colleagues as they sought change, Zanu PF might have actually survived
this storm and been able to maintain its grip and ride into the sunrise with
at least some dignity.

But he has not done so and stubbornly hangs on to power at any cost.
Jesus said once “He that will lose his life for my sake, shall find it!” Mr.
Mugabe is about to discover that “he who hangs onto power too long will
lose it.” For many reasons – again too many to be described here, the SADC
has now decided that regime change through democratic means might be the
only way to restore some sort of dignity to Zimbabwe and to stop the
hemorrhaging that the entire region is experiencing. In doing so they have lost
patience with Mr. Mugabe and are demanding fundamental changes to the way in
which elections are managed and relations with the opposition structured.

Those who have been engaged in this process from the beginning have
observed this first hand and have no criticism of how South Africa has managed
its role as the facilitator in this process. Even a superficial
understanding of the process shows that the region is bringing major pressure to bear on
the Zimbabwe regime to change its ways or else!

When I explain to people the process that is underway in South Africa,
they look at me in disbelief and astonishment. They simply cannot believe
that Zanu PF is engaged in serious dialogue with the MDC and is granting
concessions – major concessions in the process. I agree, it is
astonishing, but it is happening and the reason is that at last, regional leaders,
not least of all, Mr. Mbeki, have been using their leverage and power to
secure new conditions for the next elections.

The second major point I think needs to be made is that this process is
the only game in town. There is simply no other way we can solve the crisis
in Zimbabwe except by this route. The recent ZCTU stay away just
illustrates that point, it was a near total failure. Despite all the recent
publicity about the situation in Zimbabwe and the pressure being brought to bear
on the UK government by the clerics – Mr. Brown simply has no solution
that he can offer. All he can do is what he has already done, say that the
situation here is intolerable and that the friends of Zimbabwe must keep that
candle burning in the window and be prepared to help us out of the hole we are
in once we have made the required changes to the way our country is

Mr. Brown’s decision not to attend the EU/ACP summit is not very
helpful. In my own personal view, he should go to the summit and allow Mr. Mugabe
to attend, but only on one condition – that the Zimbabwe crisis and its
urgent resolution be placed on the agenda and debated in open forum by the
leaders present. As it is, all that will happen is that Mr. Mugabe will attend
and strut onto the world stage – completely undermining the main reasons
for the summit itself and further eroding the credibility of African
leadership. Mr. Brown’s empty chair will simply say to the less informed in Africa and
perhaps elsewhere that Mugabe continues to be a slayer of colonial

But back to the present situation; against the backdrop of the changes
that have taken place in the region, the MDC has been negotiating since mid
June, a detailed and comprehensive review of the conditions under which
elections are managed and held in Zimbabwe. These negotiations still have some
way to go and have not been easy or without pain – on both sides. We are not
getting all we wanted but in our view (and I hope of all those who are
being briefed into the process) we are on the right side of change and what
is being forged on this anvil, is a workable solution to the crisis in

On Tuesday we permitted an interim piece of legislation to go through
Parliament unopposed because it contained the required clauses that
will allow the new Independent Electoral Commission to start work on voter
registration, the voters roll and the subsequent delimitation of
electoral districts. This will take time and we felt that by allowing these
elements of the agreements being thrashed out in the talks to go through the
required Parliamentary steps, we might save time – after all if we stick to
March 2008, we only have 6 months to go – not a lot of time to get everyone
on the voters roll, including all those who are at present, disenfranchised.

When the talks are finally concluded – perhaps in 6 to 8 weeks time, a
comprehensive agreement will emerge that will deal with all aspects of
the electoral process and will bring Zimbabwe into line with the SADC
principles for democratic activity. Our main concern at present is that Zanu PF is
behaving as if it is business as usual. The onslaught on the MDC and
its structures continue unabated. A simple application to hold our 8th
anniversary celebrations in Masvingo have been denied by the Police and
the mass exodus of MDC supporters and activists continues driven by fear,
the siege of the urban areas where there is now little work, food and water
and every day is a struggle to survive.

These were the strategies evolved by the Zanu PF regime after March
2007 when they were forced by regional pressure to bring the election back
to March 2008 and to accept electoral reforms. Clearly if we are to have
free and fair elections and slow down the exodus of people to neighboring
countries, this has to stop. At our Friday Executive meeting we
resolved to request that the regional leadership take this matter up with the
regime here and demand that they start behaving as if they were real
democrats, as they have claimed all this time.

Eddie Cross

Post published in: News

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