Are we making progress?

Are we making progress?

I am constantly amazed at the number of people I speak to who say they are
determined to stick things out - but ask, are we making any progress towards
finding a resolution to the current economic and political crisis? Amazed at
the numbers because I really expect most people with options to throw in the
towel and decide to move to greener pastures.

The facts are that we are making progress. Looking back, much more progress

than I think any of us expected 18 months ago. In March 2006 the newly

divided MDC had just held two Congress’s – one in Bulawayo for the Mutambara

led group and another in Harare for the group led by Tsvangirai. Zanu PF had

just settled yet another challenge to the succession issue and Thabo Mbeki

had thrown in the towel – fed up with the infighting in the main political

parties and in the lack of progress and consensus.

The international community had likewise decided to sit on their hands for a

while – they were deeply disappointed in the split in the MDC ranks, the

apparent bickering and also in the seemingly intransient nature of the

Zimbabwe situation. Nothing much happened for the next nine months except

that the economic crisis deepened and our gradual slide into some form of a

failed State accelerated.

Then came the fateful decision in December 2006 by Zanu PF to try to

postpone the election to the same time as the Soccer World Cup – June 2010.

Mbeki was galvanized into action and moved to try and establish a new

strategy for resolving the Zimbabwe crisis. He swiftly moved to secure the

basics of the new strategy – get the elections moved back to March 2008 and

try to get Mugabe to hold then under free and fair conditions. The

preliminary steps seemed too easy to be true – Mbeki spoke with Mugabe in

Ghana on the 7th March and Mugabe said yes to both issues.

Mr. Mugabe then made a serious error of judgment – he ordered his security

Chiefs to “crush the MDC” so that they would not be capable of fighting an

election in March 2008. Four days after he accepted President Mbeki’s

suggestions to resolve the crisis, the leadership of the MDC was arrested

and beaten in custody. Television footage of the incident was somehow

captured and released and a media blitz ensued which in turn galvanized the

leadership of the SADC region to sit up and eventually demand action to

settle this dispute once and for all. Mbeki got his multilateral approach to

the crisis and Mugabe lost a critical regional support base.

On the 29th March 2007, the SADC leadership met in an emergency session and

resolved to work with President Mbeki in seeking a resolution to the crisis.

Ten days later the details were thrashed out in Harare and formal talks

between the MDC (this hated “puppet of the West”) and Zanu PF eventually got

underway and have been going on for the past 8 months.

That they have taken place at all is a remarkable victory for the MDC and

its allies. That the region has supported the process and insisted that the

MDC was a key player is equally astonishing. 18 months ago no one in Zanu PF

would have said that this would happen – not in a “thousand years” to recall

the words of another tyrant in another era!

Then came the key decision by the MDC to walk out of the process if certain

fundamental principles were not recognised and worked into the final

agreement. These were principally centred around the issues related to the

electoral system and its management, together with the fact that despite the

commitment to the talks and to trying to resolve the crisis in leadership

democratically, the Zanu PF regime and its thugs had continued to rain down

on the MDC and its structures political violence on a scale that threatened

the whole process.

The MDC action stirred the South African leadership back into action and

last week President Mbeki made a short stop over in Harare to see the main

leaders and to resolve the logjam in the talks. The talks resumed

immediately after his visit and a revised deadline for the final outcome was

set as the 15th of December.

I remain convinced that no one can walk away from this process. The

continual praise that Mr. Mugabe heaps on the SADC leadership and South

Africa for its role in the process is a smoke screen for what is a very

difficult situation for Zanu PF. They simply cannot afford to alienate the

SADC and are being forced to accept reforms that endanger their grip on

power and their ability to dictate the outcome of the next election. To

their fury, the MDC has been given a veto over those issues and we have now

used this to force through changes that suddenly make the near impossible

seem possible.

We are going to have an election and I still think it will be in March 2008.

We will not have anything like normal conditions for the campaign leading to

the elections but at least we will be able to say to the people of this

country – you can all vote, vote in secret and the recording and reporting

of your vote will not be tampered with this time. Perhaps, just perhaps, we

will have a chance to change our government democratically.

In March 2006 there was no way we could have envisaged this situation. It is

a real victory for the democratic forces here and for the friends we have

across the globe. It is also a victory for African leadership and if we can

pull it off, it will help put Africa’s image back on track as a continent of

democratic change and hope. But for this to happen we still have a lot to do

and a way to go. On our part we will stick to our position without

compromise, prepare for the elections by selecting candidates (over 2000 of

them) and putting our policies in place and in front of the electorate.

Then its up to you out there – vote and vote wisely. Do not waste your vote

on anyone who cannot deliver change and whose policies and stand is not

absolutely clear. We have struggled to get us all this chance to resolve the

crisis in Zimbabwe – without violence, legally and within a recognised

political framework. The rest is up to us – all of us who live here and hold


Eddie Cross

Bulaway0, 27th November 2007

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