Holding on to hope

In 1974 when the war was starting to look like a serious challenge, I was working for a remarkable man Willie Margolis. Willy (or Bill) was my chairman and had been born in a small rural community in Manicaland. He grew up there and his parents made an uncertain living from a small general dealership. He often went without shoes and his parents struggled to send him away to school.

He was a very clever and decent man and by the time I began working for him, he was the owner and Chairman of the largest food processing company in the country as well as Chairman of the AMA where I worked as an economist.

Being a political person, I understood better than most what we were up against and at work I knew the challenges we faced every day. It was early days in the war but I knew that in the end we could never hope to win – how a tiny white minority could ever think they could hold onto power in an African State.

One day, with a deep sense of foreboding about the whole situation I went to Mr. Margolis and said to him that “there must be something we can do to avert disaster.” He looked at me and said “Eddie, the best you can do for your country, is to do your job to the best of your ability. Simply by doing that, you are doing more than most.” I was deeply disappointed at the advice. I expected more – something a bit dramatic.

Now, all these years later I recognize the wisdom of that advice. In later years when I ran a large industrial firm with 3000 employees and the country was in even deeper trouble, the war more intense and political changes looming, I called my top management together and said – “We are going to be an island of sanity in all of this, a symbol of continuity and stability because we are going to do our job every day and everyone will see this as a sign that there will be a tomorrow.”

Right now in Zimbabwe people are asking what is going on? Why is no one taking charge and bringing the seemingly endless struggle to a conclusion? The rhetoric is intense – Mutasa, Charamba and Moyo all saying that we will have an election in the near future, without a new Constitution, without further reforms to the electoral process.

COPAC leaders plod on with the Constitutional reform process, reporting progress and obstacles, but clearly continuing with broad support from all Parties and seemingly in conflict with senior leadership in Zanu PF. The reform process also continues – this past week we saw the Electoral Bill and the Human Rights Act both resume their progress through the House of Assembly.

The MDC and South Africa, supported by the AU and SADC leaders, say that there will be no elections without completion of the GPA reforms. In recognition of the limited progress made, the Western powers are slowly easing the pressure on the Zanu PF hardliners. But even as they do, the rogue elements in the GNU continue to invade farms, demand the handover of a controlling stake in large companies to selected groups, conservancies are violated and the Courts continue to harass and intimidate the MDC and Civil Society.

Zuma has been coming to Zimbabwe to sort out the confusion but does not ever seem to be able to quite take the steps required to do so. His emissaries make clear statements of their intent and wishes but nothing seems to actually impact on the rogue elements here who continue to impede progress and the return of sanity to our national affairs.

We have every right to be confused and business persons disheartened. The question remains the same that I once posed to Willy Margolis – what can we do as individuals and in our different capacities to help resolve the situation. I think that I would give everyone the advice that he gave me some 38 years ago – do what you are doing to the best of your ability, hang onto hope and give others hope and confidence.

I look back at the decade 1965 to 1975 and I see a period when we were fighting the whole world; we were under global, mandatory UN sanctions, we were fighting a bush war with primitive weapons and simple courage, we were unable to borrow money, received no financial assistance from anyone and yet we managed an economy that was one of the fastest growing in the world at that time and by 1975 90 per cent of what you saw on a supermarket shelf in town was home grown and made in Rhodesia.

That is why the country survived the inevitable political crash that came in 1976, that is why we still had a functioning economy, a currency that was stronger than the US dollar and the Pound in 1980. That is why we were able to hand over our guns and salute the flag at Independence in April 1980. That is why we are still here today – not everyone, but still a sizable majority.

That is why our GDP this year will exceed $16 billion – up from $4 billion just four years ago, despite everything everyone throws at us, we are still standing and that is what represents victory in biblical terms – are you still standing when the battle is over. All battles are won not in sweeping maneuvers but in small local skirmishes between individuals.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind anymore that a transfer of power is underway in Zimbabwe. How it will finally happen is not clear, but it is happening and the signs are everywhere. The beachhead established by the MDC in the GNU has held and is expanding. Reinforcements are arriving every day from other countries and the extreme hard liners in the security establishment are isolated and neutered.

The chances of a swift military solution to the power struggle have been dealt with and now it’s a guerilla war with recalcitrant elements in the former Zanu PF regime. They can still do damage but it’s localized and does not influence the overall struggle on the battle field. When you watch a battle from a distance, all that you can see is the dust, smoke and confusion as the armies on the ground grapple with each other.

But if you watch carefully, you can see the tide has turned and there are those now in the Zanu PF camp who can clearly see that they are on the losing side. The remaining tough guys in Zanu PF know what they have done in the past and they know the consequences of losing this battle. They are holding out and fighting back but they can now feel the isolation and the pressure against them on the ground.

This is a crucial moment, what we must not do is lose hope or get weary of the constant struggle – each of us in our isolated corner, wondering if it is worth it all. Of course it is and will be – and the best thing to hold onto is the fact that for once, we are on the winning side.

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