An update

We are now nearly down to the wire in this election process - just 18 days to go! The past few weeks have simply flown by as we have frantically tried to get the campaign under way and tried to deal with the hundreds of things that come up at a time like this.

A few things stand out - the Zanu led regime has not allowed us space in the media, our press ads are still being rejected and we have had just two short TV opportunities - one lasting 10 minutes and the other a short hostile interview with Tendai Biti and two ZTV sycophants. I understand we have 70 minutes of TV time left! In the meantime the propaganda pours out from every orifice.

Just as serious - because it impacts in the rural areas, the radio signals from SW Radio have been jammed for the past 10 days by a radio transmitter operating from the Gweru facilities of the national broadcaster. The source of this new equipment is thought to be Iran - that pillar of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. So far we have not heard if the VOA broadcasts are affected but they run for only a couple of hours a day - unlike SW which now has a 5 hour broadcast each day.

Money has been very tight throughout - but thank you for all those who have sent money to us by whatever means - it has kept us going. Do not ease up - we will need the funds right through and the big effort on polling day is still not funded. Thank you also to all the thousands of volunteers who are running around, doing odd jobs and making things happen. They are a wonderful crowd to work with.

One new development is the Zimbabwean, a new weekly which is published in London and printed in South Africa and the UK and is finding its way to Zimbabwe in small numbers. The Daily News - once the leading daily in Zimbabwe and a major influence for the forces of democracy is still closed down. We understand from sources that a High Court Judge has ruled in their favor but the judgment is simply being held up by the government to stop it being allowed to come back onto the streets. The State is watching the Zimbabwean very closely - when my wife bought a copy the other day she saw a CIO operative standing there taking note of who was buying the paper.

The jamming of SW and the failure to allow the Daily News back are both interesting developments as is the refusal to accept adverts in the State controlled press. It points to a very nervous and insecure government who is much less confident of itself and a victory than they were a few months ago.

We have had one report of a meeting at provincial level where Zanu PF leadership argued over the use of force against the MDC. One member of the Zanu PF politburo arguing that if the Party does not resume an all out attack on the opposition using traditional means - violence - they would be in trouble. Others argued that the widespread use of violence against the opposition would be counter productive and would undermine the effort to secure regional recognition for the outcome. International recognition is a lost cause as far as they are concerned.

This week we also saw the first Zanu PF press adverts in the State controlled press - two full-page ads which drew quite a bit of attention and amusement. Apart from the nonsense about the Prime Minister in the UK, Tony Blair, the adverts said that a vote for Zanu PF would mean an end to fuel shortages (we have long lines of vehicles at filling stations in the south at present) and "racially inspired" shortages of commodities. Yesterday we could not find fresh milk, soap powder, sugar, soft drinks and beef was double the price in South Africa. The advert also promised more "corporate takeovers". I am sure that will help their fund raising campaign.

Another thing that is very clear is that they are missing Jonathan Moyo. He may have been a pain in the butt for the past four years - but he was an effective Minister and Zanu PF is very short on those. In fact you cannot identify a current Minister who is effective in his job. We have a Minister of Finance who is in jail, an acting Minister who is totally ineffective, a Minister of Agriculture who frankly, is a buffoon and the rest you never hear from. The edge has gone from the Zanu PF propaganda campaign and what they are currently putting out is weak and ineffective.

We now have Moyo - in his bunker at Tsholotsho, firing salvoes at Zanu PF. He has suddenly discovered that Zanu does not play by the rules. His claim this week that Zanu spokesmen are threatening the people in Tsholotsho with a resumption of Gukurahundi (genocide) is nothing new to the MDC - they have been saying this for the past five years in Matabeleland.

While all this has been going on the MDC campaign has been in full swing. I am sure everyone has seen the physical evidence of this. We must apologize for the graffiti - we promise we will clean it up if we win or Zanu PF will paint over it if they steal the election again. Our rallies are all well attended - the leadership is holding 20 rallies a day throughout the country. Reports coming in from every corner are very optimistic and encouraging. As I said last time, Zanu does not have a safe seat in the country.

The big issue remains the polling day. Remember what Stalin said, "It is not who votes that counts, but who counts the vote." He said that a long time ago - it remains true and this time in Zimbabwe we know who will do that because the military or the CIO is running the entire election system.

The situation is more complex for Zanu PF - they have only one day, there are no mobile stations and they must "fix" the poll at many constituencies to win. So the rigging with false ballots must be organized well in advance and the introduction of the false votes to the count must not be seen or reported. As there will be few international observers and 8200 polling stations this then only leaves the threat of the MDC as the only organisation with the national coverage and capacity to field polling agents at every polling station.

You do not have to be a voter to be a polling agent - just get yourself onto an MDC list and the list will then be published and you are in! Then you are allocated to a polling station, receive some training and some materials and then go in and watch what happens at your polling station - reporting anything out of the ordinary and ensuring full compliance with the Electoral Act. At the end of a busy day you report the result for your polling station to a constituency control center.

We also need vehicles - some 4x4 vehicles with tough drivers for remote areas - vehicles and drivers who can handle the Gusu sand or rough terrain in places like the Zambezi valley. In towns we can use any sort of vehicle to help with food, support to polling stations and coordination in general.

The control of the polling stations is the key to this election - MDC has the vote, our people are going to turn out in numbers but we must ensure that their vote is not tampered with in any way and that only valid, legitimate ballots are cast and counted. If we can achieve this - then we can break out the champagne.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 14th March 2005