The State of the MDC in Zimbabwe

I have deliberately been fairly quiet on the evolution of the crisis in the MDC since October when the first cracks appeared. The main reason for this was that I was waiting to see how events played themselves out while trying to ascertain exactly what is going on. From day one it was clear that there was more to this internal crisis than at first met the eye.

My own personal views were well known from the start on the Senate issue - I was against participation for a wide range of reasons. Like others I was shocked and surprised by the acrimonious debate and the split decision in October at the National Council meeting. Then, while we waited for reconciliation and a resumption of business as usual in the MDC, far from the situation improving we were spectators of a game where both sides were guilty of "sledging". For non-cricketers this a term is used to describe a situation in a game of cricket where one side or one person, by word and deed, denigrates the opposition. The debate left the majority of us confused and unhappy.

It is quite clear now that the real agenda had little to do with the Senate race and everything to do with the issue of how to approach the question of securing progress on the change and recovery agenda in Zimbabwe. It is now clear to all - even Zanu PF, that there will be no progress until Mugabe goes. That he wants to go is no secret - just today the local pink paper headlined that "Mugabe seeks a safe exit." By safe they mean that he wants to go when he is satisfied that his position after relinquishing power is still secure. No Saddam Hussein trial for him. His colleagues are equally anxious to ensure that when he goes - the whole edifice of Zanu PF and it's control of power does not simply wobble and collapse.

They are not fools - they well know that they are hated throughout the country and that they could never win a free and fair election on a level playing field. They also know what lies ahead for them if the situation does get out of hand.

The group that attempted an internal coup against Morgan Tsvangirai in October was and is of the opinion that if the Zanu PF cannot be defeated in an election and that they cannot be overthrown by a popular uprising, then the only way forward is a "deal". It is quite clear that such a deal has been thrashed out and agreed and that this operation is well under way - with considerable international support.

The dilemma for this group is that they do not command sufficient support inside the MDC to control the grass roots of the Party where Morgan Tsvangirai remains an icon and has massive support across the country. Morgan's great strength has always been his ability to touch the "common man". When he realized that he was the subject of a carefully planned and co-ordinated strategy to remove him from the MDC, Morgan turned back to the streets.

Since October he has toured the country tirelessly, walking among people in markets, holding rallies and meetings of Party loyalists to explain what he feels is happening and why he has decided to stay with the course he set in 2000. At that time he argued that the MDC had come into being to confront Zanu PF - not to compromise with Zanu PF. He sees the present conflict as a choice between these two poles.

I have supported Morgan throughout this trauma - many of my friends and colleagues have not and I am saddened by that, but it does not change my view that he is the only political leader with the trust and support of the majority - in Zimbabwe, that means, the poor, disadvantaged majority. When I worked for three years in the early sixties among peasant farmers in the Gokwe district, I gained a real respect for those poor people; their wisdom, grasp of the essential fundamentals, hard work and sense of community. Above all, their instinctive grasp of who was genuine and who had their interests at heart. Since then I have worked among the poor in urban areas and helped start Zambuko, a micro lending organisation that finances small business. My respect for the people who make up the great majority of the third world and depend on the informal sector for survival has become a guiding principle for my life. These street-smart people know where their real interests lie, they also know who can be trusted with those interests and who cannot. They are amazingly principled and have good communications and sense of community. In short, I trust the instincts of the poor.

There is no doubt in my mind where the majority sentiment lies here - both in the MDC itself and in the country. It is with Morgan Tsvangirai and his immediate support group. In fact I have been shocked and surprised at how vociferous the people attending MDC rallies have been about the dissident group led by Welshman Ncube et al. At yesterdays meeting in Bulawayo for example, he was repeatedly called "Wishman" to the laughter and jeers of several hundred people from the length and breadth of the Matabeleland region.

The present situation in the Party is that Morgan is slowly regaining control of the Party across the country. 7 out of 12 Provinces have now held their Congress's and have elected new leadership to replace those who are perceived to have defected. In my own district, all those who supported the Senate contest have been brushed aside and new leadership - improved leadership in many cases, has been selected.

This process will be completed by mid January and then the MDC will hold its national Congress in early March. At that meeting all the leaders who have failed to restore their relationship with the grass roots of the Party will be replaced by new leaders and a fresh mandate given to them. The Congress will be a celebration for a movement that has survived 6 years of battering by Zanu PF, the media and the CIO. It will provide a strong affirmation of our people's faith in democracy and freedom, of their commitment to continue the struggle to defeat those who have destroyed what was once a proud and self-sufficient country.

It is a time to choose. I was delighted when the warrior Roy Bennett, came out of the woodwork to be elected as Chairman of Manicaland Province for the MDC. Roy has reservations about some of the things that have been going on in the MDC but recognizes that whoever is responsible - and most of us suspect the CIO and their internal plants, the people are united and are not in any way confused. They are backing Morgan's leadership and are willing to go all the way with him. You cannot sit on the fence in this game, all that that gets you is flak from both sides.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 23rd December 2005