There is now little doubt that the present regime in Zimbabwe is becoming very anxious about the swelling tide of opposition and criticism that it is facing. They have put the army on full alert, cancelled leave, they are mobilizing their street gangs and thugs in the form of the youth militia and are rumored to be printing thousands of T shirts in the MDC colors in an effort to discredit the mass action that is now threatened by the MDC leadership.

As a taste of things to come the township of Budiriro in Harare where a bi- Election is programmed has already become a battleground. The CIO is in there in strength (there are some 17 000 people working for the CIO in Zimbabwe) and clashes between the restive and angry community and these Para military security operatives are becoming more frequent.

Then there is the tirade of abuse by Zanu PF leaders and Ministers directed at the MDC - not the break away faction which strangely attracts little attention, but towards the MDC and its recently elected leadership. We hear reports that they are finding it difficult to rebuild the contacts they lost in the MDC when the breakaway took place last year. This seems to be supported by some of the regimes actions, which show a lack of real inside knowledge of what is really going on.

We had Mr. Mugabe threatening the leadership of the MDC with death if they dared to appose Zanu PF on the streets. Then came statements from Mutasa and Chinamasa to the effect that 'what the MDC is planning is illegal, amounts to an unconstitutional threat to a democratically elected administration'. They have even gone so far as to say that the MDC is planning a coup against the legitimate government of Zimbabwe.

Now aside from the fact that the present regime is neither democratically elected nor legitimate it maintains its grip on power with the use of military force and organisation. There is a lot of evidence that since the 2002 statement by the armed forces that they would not accept an MDC leader as State President under any circumstances - in effect a military coup in its self, that we are in fact living no longer in a democratic state but under a form of a military junta. It astonishes how little real influence or authority is exercised by either the Cabinet or Parliament. The principal focus of power seems to lie in a shadowy Security Council that seldom sees the light of day.

But it must be made clear to all who have an interest in our affairs, that what the MDC and civil society in general want as an outcome from the present campaign (because that is what we are now engaged in) is quite simple. We want: -

1. The convening, with immediate effect, of an all stakeholders' conference to thrash out, on a consensual basis, the way out of the mess we are in the form of a new constitution and a negotiated transition to democratic elections under international and regional supervision.
2. We are demanding that during the transition, the government restores the rule of law, freedom of the press and freedom of association. We are also demanding that food be brought into free supply and be completely depoliticised. We are demanding that the State controlled media be brought under the control of an independent media commission and be forced to operate professionally and impartially.
3. We are demanding that every Zimbabwean citizen and permanent resident be allowed to vote on the basis of a satisfactory identity document in a national election for both Parliament and the Presidency. That these elections be administered by a truly independent authority set up for this purpose and that the regional and the international community be invited, without restrictions of any kind, to observe the process.
4. Then finally, we are demanding that the administration that emerges from this process, be declared the legitimate government of Zimbabwe and that that this government then takes power to administer the country and to control and direct the activities of all the security arms of the State.

I am no lawyer, but that does not look like an illegal operation to me. Nor does it amount to a coup in the traditional African sense of the word. It certainly would be a coup if the MDC could achieve such a transition back to real democratic and legal values, but by no stretch of imagination could it be termed 'an illegal and unconstitutional attempt to overthrow by violent means the government of Zimbabwe'.

Therefore why the paranoia? The paranoia about what the MDC is proposing is due to the simple fact the regime knows that if such a programme was to be followed, Zanu PF would be ousted from power as surely as the sun rose today over Zimbabwe. This would mean that the misdemeanors of the present regime would be disclosed, the real story of what has gone on behind closed doors would become public knowledge and the Courts would be available to those whose interests have been damaged during 25 years of bad and corrupt government.

The gravy train would be derailed and the massive transfers of wealth from the majority to a tiny political elite would be stopped and even reversed. This is the real reason why the present regime is crying foul. It's got nothing to do with the alleged illegality of the MDC proposals, nothing to do with a 'planned coup'. In any event, all the arms and armed capacity in the country is in the hands of the national army and the police as well as the Para military forces. The MDC has no such capacity, has never sought such capacity and has no intention, under any circumstances, of following that route. The only men of violence here are in Zanu PF and its affiliates.

We have tried the democracy route, it has been blocked off by this administration and that leaves us with no other choice but the street and the power of ordinary people seeking redress and their universal rights. Despite what people might be thinking - MDC has never committed itself to such a programme since it was born in 1999. This is the first time we have backed direct action to force change. We have no alternative - the regional community refuses to take action and we simply cannot go on accepting the destruction of our country and the rape of its assets.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 7th April 2006