People Power

Just been watching the celebrations in Nepal following the King's decision to give in to popular demands that he restore the democratic structures in that country. It is very moving to see this massive commitment by simple, ordinary people in a very poor country demanding that they no longer be treated as feudal slaves to a totalitarian regime but be granted the democratic right to choose their own government.

My mind goes back to that night in Harare in 2002 when people were unable to cast their votes because the regime here had reduced the number of polling stations and the remaining ones were unable to cope. The sight of thousands of people demanding their rights and standing in queues for days and nights to do so was imprinted indelibly in my mind.

We traveled up to Mutare on Saturday for the MDC rally there and then went through to Harare to be present at the rally in the Zimbabwe stadium in Highfield. For those who are not aware of these grounds they are very much the home of African Nationalism in Zimbabwe. It was to these grounds that Mugabe came when he returned from overseas to lead his Party to contest our first 'one person, one vote' election.

By now many of you would have seen some images from these two events, but being there was a very special experience. The Mutare rally was very well attended - perhaps 25 000 people, but what stood out was the presences of traditional leaders from the Province. One of the most senior Chiefs in the country sent an aide and his most trusted lieutenant to the rally to accept the gift of a ram from Roy Bennett who is in South Africa seeking asylum.

Their presence electrified the gathering and the simple dignity of the ceremony involving the gift from Roy, who's the adopted son of Chief Mutambara, was a special aspect of the rally. The people also presented Morgan with a ram - a sign of respect and leadership. Aside from this, the gathering was disciplined and attentive - people wanted to hear what was being planned to resolve the national crisis. Roy phoned up after the rally to find out how it had gone and was very emotional - wished he had been there and feeling far away from home. But no doubt he is better off where he is - no use to us in prison here on some trumped up charges.

We then traveled through to Harare to the rally there, arriving at 14.00 hrs and joining a huge crowd gathered to hear Morgan Tsvangirai. It was quite apparent that he is the man of the moment - the people gave him a tumultuous greeting when he arrived and when he rose to speak at 16.30 hours the crowd - perhaps by then 40 thousand people, went completely quiet. They wanted to hear what he had to say, what he was planning to do to get the country back on its feet.

This completes the second phase of our programme leading up to the first use of 'people power' to try and change the course of events in Zimbabwe. The first step was to get our Congress behind us and this we have - with great success. Now we have held rallies in all major centers in the country - again with good results, large crowds of very attentive and supportive people. All these functions have been disciplined and gave the authorities no problems - no violence and no heckling or disorderly behavior. They have also demonstrated to all who watch events here, just who has the people's hearts and hearing. They also demonstrate the extent to which popular support for Zanu PF has waned in the past decade, references to Mr. Mugabe were received with derision and laughter.

So where do we go next? The MDC is now pressing on with a Provincial programme - we are holding meetings across the country in the next few weeks to explain what it means to take the struggle to the streets using only people power to influence events. Twelve teams have been formed and these are now fanning out across the country meeting the people and alerting them to what we expect from them during our winter of discontent.

Just to highlight their desperation and inability to get anything right, the regime has announced another 'recovery programme'. The actual content of this is so ridiculous it simply serves to emphasize how little this regime has learned about managing the economy in the past 26 years. Mutasa, who for months has been threatening the remaining commercial farmers, does a complete about turn and says they are prepared to 'allow' white farmers back to their farms on certain terms.

No such desperation for Mugabe however, on Tuesday last week he went out of his way to say that they would take 51 per cent of the mining industry - because that is what being independent was all about. Needless to say, the attempts to repair the damage done by the Minister when he leaked draft legislation to this effect, was wiped out and the mining industry now knows they face a bleak and uncertain future - at a time when commodity prices seem to be unstoppable.

We have decided to give the bi-election in Budiriro a go - this seat was held by a MDC Parliamentarian and the Party felt that we should not concede this political space to Zanu PF. We held our primaries and a young candidate (he is 32 years old) was elected. At the nomination Court on Friday we had no problems getting his candidacy accepted but the Registrar General allowed the Mutambara group to register with the same name as the MDC and the same symbols. So we now have an election coming up with the potential for confusion as to who is who.

This was quite deliberate - and we will have to counter it with a campaign to explain the problem to our supporters in the area so that they do not just vote MDC - but make sure they know who it is they are voting for. The voter's roll closed two weeks ago and as of today we have been unable to get a copy - for Z$10 million cash! But we hear that Zanu is still registering voters in the rural areas adjacent to the constituency - the usual ruse in a bi-election.

The motive of the Mutambara group in doing this is also not difficult to understand - if you cannot gatecrash the Party then just be a spoiler. What we are saying to our people in the Constituency is we know that the election is largely irrelevant to the resolution of the crisis - but lets show the rest where the peoples hearts are and turn out in large numbers to swamp the rigging and the confusion that is being used to try and defeat the MDC on this occasion.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 26th April 2006