Marvelous word that - hope not too many of you had to go to your dictionaries to find out what it means! However I feel rather smug - I said a few days ago that the 15th May marks the start of our winter, and I was more than right for once. It has snowed all the way from the Western Cape to Mpumalanga in the Transvaal. I was in Johannesburg over the weekend and it was well below freezing at night.

But our elections Directorate in the MDC also has just cause to celebrate. Last week when I was in Harare for three days they told me that they had estimated that Zanu PF would be able to garner up to 4 000 votes in the bi-election taking place in one of the Harare province constituencies. They had come to this conclusion after a detailed study of the voter's roll and street surveys. They were just about spot on - Zanu registered about 3 900 votes.

However they also felt at the time that the poll was going to be low despite the turnout at MDC rallies and the impact of a walk about done by the President during the campaign. Some estimated a turn out as low as 8 000 and they felt this might result in a poor outcome for the MDC as the MDC vote was split by the current dispute. In the event they need not have worried - the MDC received nearly 10 000 votes, the Mutambara group 500.

I have seen some analysis that claims this was a poor outcome for the MDC. In previous elections we had a majority of 13 000 in the same constituency. But in the circumstances I think it was a good result - especially because we had been able to get the vote out in spite of the widespread belief that it was a waste of time. Parliament has little influence over events here right now. Those who tamper with the way our democracies work so as to manipulate the vote to stay in power must recognise that they endanger democracy throughout the continent by doing so.

All elections are an ambush for the opposition. The ruling Party here controls the media, controls the voter's roll, dictates who may or may not vote and administers the whole process from the registration of candidates to the counting and disclosure of results. They engage in multiple voting, the use of false ballots where the vote is too close to call and they have physically stopped thousands from voting in the recent past. In fact they have used every trick in the book, plus a few others they invented. For these reasons it is now widely accepted that the MDC in fact won all the elections from 2000 to now. It is also accepted that the margins have been growing - this factor hidden from view by the extensive rigging of the vote. In the present case we know from the voters roll that there were many false voters on the roll, that about 4 000 names were dropped between 2005 and today and that several thousand new voters were registered in recent weeks.

In any ambush, the only way to break out is by overwhelming strength and firepower. The people setting the ambush have every advantage, selection of site, position and anticipation and advance planning. Being in the killing ground is not a pleasant experience, as anyone who has been there will tell you. On this occasion we were able to break out and overcome the aggressors. Next time lets hope it will be the people who decide who is the target of the ambush.

This weekend was also the stage for the proposed marches by the Churches to remember the victims of Murambatsvina. In the final event only one took place; right here in Bulawayo where a small group of 500 brave souls took to the streets accompanied by dozens of Policemen and marched from one Church to another after a High Court Judge had set aside the Police order not to allow the march. In other towns I understand the Courts did not hear the applications, despite the urgency. But as one of the local organizers said - this is a precedent and it will influence future activity of this nature - another small victory for the moral majority!

Today there is a special meeting in London between Thabo Mbeki and Tony Blair. They are going to spend two days running through the decisions taken last year in July when the G8, plus the leaders of China and India and five African Heads of State met in the UK to work out a plan for the economic, social and political recovery of Africa. I wish I could be a fly on the wall. There is a new Foreign Secretary in the hot seat, Morgan is in Europe and I would be astonished if we are not on the agenda.

I would also be astonished if anything is said about us - I suspect that the usual will take place - no public mention of the Zimbabwe crisis even though everyone knows this would have been discussed. But the meeting does come at a very sensitive time for us - the Mbeki/Annan initiative has flopped. Mugabe has dug his heels in and is simply refusing to retire under any circumstances and there is growing alarm at the continued rapid decline in the Zimbabwe economy.

I saw just this weekend, a claim by a leading economist, that the average growth of the economies of the SADC would be nearly 11 per cent this year if Zimbabwe were not going to pull it down. Even so, Zimbabwe is now number 10 in ranking in the SADC compared to number 2 in 1980. Only tiny Lesotho, Swaziland and desperately poor Malawi are below us in the ranking. Don't worry you three, we are doing our best to get below you and if nothing is done about us soon, we will be number 13 in the SADC rankings - bottom of the pile, astonishing!

Perhaps Zimbabwe will serve a purpose in all of this - at least we now know that Africa's problems will not be solved by more aid or even greater access to markets. Africa's problems are very largely self-inflicted and are more due to bad government and corrupt leadership than any other factors. The key to resolving this is to return power to the people in the form of a genuine open, free and fair democracy with one-person one vote to all who live and work here and hold permanent citizenship. Then the people will be free to remove from power at all levels in our society the leaders who now destroy our countries and our future.

I hope this is being discussed, right now, over tea at Gleneagles.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 23rd May 2006