Walking in the Dark

When Britain was at the lowest point in the war against Germany in the 1940' s, the King of England spoke to the people of the Commonwealth at the time and said that when we find that we must walk in the pitch dark of a long night, we must do so with our hands in the Hand of God. The speeches of Winston Churchill at the same time; 'we will fight them on the beaches', were superb, but to my mind this reminder by the then King that our fate ultimately lies in the hands of God was both timely and timeless.

I am not trying to elevate our situation in tiny Zimbabwe to that which faced the British in 1940, but in many ways the situation is the same. We have survived a total onslaught by the Mugabe regime since the people first made their feelings known in 2000. Having suffered their first electoral defeat since 1980 in the February 2000 Referendum, the regime has launched an onslaught against the freedoms and rights of the people of Zimbabwe in an unprecedented manner. We may not be at war, but our condition shows all the symptoms of a nation that is at war with itself.

Our economy has shrunk every year since 1998, total economic output is half what it was in 1997, exports a third. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 years to 34 for women and 36 for men. We have the highest ratio of orphans to population in the world and probably in history. Half our population is living below the food datum line and only 8 per cent of our total population is in paid employment. 4 million of our citizens have fled the country and now live as economic and political refugees elsewhere. And all this was achieved without a shot being fired!

I was amused when Elliot Manyika stated at the just completed Zanu PF conference 'we have not failed?' he bellowed from the podium and this message was faithfully reproduced in every State controlled newspaper in the country. I wonder on what grounds he had the audacity to say such a thing when every statistic, no matter how trivial, points to exactly that. But then honesty was never a strong point for any of the Zanu PF leadership.

We have come to the end of another year under this tyranny, another year looms and the prospects look lousy from whatever perspective you choose. Almost certainly we face another year of food shortages and another year of economic decline. The State has started another 'blitzkrieg', this time on all foreign owned companies. They have said they are going to 'take' 51 per cent of the equity in all foreign owned concerns and turn this over to the 'people' (read Zanu PF cronies) to ensure that Zimbabweans are in control of all economic institutions and occupy the senior positions in those institutions.

Business knows full well what that means and the signs are there already as to what their attitude is going to be - withdrawal. Already I see Mobil and BP taking down the signage on their petrol stations throughout the country. Anglo American, once the owner of 40 per cent of the country's private sector has almost totally liquidated their holdings - remaining with a platinum mine in the midlands that is simply too valuable to relinquish unless the situation becomes totally impossible. Mines have halted all prospecting and drilling for new ore bodies and have suspended all major maintenance and expansion. The next step is closure.

The IMF team that has just completed their latest Article 4 consultations has warned that unless radical changes take place, the outlook for Zimbabwe is grim. I could not agree more. I see no sign of change in the way that Zanu PF is running the country - in fact I can only see things getting worse.

So where do we go from here? In my view we must turn to the wisdom of the King when he spoke to the people of Britain at a time when it really looked as if defeat and subjugation was inevitable. Britain only had its spirit to stand on - it was alone internationally with the US standing on the sidelines and many other traditional allies also posturing their 'neutrality'.

We are really alone in the struggle against the tyranny that rules us. Other countries may condemn the regime for its actions and behavior but do little else. The United Nations - set up to intervene in situations like ours, does nothing, in fact may be complicent. Our neighbors, the only people with the power to intervene have been worse than neutral.

We are a deeply religious country. A very Christian country where millions go to church every Sunday and our churches are full to overflowing. We are a nation of faith and it is this faith in an everlasting and all-powerful God that will carry us through. People without such a faith will find it very hard to struggle through, even with such a faith it is very tough and not all survive. But what else can we do except 'put our hands in the Hand of God' and then walk by faith and not by sight? We are impatient for change, for relief and the restoration of our freedoms and rights, but the Bible says, 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, run and not be weary.' That's us.

We remain deeply convinced that we are where God wants us to be. It is a privilege to be in the struggle and we remain fully committed to that in every way. We have suffered for our stand like so many - my wife has been to prison for defending women's rights, we have both been physically beaten and lost assets because of our stand. Threats against us by the regime are a frequent and serious issue. We have no human reason for being confident that we will survive 2007, just like we have survived everything else that has been thrown at us over the past 6 years, but we know that ultimately God will prevail, these tyrants will be overthrown and forgotten and our country will again become a good place to live and work.

So for all of you who share this nightmare with us - join us in our faith and lets enjoy Christmas with our families. Lets enjoy each others company and stand together in a common determination that whatever 2007 throws at us we will manage the outcome and help each other to do so as well.

We are working right through the festive season - that is the nature of our business, but we will take time off after Christmas, together with our children and grandchildren and be sure to remind ourselves of just what a special place this is and what special people Zimbabweans are. Then it will be back into the thick of things and perhaps, just perhaps, we will come through our darkest days to see victory for all of us in the New Year.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, December 20th 2006