Ground Zero

I see lots of signs that the cattle prod has been used! There is lots of dust, confused cattle are running in all directions and the crack of the long whips and the cries of the herders are all going great guns. The MDC/Zanu teams fly to SA today and talks start tomorrow - as scheduled some time ago even though the initial discussions failed to take off because the South Africans could not get Zanu PF into the pen.

Blair spoke to the Libyan leader and he in turn invited Mugabe to Tripoli for discussions, the Malawi leadership also had Mugabe over for tea. After Smith's experience with coffee in Pretoria in 1976, Mugabe should know what tea with a regional President means. I suspect that Mr. Mbeki was furious at the prevarication by Zanu PF as he was right in the middle of the G8 summit in Germany and news of a hiccup would not have been welcome at all. I am sure the power dial on that cattle prod was screwed up to maximum! Then we have the extraordinary sight of several Zanu PF functionaries at the World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town saying that Mr. Mugabe would be out of office shortly and Zanu PF would then tackle the task of rebranding themselves. They also said what we all know, that economic recovery could not begin until he is out of the way.

How true the talk of an attempted coup might be, is anyone's guess, but there probably is some fire behind the smoke, or is it just dust in the dip tank pen? For sure the armed forces are as fed up as any of us with the rapid deterioration in the economic situation.

The question we must all ask, is this our 'ground zero?' Where the Americans got that saying from I am not sure but its meaning is quite clear. We are at a turning point and what I want to know is what is around the corner? I think there are some specific pegs on which we can hang our hats. First is the process underway in South Africa. It seems clear to me that no SADC leaders are blinking. Mugabe and Zanu PF are going to get the full treatment in the democratic dip tank. We will get major changes to the way the next elections are going to be held and might even get some constitutional changes. So at last the people of Zimbabwe are going to get an opportunity to vote in a way that will allow them to express their real feelings.

Secondly, we can now be sure that heavyweights in Zanu PF have decided that Mugabe must go - and as soon as possible. They actually thought that a long time ago but now that they have come out in the open on this issue it looks as if we might actually expect some movement on that front - a pity really because I would like to see him in the dip tank and then dealt with on the other side. That may not happen now but he is a wily opponent and a master of manipulation.

Thirdly, we are fast approaching the point where we simply cannot cope with the rapid changes in the economy. Fuel went over Z$100 000 a litre this week, the US dollar is trading at 120 000 to 1, the Rand is approaching 15 000 to 1 and the pound is off the scale. This means prices have doubled in a week. I run a supermarket and we are marking up everything but simply cannot keep pace. No matter what we do when pricing, everything we sell is below replacement cost and you can only carry this for so long before grinding to a halt.

There is talk that the Reserve Bank will cut another three zeros off our currency next week and this would mean that one Zimbabwe dollar would now equal one million of the 'old' dollars. Chaos reins in commerce and industry and those in the public sector are frantic. How do you keep up with these sort of changes when you have a government which is still trying to hold bread at Z$825 for a 700 gram loaf? Recent legislation on prices and incomes - launched with much fanfare as the solution to our inflation problems, lay down that a business person can go to jail for 5 years if he/she violates this sort of crass stupidity.

Power cuts, for whatever reason, are now a serious issue. Crops are going without water, essential services are being affected and the lives of millions being made even more unbearable. This week a group of international NGO's sent an urgent memorandum out saying that these conditions could lead to a total collapse in 6 months. I think they are right in the basic premise but wrong on the timing, we cannot take much more of this. So are we at 'ground zero'? I think so and am just a little apprehensive that the powers that be have left this situation too late to really control and manage the outcome. We cannot bring the elections into 2007, there is just not enough time to do all that is required and hold a free and fair election thereafter. So we are going to have to have some sort of short-term emergency help to stabilize the economic and humanitarian situation while the political agenda is tackled.

This simply will not happen if the talks starting tomorrow morning do not run their course and produce an outcome that all involved will buy into. Zanu PF is in a clear minority in this scenario and has little or no room to maneuver. They must now prepare themselves for a new dispensation and if they cannot do that fast, they will be marginalised and cast aside.

The question everyone is now asking is the MDC ready? We are battered and bloodied by recent activities of this dying regime, but we are not out by any means. We have no money, little left in terms of infrastructure and equipment, our Head Office stands almost completely empty in Harare - staff and visitors are terrified of even visiting the building. But make no mistake; we have the people with us. I am constantly asked why we have not reunited the two leadership groups that claim the name MDC? The reasons are very simple, the people are not divided or confused, they know what and whom they want to take the reins in government. If the MDC allows the people to decide who will represent the Party in the next elections we all know who will emerge.

We are not prepared to compromise the right of the ordinary person in the MDC to choose who will represent them in the coming contest. I am pleased that our policy position is now almost ready and should be published soon. This will then give all who have Zimbabwe's interests at heart a chance to read what sort of New Zimbabwe will emerge from the ashes of the old order under MDC stewardship.

Ground zero is for all of us in one-way or another, it's also a unique opportunity to build a new structure to replace what we have lost in the destructive processes of our 9/11.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 15th June 2007