Vasbyt

Afrikaans has been denigrated in recent years as the language of apartheid but that does the language less than good service. In fact Afrikaans is spoken in South Africa as a first language by more people than any other language and is a marvelous means of describing exactly what you want to say. I am told that the Afrikaans translation of the Bible, for example, is much closer to the original languages simply because it is so descriptive and versatile.

Vasbyt, means literally 'bite hard' or 'fast' in the English sense of 'hold fast' in the face of a threat. My advice to my compatriots who live and work in Zimbabwe is just that. Not many of us have been white water rafting on the Zambezi River. I have done it once, my son several times. I am told it is the best white water in the world. It is a great river and at the Victoria Falls it thunders over a drop that makes it the greatest waterfall in the world.

Below the Falls the river is confined to a narrow basalt gorge for many kilometers. The gorge is about 200 to 300 meters deep and the river is often over 30 to 50 meters deep. In places the water moves at speed and you can actually see the slope on its surface, where it meets impediments it is really rough. When I went down the river on a raft with a dozen others, we spent about as much time in the water as out.

When you are thrown out of the raft, you have no control over where you are going, swimming is a waste of effort and you are often dragged deep into the water by the currents and the occasional whirlpool. When this happens your guide tells you not to panic - just trust your life jacket and make sure it is tightly tied to your body.

We are in white water here in Zimbabwe, events are moving fast and you can be dragged down in the river by its currents and eddies. You need a life jacket and then some courage and a bit of a sense of adventure. If you then can adopt the right frame of mind you really can enjoy the experience. It can even be exhilarating!

Prices went up 100 per cent in April, 200 per cent in May and in June they have started doubling every week. In July they will accelerate even further. Already firms are closing their doors while they work out what to charge and some are simply planning to close until this storm is over. The US Ambassador said this week that he would not be surprised if we hit 1,5 million percent inflation this year.

The question I want answered is where is this all going? On the Zambezi River you know where you are going - down river. In the case of Zimbabwe we also know that this particular bit of white water is also leading us towards regime change in some form. What sort of change and what emerges from it is my concern.

We as a people have been often criticized for not taking up weapons and throwing the Zanu PF regime out. Look at Hamas - one week of mayhem on the streets of the Gaza strip and hey presto - they are in control. There are many examples of violence being employed to achieve regime change. Sometimes the media even urge us to go that route because by doing so we would capture the headlines. It makes great photography and sells papers and TV rights.

But I think we have been right in our decision to stick to our adopted task of achieving a democratic, peaceful, lawful, change of government through the ballot box. We have paid a price. 450 political killings - not one prosecution. 500 000 people physically tortured or beaten in custody, 4,5 million have fled the country. We have fought four violent political campaigns - won one and lost the other three through electoral fraud and manipulation.

Our opponents know no other system of achieving regime change but violence. They split in 1964 and both before and after fought each other in a violent and bloody campaign for supremacy in the political arena of the time. They took up arms against the Rhodesian government and although they did not prevail in the battlefield the war created the political impetus that eventually led to change. Change was not violent only because South Africa and the global community intervened and forced a democratic transition on both sides.

Even now, they only know how to use violence and intimidation against the MDC and our supporters as a defence. When confronted at the ballot box, fraud and open manipulation. In the Courts they have simply manipulated the legal system and denied us any chance of getting a hearing.

But think for a moment of the consequences of us taking up arms or even stones to press our case. Would it have brought change any faster? In the end would the new Zimbabwe that rises from the ashes be any better? We need to see more of real democratic transition in Africa, not less. If we can (with the help of the economy and perhaps the SADC) get a real democratic transition in March 2008, it will be a great day for us and for the continent.

The recent stories of an attempted coup look to me like either a set up or a childish amateur effort that simply played into the hands of the Zanu PF propagandists. Certainly it was not a serious challenge and for once no claims that the British or the MDC were behind the effort. I am also mystified by the huge collapse of the local currency last week. The upsurge in buying of hard currency that triggered the collapse did not come out of the private sector - State actors, probably the Reserve Bank, drove it. Was this a carefully calculated effort to push the people over the edge and to sponsor real street violence? Perhaps an effort to upstage and upset the process now under way in South Africa? Whatever the reasons it sharply accelerated the pace of inflation and has significantly shortened the fuse on this particular situation.

But whatever is happening the river of events rushes towards regime change here. Itís very tough for us on the water itself but just remember the advice given to me when I went down the river. Trust your life jacket, tie it on tight and enjoy the ride! What is our life jacket? Its found in all the all things we can do to get by. Friends sending small sums of money to help people here with the cost of living, (you can actually live here on US$100 a month). Standing together and helping each other (we have 2000 pensioners in Bulawayo whom we assist with essentials each month through a voluntary organization). Feed your staff at work, pay more frequently, do not hold cash, and do not save in any form except hard currency and equities.

Then when we finally get to our destination - wet and exhausted - we can help each other climb out of the gorge these idiots have got us into and let me tell you, that cold beer or coke at the top, plus the view will make it all worth while. Vasbyt!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 25th June 2007