The End of Winter

In the subtropics it is quite easy to detect when spring is about to arrive. The contrast between winter and summer is so great that the slightest changes alert the acute observer to the new season.

In the tropics it is not so easy. Sometimes it is the arrival of a migrant - the other morning we heard our first Piet My Vrou (the Red Chested Cuckoo), that unmistakable call of the summer migrants. In other instances it is the new flowers and early spring foliage. In the dry tropics it is most often the early flowers - well before any new foliage. Right now our dry golden veld is starting to stir, first the Knob Thorns - great swathes of white and cream down the dry riverbeds and spread across the open bushveld. Then small shrubs with their brilliant yellow flowers, the wild Wisteria, pale purple and blue showers of blossoms on the most unlikely looking trees and shrubs.

Perhaps it is because it is so dry and arid that we notice these things more than the emerging greens of the wetter lands of the north. What always moves me is the resourcefulness of these early flowering trees and shrubs. They must dig deep to find the water for this end of winter celebration and certainly they do it to signal that soon the rains will come and life will start a new cycle. The veld is almost completely bare at this time of year - the past summers foliage has fallen and everything waits for the rains. For the Giraffe the early flowers are more than just a signal of change, they are life saving.

Zimbabwe is just like this at present - our shelves are bare; our factories silent and empty, people forage for anything to eat and keep their homes supplied. What is available is poor quality and expensive. Choice is non-existent. We are like Impala scrounging fallen leaves and spent seedpods to fill our stomachs. Only digging in the sand or walking long distances to an isolated drinking point finds water.

But these severe conditions do not suggest to the wild life or to us that there is no life - in fact this is a time of expectation. We know that change is coming just a sure as day follows night. These severe conditions do not deter the migrants - they arrive as scheduled, flying in from their sumer homes in Europe and central Africa. Some making flight of over 10 000 kilometers from the lush green plains of Europe to travel to the harsh, dry open veld of Africa. They know that the rains will bring richness to this wilderness that is not found elsewhere and here they will grow strong and fat in preparation for the next flight to Europe.

For me I have always known that one day the season will change here. The rains might fail but we still go out and prepare for the next season. This time I can see lots of signs that a real change of season is about to burst on us. Like the bushveld, you have to be aware and to look closely for the signs.

Often in Africa we have to search in far places for sign that the coming season is going to be a good one. We look at the El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean, we study the monsoon rains in India, we watch the early rains in South Africa and the rainfall patterns across the tropics. This year all the omens are positive. We have seen good early rains in South Africa; heavy rain in the tropics and India and the El Nino in the Pacific is benign.

In politics you can see the same indicators - those who know what is happening behind closed doors are saying that change is under way - not as in previous seasons, but this time real change. If I look into the corridors of power in the USA or the EU, I see the same spirit - a burst of new flowers signaling a new season. If I look south, I see the same signs. I even see the first migrants - young people returning home, suddenly restless for the dry open spaces of Africa, for the smells of dust and cattle manure and the red sunsets and the cry of a fish eagle high in the sky above us. New investors with cash to spend and fences to build before the grass comes through the dry pastures.

Crazy? Yes - if you do not know your seasons, simply good judgment if you do.

The question I ask is what is Zanu PF doing about all this. They embarked on a strategy that assumed they could handle the SADC leadership using their traditional allies in the group. They assumed they could ring fence Mbeki and his team and ensure that their power and influence over events would be muted and distorted in their favor. They were wrong on both counts; SADC has acted on the basis of an agreed principled consensus and Mr. Mbeki has proved to be a wily opponent and clever manipulator himself.

Zanu PF suddenly find themselves in the Kraal at the diptank and are milling about trying to find an exit where there is no exit except over the top and that is simply too high for them at this stage. I hear that Mr. Mugabe threatened to leave the SADC recently - that fits. 'Stop the world, I want to get off!' he was saying. His colleagues simply told him to stop being silly and eat his porridge.

The MDC is in there as well - we know what is coming and are now preparing for the dipping. We do not have the parasite load that the Zanu PF people have and have little to fear. We are just working to make sure that the dip is the right strength for those bugs!

I said to a group of students the other day 'are you ready for this battle - the final battle, have you got your gun and is it loaded?' What I meant was that this time and in this struggle our only weapon is our vote, we can defeat tyranny with the pen - that is our weapon. I said to the students, if you are not registered to vote you are no use to us, you cannot help in the fight. We do not need people who can throw rocks, we need people who can vote and vote intelligently.

I see that one of our military leaders has repeated the nonsense that they will not accept an MDC victory - another sign that spring is on its way! He needs to know that if the people of the country vote overwhelmingly for change, it will come no matter what they say. MDC is working flat out to get ready for the final battle - are you ready to participate. We will be ready for the dip tank - are you?

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 27th September 2007