When will it all end?

I have no idea, but I know it will come to an end eventually. I wonder how I might have felt had I been a Russian in 1917 and I had known that Marxist rule would last 70 years before collapsing under its own weight and inertia. How would I have felt in 1938 when the Nationalists took power in South Africa had I known that 40 years of savage segregation and discrimination would follow? I think I might have been suicidal.

Today is Poppy Day and I think about those long years during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945 when the whole earth was at war and millions were dying in pursuit of the eventual defeat of a tyranny that had taken hold in the most educated and sophisticated country on earth, Germany.

What a waste when you look at the bombed out wreckage that was Europe in 1945, when you understand the huge human suffering in all spheres of the war. Who could even imagine, looking at the pictures of the prisoners liberated in 1945 when Germany was overrun and defeated, living through that and finding yourself alive at the end.

The numbers of people killed violently in the 20th Century are greater than in any Century in the history of mankind. Yet it was also a century of lessons learned, great mistakes remedied and successful nation States established with a standard of living and quality of life that was unheralded in the annuls of history.

In Zimbabwe we have been in a state of gradually intensifying crisis for 10 years. Just this morning I calculated the inflation in my own business in the first three weeks of October - it is now 27 000 percent, up from 9 000 percent in April. This is of course only part of the picture of decay and collapse - the local currency was trading at about 1 200 000 to the US dollar today, the Rand about 180 000 to 1. The stores are still empty, we had no power until early afternoon and water is critically short. Fuel is unobtainable on the open market. Hunger stalks every household unless you are one of the elite or a member of the Security Forces and can bully your way into securing the basic essentials of life.

But although we find ourselves being watched and monitored by State Security Agents pretty much on a continuous basis, we are not killing each other or trying to overthrow the State by force of arms. Some would say that is a weakness - I think it's a gift from God and an important feature of how we are collectively dealing with this self imposed economic collapse and political paralysis.

I have spoken at two public meetings recently - one in Mutare and one here in Bulawayo. They were interesting - in both the Police and CIO presence was felt - they sat in the front row in Bulawayo and made no secret that they were there to monitor what we said. I was glad they were there, because our message is as much for them as it is for the others who perhaps came out of curiosity or to support our campaign. The questions were also interesting - nothing about the split in the MDC - that seems to be a thing of the past now, nothing about the issues the State media have been using as propaganda points against us. Just lots of anxiety about how long we have to continue to suffer under these idiots who are in charge of the government right now.

I tried to deal with the issue of what we would do when elected into power. People sat there silently thinking about a possible world in which life might come back to some sense of normality. Food on the shelves, teachers in classrooms, doctors and nurses in clean hospitals, money that will buy something in your pockets. The chance to own a home and some means of transport. For us that just seems like a dream but so did the words of leaders in the Russian Gulag, the German Concentration Camp, the South African single sex towers in Johannesburg at the height of Nationalist power.

It will come - it is coming and it's only a matter of time. Time is the problem - how much and what the lost time means to us as individuals and families. In the begining we were over optimistic - we were going to win that election in 2000, 2002. We did; but still did not achieve the hand over of power that was our right. When I read the histories of the great conflicts of the 20th Century I see that leadership then was always over optimistic about how quickly the war would end. We are no exception - why should we be?

I see and hear nothing but despondency around me today. "We are getting nowhere; Zanu PF is confidant that they will win the next election." "The next election is already lost". "There is no future in Africa," is a common cry, not just here but in many parts of the continent. Soon a third or more of Africa's population will be living abroad, driven there by desperation and poor living conditions created in many cases by corrupt and incompetent leadership.

But the reality is very different - Zanu PF said they would never talk to the MDC. As recently as July, Mr. Mugabe wrote to President Mbeki saying that they would never entertain negotiations with the MDC. In fact negotiations - serious ones, have been going on since the 18th of July 2007. Mr. Mugabe said he would not entertain constitutional amendments - a new revised and amended Constitution has been negotiated and signed. Skeptics say that Zanu will never negotiate itself out of power - true, but they are right now being forced at the negotiating table to accept far reaching reforms that might give the suffering Zimbabwe people their first real chance to select new leadership since 1980.

The talks are in their final stages, the new conditions for elections will soon become known. When they do, I think there are going to be a lot of surprises. That of course is not enough, we must still see those changes adopted and implemented and then adhered to by an errant and delinquent regime that shows no signs that a new electoral era is on its way. The realistic understanding of the South African facilitators gives me hope that this sensitive stage will also be accomplished in due course and elections held that allow freedom of choice in 2008.

There is of course the risk that we may not be that choice. I have absolutely no reason to think that we do not offer Zimbabwe a new government, one that will be compassionate and caring, with a leadership that will seek to serve rather than dominate and one that will tackle our economic, social and political problems with vigor and determination. I have also no doubt as to who will win in the end. History shows us that with absolute certainty - it's only a matter of time.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 29th October 2007