The Struggle Continues

If you live in Zimbabwe and only have access to the local media or even if you live abroad or in South Africa, I would expect that you are very confused about the MDC and the state of play in the country at large! About the only thing that is straight forward is the fact that we are in a total mess and the economy is in meltdown.

The reason for the confusion is quite clear - we (the MDC) are being subjected to a total onslaught in the media driven by a variety of political interests who are all committed to ensuring that the MDC does not win the next election. It's a long and convoluted story but I will try to summarise and map out the essential elements to try and help you understand what is going on and why.

The domestic agenda is the most easily understood. When Zanu PF accepted that they faced an election in March 2008 and that this could not be postponed as they had wanted to 2010 and on top of that they would be required by regional leaders to put on a show for the world community that they were able to organise a 'free and fair' election, they went into high gear..

As with most major developments in Zimbabwe, the planning and the final decisions were taken by the Joint Operations Command (the JOC) and selected senior Zanu PF functionaries. The strategy was quite simple - smash what was left of the MDC and support minority elements in the opposition and intensify Zanu PF/JOC political control of the rest of the country. This involved tightening their grip on the rural areas and reducing the population of the urban centers.

Since then we have seen a wholesale physical attack on the MDC leadership at all levels, the systematic dismantling of MDC structures especially in the rural areas and an intensified media blitz. This past week the MDC has been headlines every day - all negative stories designed to show that the MDC is divided, its leadership weak and indecisive and that we are incapable of really effecting change.

While this has been going on, we have seen the renewed offensive on the commercial farming industry and a new, dramatic and comprehensive assault on the private sector in all other sectors of the economy. Through price control and 'indigenisation' initiatives what remains of the private sector and the economy is being brought under Zanu control or liquidated. This is being supported by the deliberate sabotage of urban essential services - especially water. As a result they have started a tidal wave of migrants into neighboring countries - especially South Africa and this is reducing the urban population.

In this struggle inflation is accepted as one of the tools they have available to them and they are determinedly driving the rate of inflation to new record highs - it is a real possibility now that we will see rates as high as those predicted by the IMF some months ago of 100 000 percent by Christmas. To demonstrate that, the Reserve Bank is understood to be buying foreign exchange on the parallel market and selling it to Zanu PF and State linked individuals and companies at the official price.

We have not been able to buy seed maize for resale at all this winter. I now understand that Zanu PF is distributing 5 kg packs in the rural areas - and demanding that recipients hold Zanu PF cards. Maize meal is being distributed in the same way - I heard on Friday of a Zanu PF office in Borrowdale distributing maize meal to local people - I assume on the same basis.

When it comes to the media and the State funded campaign against the MDC, you have got to understand that this is directed only at the organisation to which I belong and is led by Morgan Tsvangirai. As far as the media and the CIO are concerned this is the enemy - there is no other. And they are right. The latest polls indicate that there is only one real opposition grouping capable of taking on Zanu PF and winning and only one individual who could defeat Robert Mugabe and that is the MDC led by Tsvangirai. They know that and have been working on that assumption since March.

So when we have an internal problem - such as the collapse of confidence in the leadership of the Women's Assembly of the MDC and the need to elect new leadership, you can expect that we would be subjected to an intensified campaign. We duly dissolved the Women's Assembly leadership and held a special Congress to elect new leadership. The Congress was eventually held - after two last minute changes in venue following intelligence that the meeting was to be disrupted and the delegates (from all Districts and Provincial Leaderships) duly elected new leadership - pretty much unanimously.

Under normal democratic conditions this would have gone by without much controversy - but not in Zimbabwe. The headlines bellowed 'Split Looms in the MDC' and worse. We of course get no media time in Zimbabwe. The newspapers are all to a lesser or greater extent hostile to us and the State controlled media are just a propaganda arm of the State and Zanu PF. Who hired busses to carry women and young people from all over the country to try and gatecrash the Congress?

It is clear that the South African leadership have been hostile to the MDC from day one. The reasons were the perceived threat that we posed vicariously to the ANC alliance through Cosatu. Now that that falsehood has been laid to rest, we are still viewed with some hostility in South Africa and I have no doubt that some elements there would like to see a 'reformed Zanu PF' solution.

At the same time we have our domestic detractors who argue that the MDC does not have the capacity to govern or that Morgan Tsvangirai does not have the education or the characteristics required for national leadership. You all know that I think this is twaddle and that Morgan has a sound track record of achievement and management at national level. That aside - he is the person in whom the Nation as a whole has invested its trust and he is the only individual who can defeat Mugabe in an election today.

So we struggle on - preparing for an election campaign, continuing with the negotiations for free and fair conditions - and believe me when I say that the negotiations are often one against the rest, trying to contain the effects of the Zanu PF and media campaign against us, coping with limited resources as domestic business is terrified of being associated with us in any way and major political donors who are committed to the democratic struggle prevaricate. Trying to keep our people spirits up and believing that the end is now in sight. Trying the force regional power brokers to act when Zanu PF flagrantly violates the principles being negotiated and agreed at the South African talks.

The talks in South Africa are almost concluded - 5 months later than originally intended, the date for the elections is yet to be decided (there is a lot of disinformation about the talks in local and international press) and then we get into the issue of the transition and the management of the election itself. Believe me, this is going to be a fight to the finish and the outcome will depend on you and me.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 5th November 2007