Lessons from Kenya

I have been watching the events in Kenya very closely and feel that there are a lot of lessons to be drawn for us in Zimbabwe. The lessons must be preceded by the disclaimer that I know little of Kenya as I have visited it only a few times and worked there briefly after 1988 when I was asked to advise them on the future of the Kenya Meat Commission.

But even to me as an outsider, the recent elections seem to have been seriously rigged in favor of the incumbent President. I watched with interest and some considerable hope on Sunday as Odinga built up a sizable lead over the incumbent President - leading by 700 000 votes late on Sunday. Then the sudden shroud of secrecy over the whole process and the surprise announcement that Kibaki had won. I still find the mathematics difficult to understand as Odinga's party collected a clear majority of seats in Parliament. How Kibaki intends to govern with Odinga holding a majority in the House is a mystery to me!

But even so, the democrats of Africa must regard this as yet another victory of the ordinary person. An incumbent President, representing the tribal group that had controlled power since Independence was challenged and had to be beaten off by non-democratic means. It is rough on the democrats in Kenya but overall it is good for Africa. Kibaki will not get away with this attempt to cook the books. I am sad for the consequential violence and killing, as it will take a long time for these wounds to heal.

But what are the lessons for Zimbabwe? Many will say it is the need for a united opposition; some have already done so, but in fact Kenya has a much more fragmented ethnic and tribal background to Zimbabwe and no particular tribe occupies the dominant position of the Shona people here. In my view that is not the lesson. The real lesson is that we must ensure that we control and record the vote count in the forthcoming election from A to Z.

Africans are not dumb, they know what to do and who to vote for and in fact, in my experience, are often more sophisticated when it comes to politics than their Western counterparts. In reality we do not really have to campaign in the classical sense here in Zimbabwe, not for this election. as the issues are so clear. What we have to do is show the people here what we will do with their vote and with the subsequent responsibility. That we are doing and our policies will shortly be published both in writing and on the net.

Much more difficult is how to ensure that all Zimbabweans can vote and that when they do, it is properly recorded and then counted and reported. In the case of the Kenyan elections it seems as if the State permitted a free and fair election and campaign, (something we are yet to achieve in Zimbabwe) but when the final count was taking place and it became clear that Kibaki would lose the election, the State stepped in and the vote was stolen from the people. A great shame as a normal democratic transfer of power would have been first prize.

Mugabe has gone off for his annual leave in the Far East and left behind the chaos and confusion wrought by his policies. The Z$200 000 note that was withdrawn from circulation is back, the queues are even longer and the stores just as empty. We have not been able to find maize meal, the basic staple food here, for a month. It is also short in Harare and other towns. As for prices! Even I am shocked by the way they are escalating - a 150 ml tub of Yoghurt is Z$1 250 000!

Just before the Christmas break we met the IMF team that was visiting Harare for a routine visit. They told us that they could see no end to the inflationary spiral in which we are at present. There is no bottom to this current crisis, they said. While I was dismayed to hear such judgments from an experienced international team of specialists, I was much more encouraged by their view that what we proposed made sense and would stop inflation in six months. I was also encouraged by their view that if the politics was right, we could 'deal' with the huge overhang of debt that this regime is going to hand over to us when we beat them in the next election.

In South Africa Jacob Zuma was finally elected leader of the ANC and it seems that this event was very much over the dead body of the incumbent President. It has profound implications for South Africa and Zimbabwe. Zuma will strengthen the pro change sentiments in the ANC on the Zimbabwe issue and we should see movement very shortly in respect to our demand - given to President Mbeki the Saturday before Polokwane, that the whole agreement reached in negotiations in 2007 with Zanu PF be implemented before any election takes place here. South Africa and indeed the whole of the SADC, have little choice in this matter and I am expecting the problems remaining to be dealt with shortly.

That of course will do nothing to help us get a handle on our economic crisis. Inflation is now certainly at 50 000 percent or more and still accelerating. Shortages are as bad as ever and the State shows no signs of even understanding what they are doing or coming to grips with reality. How we survived 2007 is a mystery, but we did. Now we have to survive 2008 up to the elections and then deal with the situation that will be presented to us by that event. That is not going to be easy or quick and we will have to dig deep.

But I am quite sure that we are going to see the 2007 agreements with Zanu PF implemented and that we are going to have another election - perhaps the most important in our history. In that election I am sure that we will win and that this time there will be a transfer of power to a new government. It 's a question of time and resources. The regime and South Africa will both want the election as soon as possible, probably on schedule in March. However, the agreements as signed will not allow that if they are to apply and it may be necessary to revert to some of the proposals made during the talks but rejected by the other participants so as to enable an early election. For us in the MDC that would be just fine - then to control the vote!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd January 2008