Choices

In life you get to make choices - many of which are not really dramatic and some that will change your life and circumstances for a long time. You do not choose where you are born and raised - that is your parentís choice, but thereafter those sorts of choices will come up from time to time for each of us.

I chose a career in agriculture and economics - not a real hard decision for me as I had always wanted to work in agriculture - did not have the money to farm so did the next best thing and became an economist and a commodity specialist. I must say I have enjoyed working in this field and it has done me well. I worked internationally and had several opportunities to leave the country and work abroad. In 1976 I thought that Ian Smith would never give in and that we faced a future where the small white community would be beaten into the ground and the country burned and destroyed by a war we could not win.

Many friends said to me that it was OK for me to choose to stay - but what about our children? They did not have that choice - we were making it for them. We decided to look at a job abroad and to do so we took a family holiday in Europe. After this trip we came home and talked it through and decided that Zimbabwe was home and we would stay. We are Christians and my wife and I had prayed about the choice and both felt very strongly that our leading was to remain in the country and tough it out. Now we all have another choice to make - its decision time again for all adult Zimbabweans who live here. We have several choices this time - the main ones are the status quo (Mugabe and Zanu PF), Tsvangirai and the MDC; and now the 'Third Force' that has got everyone so excited and is made up of a really motley crew - led by Simba Makoni with the backing of Ibo Mandaza, Jonathan Moyo, Mujuru, Zinovashe and Mutambara!

Simba is an old friend and is one of the more decent and reasonable of the Zanu PF stable of leadership. He has a nice smile, looks young although he is well into his 50ís and has been in the leadership of Zanu PF since Independence. He does not have a very productive CV. He was fired twice as a Minister, unusual for Mugabe, and was Secretary General of the SADC for 10 years during which not a great deal was achieved and he succeeded in remaining silent while genocide was being committed at home.

The singular contribution that Makoni has made is to break the myth of Zanu PF solidarity and hegemony. Since his nomination, Zanu has been is a state of shock and disarray. It has broken the whole electoral process wide open and nothing will be quite the same again. But is he really a choice? Neither Makoni nor Mutambara offer a real alternative that can form a new government and this is the central issue confronting all voters. Do we stay with what we have, or do we choose change? The answer is obvious, but somehow the personalities involved and the media who all punt their own view of the future and the choices we must make, confuse the debate.

Makoni is obviously a front for powerful interests in the Zanu PF camp. Why Mutambara has decided to throw his weight behind him is a mystery to me. It would now seem as if Mutambara is not going to run as a Presidential hopeful, a wise decision, but the decision to back Makoni makes no sense in terms of the fundamentals and smacks of opportunism.

The MDC under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai will run as the MDC (Tsvangirai) and this will be shown on all our documents and ballot papers. We will put up candidates in all seats (I hope by Friday we will have all RDC seats covered) and next week we will unveil our policies for a new Zimbabwe. Team change is in place and is flat out in the campaign and getting ready for the most crucial election since 1980.

We face an uphill battle - the regime has carefully gerrymandered the constituencies - 70 per cent are in the rural areas where there is only 35 per cent of the population, 24 per cent are urban seats where there is 65 per cent of the population and 6 per cent are mixed urban and rural. They have manipulated voting rights by maintaining a voters roll that has 50 per cent 'ghost' voters and disenfranchised many hundreds of thousands who, in any normal democracy, would be voters.

There is no press freedom and they jam incoming foreign radio stations. No international media is allowed and we will have no credible poll watchers from abroad. The ZEC has been staffed from the Registrar Generals Office and is loaded with security apparatchiks and others. Urban voters will have difficulty casting their votes - remember the long queues in 2000 and 2002 and the security forces will again vote under supervision behind closed doors. Food and all traditional leaders will be closely controlled and used to support Zanu PF in the elections.

Mugabe feels supremely confident that he has done enough to win this contest; at least that is what he says. I personally feel that we would not have the opportunity of an election if he did not feel so confident. The question is - is he right in this assessment?

The great risk and threat for the MDC is apathy and a sense that voting is a waste of time. Makoni has helped and given the whole process greater credibility. People now think that we may have a real choice at long last. I think they are right. I think that the security establishment has now accepted that we can no longer travel the road that Zanu PF has put us on. I think the majority now want change - the question is who can deliver and how? Only the MDC has offered that information. In a detailed and comprehensive review it sets out its policies developed over the past 15 months by teams of experts and activists. It gives a clear alternative to present policies that have failed to deliver what they promised.

Is Tsvangirai the man who can deliver? He is the only man with the trust of the people and with their true interests at heart. He is not a front - what you see is what you get. He is a man of integrity and principle, has a great wife and family. He is self educated, intelligent and well read. Quite frankly I have had enough of a government that is made up of PhD graduates with few principles and no ethics. We have no future under the present crew who are totally corrupt and live only for themselves. On Sunday I watched with pride as our future Members of Parliament and the Senate came into the hall in Harare from every quarter of the country. Many ordinary farmers and small business persons. All had to pay their own way, many had left their homes early in the morning and had not eaten. They came, they heard the briefing and made their commitment to a new Zimbabwe and then returned home - we could not even give them lunch and they now have to fund their own campaigns.

They are committed to this struggle, whatever it costs; they have and are sacrificing everything they have to give the country a chance for real change. What a privilege to be part of that in a secular and cynical world.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 12th February 2008