Let the Games begin

We now have 5 weeks to go to the elections. A week ago we put our candidates up for nomination and I think we did quite well - we have almost all Parliamentary seats covered and all Senate seats and about 80 per cent of the local government seats - quite an achievement when you understand the logistics and the time available.

I had a bit of a tussle - arrived at the Court to be told that the Registrar General (a true Zanu PF flunky) had said I was not a citizen. We promptly took the issue to our lawyers and after a few hours went back with a court order that said I was a citizen and should be allowed to file my nomination papers. All else was in order and at 21.30 hrs I was duly declared a candidate.

My district is a mixed bag - two very poor high-density housing areas and a spread of medium density housing that is occupied by mainly middle income people. The majority are in the former - 17 000 voters and the balance are in the latter - 7000 voters. I am already in the hands of the enthusiastic and energetic MDC activists in the District and am being worked to death by all and sundry!

On Saturday we launched the main campaign in Mutare at Sakubva stadium. We planned to start at 12.00 hrs and the stadium was almost full at 10.00 hrs. By the time we got under way I estimated the crowd at about 40 000. By the time Morgan spoke it was probably 50 000 to 65 000 - difficult to estimate but the stands were packed and we had to keep many outside the gates. Morgan got a huge reception and it was very colorful.

600 kilometers to the South and East the other main candidate was launching his campaign. Mugabe spent Z$3 000 000 000 000 on the combined birthday and launch bash in Beitbridge. Why on earth he chose Beitbridge is anyone's guess - we had a reception committee ready in South Africa and they held a rally there with a helium filled balloon that said 'You have had your cake - now beat it!' I think our balloon got more media attention than the birthday bash and launch! Bob must have been furious.

All candidates are confidently predicting success - although come to think about it, that was one claim that Morgan actually did not make at Sakubva. The President spoke of the need for change and said that this election was in reality, a referendum on Mugabe's rule. He said that if elected the MDC would write a new constitution and then when this was implemented, he would hold fresh democratic elections.

The MDC has 5 white candidates for various posts - three ex farmers all of whom won their primaries in the seats they are now campaigning for. But this is a tiny proportion of the 2000 odd candidates over all. In the main, real working class men and women will represent the MDC. There are exceptions - two Professors from UZ are running and we have a sprinkling of business people. But by and large our candidates reflect our support base - most are working men and women and the majority do not own a motorcar.

I have said it before and will repeat what many simply do not give adequate attention to - the MDC is a mass movement of the poor and disadvantaged. I said to my constituency at the first meeting we held with the leaders, crammed into a tiny house in a high-density suburb, I am deeply privileged to be chosen to run on their behalf. It is a privilege and a responsibility that I, as one of the privileged minority can be so identified and accepted.

As I sat on the grass at Sakubva I thought about what lies ahead of us. We were surrounded by tens of thousands of the ordinary people who had walked, hitched rides and then waited in the sun for up to six hours to hear our leaders speak. They had no food, no vendors roved the stands - there were no buyers and when it was all over they had to walk home, with the local bus now costing Z$5 million a trip there was no chance that the majority could afford the ride.

They are looking to us to put the economy back on its feet. With collapse all round us and inflation at a staggering 150 000 per cent or more per annum, with only 7 per cent of the population still employed and the shortages of all essentials - water, food, shelter, fuel, energy; that is no easy task. They are looking to us to put children back into school and provide teachers and books. They are looking to us to refurbish and staff our hospitals, to make basic essentials affordable and provide the basic necessities.

I said to a Councilor in one of the wards, 'Reuben, do you see that pothole? On the 30th of March that is your responsibility!' If elected we will inherit a country in a total mess and meltdown. We will have to move swiftly to restore macro economic stability and fill market shelves, it will take bold and courageous leadership and for a while we will have to all tighten our belts and make things work. Expectations, even though we are trying to manage them, will be high.

If we win - and I am sure we are going to win this time round for a variety of reasons, it will be a remarkable testament to an organisation that for a decade has fought a patient struggle against huge odds to win change through democratic and peaceful means. A remarkable tribute to ordinary people who have suffered and done extraordinary things.

As for the game itself, well just this past week the referee has given us an 'electronic' version of the voters role - as required by new legislation and past Court orders, but all it contains are photographs of the voters role - all 6 million voters with a red line transposed across the face of every page. Completely unusable. We hear the Daily News is getting its license - the Minister has so instructed, but guess what, it will be two weeks at least after the election. This is democracy, Mugabe style! As for me, I am planning a party - the biggest street party you ever saw, for that day we win.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 27th February 2008