You will recall my analogy of a wounded buffalo. For those who do not know Africa or Zimbabwe in particular, there is another aspect or possibility to the behavior of this badly wounded animal that sometimes plays itself out.

In the Zambezi valley you find many different types of bushveld. It is famous for the large stands of mature mopani set in open grassland and harboring all sorts of wild life. One such system allows the Zambezi lovebirds to breed in the tops of mature mopani but only when it is associated with permanent open water. Another system that is almost unique to the Valley is the Jesse (pronounced jessy)

The Jess grows on rich alluvial soils with a sand base. It comprises millions of large shrub like plants that grow up to 3 or 4 metres high, it is interspersed with larger trees that stand like islands in a green lush sea. In winter the Jesse drops it leaves and visibility can be quite good - 50 metres or more. In summer, the shrubs produce prolific leafage and visibility can be down to a couple of metres. When it is like this it becomes a favorite haunt of many wild life species and of course elephant.

The Ranger, when I worked in the Valley was a man I knew as 'Lofty' Stokes. He was called Lofty because he stood well over six feet. On one occasion he had to go after an elephant that had been shot raiding crops and had retreated into the Jesse. Visibility was zero and Lofty and his assistant tracked the animal into the Jesse, using a small bag of fine ash to test the wind direction. An elephant has excellent hearing and smell and any wind from the hunter to the hunted could spell disaster in these conditions. Eventually he felt that the animal was close and stopped to listen - he could hear its stomach rumbling but despite the proximity could not see a thing.

If such a retreat is available, a wounded buffalo will almost always run deep into its shelter and protection. With his senses a hunter would be very foolish to attempt what Lofty had done and to try and finish him off in those conditions. He is better off waiting either for the animal to leave the security of the Jesse or to try and drive him out of the shelter into more open country where a final shot could be attempted.

Mugabe has been fatally wounded and has retreated into the Jesse. He did so when he shut down the ZEC National Control Center and moved it to a secure location where it continues to work behind closed doors. Today they move deeper into the Jesse by holding recounts in 23 constituencies. They are regrouping after the original hit.

They have had control of the results and the ballot boxes for three weeks. They have been working furiously to doctor the ballot boxes they have targeted and I have no doubt that they will announce - perhaps next week, that hey presto! the original count done so carefully in front of observers 3 weeks ago had been very seriously wrong! They will then declare that they have a majority in the House of Assembly and that the original hit was not fatal, just a serious flesh wound and that a run-off will take place in 21 days.

Already they are planning their strategies for when they have to leave the safety of the Jesse and face their dreaded hunter with the guns. They have deployed their foot soldiers to all areas of the country where they are beating and killing MDC supporters. They are tightening their control over the media, the food system and they are threatening whole communities with starvation if they do not cower down and vote for Mugabe. They are threatening traditional leaders and others with influence and if necessary are destroying their assets and even driving them into the towns where they will not be able to influence others or even vote.

As for preparations for the final showdown with the MDC they are printing ballots - lots of them. They are reviewing the system used last time to see where they made mistakes and closing loopholes. They are trying to ensure that this time they can defend themselves and win. Indeed they have to think they can win or they will not leave the Jesse and simply face up to a slow death.

Despite the fact that this whole exercise is a complete sham, condemned by every democratic government in the world, they will probably get away with this subterfuge. South Africa is playing along under its illustrious leadership as are the majority of the SADC and African States with some notable exceptions. MDC is beating the bush with its supporters around the world and in the region, but that old buffalo is not going to leave the Jesse until he is good and ready to rumble.

The MDC has little choice but to go with the run-off. We must try to prepare the ground as best that we can, not knowing where the old buffalo will come out and in what condition he will be or even if he will have support. One type of support we already know about is the 77 tonnes of arms on a ship that tried to dock in Durban 4 days ago and has now left for Mozambique. If this consignment is allowed to reach the Mugabe regime with its millions of rounds of ammunition, China and Mozambique are assisting in genocide.

So we have little choice but to demand of the UN and SADC that they honor their commitment to see that the final contest is fair and that the balloting is transparent and conducted properly under our new Electoral Act and regulations. Observer missions must be in place for this and must be credible. The observer team dispatched today under the leadership of South Africa to observe the recount is simply not credible - they are whitewashing a massive untruth.

Do I think that we can win such a skewed contest? Yes I do. After 8 years we know our adversary well and our intelligence is so much better than it was previously. We also know the ground on which this contest will take place and that our target is a seriously wounded animal. But we have to prepare ourselves and be careful and alert and in particular use that small bag of ash to ensure he does not know where the hunter is when he comes out of the Jesse.

Once this old buffalo is out in more open country and does not have the protection of the Jesse, he is ours. I think you have seen that this time round the MDC is much more confident of itself; its making good tactical decisions and handling itself with maturity and skill. We are a dangerous hunter and are determined that this time our quarry will not get away from us and will get his due.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 19th April 2008