When I was just a small boy I heard a huge commotion in the chicken run at home. I ran out and went in to find that a wild cat had got in and was in the process of killing chickens. To this day I still have the bite marks on my hand - but I dealt with the animal and we only lost a couple of birds. I remember that spitting, snarling bundle of fury very clearly!

From my perspective that is Zanu PF today. Cornered, spitting and snarling and no match for the forces ranged against them in the chicken run. Lets just review a few of the major developments in the past 10 days.

First was the arms shipment from China. This was uncovered a week after the election and when we raised the balloon - and what a story of Gods intervention that was - a huge outcry ensued. Our friends rushed to the chicken run and when the hullabaloo was over the cargo was on its way back to China. What was so significant about this incident was that all our neighbors came to the rescue - the entire region, including Mozambique, Namibia and Angola, denied the ship right of entry to their ports. All former allies of the Zanu PF regime, a clear signal that it was time to resolve the crisis. It was also a useful message for China itself.

This was quickly followed by the ANC taking over the lead on the Zimbabwe crisis. Jacob Zuma began to speak out on the issue and the ANC issued a strongly worded communique to the effect that the situation was 'dire' and required urgent attention. The MDC heightened the pressure by coming out and saying that Mbeki was no longer acceptable as a mediator. We had received further evidence of his active support and defence of the regime in Harare and felt that in the light of this new information we could no longer work through him or his office. These two developments caused a sharp shift in the stance taken by South Africa and we saw a marked change in the tone and content of SABC reporting.

Then the regime - cornered and scared, began spitting and snarling at all in the run. They deployed their brown shirts in a mixture of uniforms, with weapons, whips and batons and orders to beat and intimidate the opposition. In 10 days we were dealing with a full-blown crisis - a dozen deaths, some 5000 hapless refugees in the urban areas with many others where their homes were burned out and lives destroyed. We have had over 500 people admitted to hospital and many arrests - difficult to know how many at this stage as our staff are either in detention or on the run and in hiding.

Again we put up a signal for help and this time the Church and the humanitarian community came running to the chicken run. It has taken them a bit of time to get organised but I think they are now nearly on top of the situation and getting help to all the victims. Although the regime has deployed their thugs to every district in the country, the resulting violence and intimidation is patchy. This can only be ascribed to unwilling leadership, reluctance on the part of the actual brown shirts themselves and fear of local retribution. In fact there has been a fair amount of the latter and a number of Zanu PF leaders have paid a price for their action. The Police seem to be taking a much more neutral stance - very welcome and long overdue. However they are still reluctant to take the wild cats in the chicken run into detention - perhaps afraid they might bite them!

The noise coming from the chicken run following this development has attracted others - long time friends in the international community have intensified their efforts on our behalf. The British Prime Minister traveled to the UN where under the baleful glare of Thabo Mbeki he made a strong and unequivocal statement on Zimbabwe. 'The election had been rigged and the international community cannot stand by and allow the peoples wishes to be denied'. He was followed by a string of other leaders including Tanzania and Botswana and the USA, even Croatia revealed they knew where the chicken run was and that what was happening in there was unacceptable.

Since then the pressure has grown significantly. Yesterday the American Under Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa was in South Africa and stated very clearly that the MDC had won the election and won it outright and no amount of fudging would change that situation. 4 senior clerics in South Africa climbed in and said that Mugabe should step down and allow a democratic transition. Alan Boesak came out swinging and said that the situation was unacceptable and resembled the old apartheid days in South Africa - about the strongest language a South African leader can use.

Under this pressure the regime here seems to have buckled. The strident confident calls for a recount and a runoff are receding. The recount is achieving nothing - so far they have simply confirmed the results of the March 29th election. The schools were going to be kept closed until the re-run took place - now they are reopening on schedule next week. The Herald and the Chronicle are shifting their position to talks about a unity government. They need not waste the paper - the MDC is never going to do a power sharing deal with the devil.

Clearly the recount exercise now has only one objective and that is to give the regime in Harare more time. What they are doing with the extra time before they depart the stage is anyone's guess. I would think they are still looting and sanitizing their offices and perhaps looking for somewhere to go where they can be safe and keep their ill-gotten gains. I would think that if you watched Mengistu in Harare you would see that such moves are afoot.

Today the former President of Zimbabwe is in my hometown opening the International Trade Fair. It will be his swan song and just for that reason it should be interesting. What will he say in a City that voted 90.3 per cent against him! How he can dare to even come to Bulawayo in a region where he is guilty of thousands of deaths and enormous suffering is just another example of the phrase the 'cheek of the devil'. I hope he notes that this year anyway - that the word 'international' should be taken out of the name of the Fair. 'Village flea market' might be more appropriate. Next year will be better!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 25th April 2008