My One Man Fan Club

I have been in public life long enough to know that nobody is as fickle as the public. One day you might be a hero, the next an outcast, I have been both - often! It helps to have a fan club and I have mine. He is four years old and has my daughter as his mother.

Of course he is not old enough to really make a value judgment but that is just part of the magic. When I was campaigning for my seat in the March election, the party printed a poster with my face on it and this was plastered all over the place. Some how Keith got hold of a copy and when he went to a function with my daughter, he proudly marched about among all the adults, showing off his poster to anyone who would listen to him. This is my Grandpa he said.

At home he insisted on having the poster stuck to the wall above his bed where it remains today. We have a great relationship and I must say, without any bias, he is just the most intelligent and handsome young man that I know.

My son has four girls and my relationship with them is a bit different - I have competition in the form of my son who is a rather special person. There is no doubt in the girlís mind whom they support, I am still Granddad Cross, but he is Dad. His eldest is almost a teenager, most people dread that age - I have always thought of it as a time of mutual discovery and change. She is going to be a stunning young lady, tall and slim with long auburn hair and big eyes that will one day slay the boys left and right.

Girls have their first love affairs with their dads, or that is how it should be. In this case I have no doubt that each of the four will go through such a phase. During this they can hug him and he can hold them close without threat of any ulterior motive - just to be close. He is about the only man they can trust like that until they themselves fall in love and get into a relationship outside the family. It is a crucial time for both the young lady and her dad.

He, because when this special short term relationship takes place, probably over 40, a bit jaded, knows he is not going to be the next President, and this special time builds his confidence as a person and gives life a special meaning. For her itís a time of discovery - what makes a man tick? Her own life is changing as she goes through puberty and soon she will be through that time and suddenly discovering boys.

What is vital for both in such special relationships is time. The man must find time at the peak of his career to spend time with his girls - individually. A good friend of mine who is a doctor in Botswana took his daughter to London when she turned 12, just the two of them. They went to shows and functions and she had his undivided attention, she will never forget that time and neither will he.

Many men miss this experience and in doing so they miss something of the real nature of life itself. Girls and boys who grow up without a loving relationship with their parents miss out on something that is very special. I believe in the extended family - in my own case both of our parents died at home in their retirement. My father lived with us for 17 years before he died. We were glad to give them security and companionship as they grew older and our children benefited from their presence and experience.

One of the key objectives of the MDC in seeking to create a new Zimbabwe is to rebuild family life. This is only possible if we tackle a whole host of issues and problems all at once. In most southern African countries one of the most damaging features of the pre Independence period was the destruction of family life. It started when young men and women - freed from the shackles of rural life by education, moved to the urban areas to find work. Such work may have been 2000 kilometers away in the mines of South Africa or just 200 kilometers away in the nearest urban centre. Once there they grew away from 'kumusha' (home) and became, in many cases people with no totem - as Mugabe once called it. People without roots.

One of the consequences is generations of young people growing up without any experience of the rich family life experiences that my son and I have. This is damaging to both and is one of the basic causes of so much social dislocation seen in the urban townships of southern Africa.

To remedy this we have to destroy the migrant labour system and enable people to live as whole families adjacent to their places of work. This means higher basic wages so that workers can care for their whole families, long-term security and pensions, good basic education and health services. These are not luxuries, they are necessities and a stable, healthy society cannot be constructed without them being in existence.

It means home ownership and secure title to land rights in both urban and rural areas. It means making it possible for the rural home to become once again, a secure place to live and raise a family and not just a rural dormitory for migrant families. It means making it possible, through sound macro economic policies for working men and women to raise their families and enjoy a life style that is competitive with the alternatives in the world. Too many families here in recent years have been broken up by one bread winner moving away to try and make a living somewhere else - sending money home to keep his or her family alive and robbing both themselves and their families of that special experience of real whole family life.

I spoke to another grandfather the other day who traveled up to Lusaka to watch his grandson play cricket. I know that the boy would have reveled in knowing that he was there and rooting for him. You cannot do that if the cricket match was in Sydney, Australia.

This is just one of the reasons we are in this fight to end to tyrannical rule of Robert Mugabe, perhaps the most important to me personally. I want to see the single quarter hostels in Magaba, Mbare converted into whole family flats owned by their occupants. I want to see men picking up their children from school and attending school board meetings. I want every man to know how special it is to have a little 4-year-old call you grandpa and want you to tuck him into bed at night. I want every girl to look back on her youth and realize how important her father was to her. Is there anything else in the world so important? Let me tell you its worth giving your life for - any day.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 24th May 2008