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
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 girl's 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 it's 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.
Bulawayo, 24th May 2008