Its do or die time

At Church this morning in Midrand, two men who had just arrived in South Africa looking for work approached me. They were both experienced teachers and both were MDC people. They simply told me that they had no choice but to try and find work in South Africa - any sort of work, to survive and to send some funds home to keep their families alive.

They are micros of the flood tide of humanity that is now moving south from Zimbabwe. Desperately needed at home, committed to their country, but faced with no other choice but to flee the country of their birth for a squatter camp somewhere in South Africa and then to try and eek out an existence doing whatever they can find to do.

Yesterday I watched Mugabe speak at a funeral in Harare where he said that he would never allow the MDC to take power. There was no doubt about his meaning - he was very clear and the language graphic. Interviewed on SABC the poor Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa was asked to confirm that this was the position of the Zimbabwe government. What else could he say but that the media in SA had misconstrued Mugabe's remarks!! Nothing could be further from the truth and S K Moyo knows that full well.

I also watched the SA Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Paghad respond to journalists at a media briefing and saying that 'all these things' (reports of violence, illegal detention, denial of ordinary democratic rights) were the responsibility of the SADC observer mission that was now on the ground. He said the mission had a wide mandate. I see that the US has been asked to pay for the SADC mission - what happened to sovereignty?

Mugabe's remarks about his declared intent to deny a transfer of power to the MDC no matter what the outcome of the election is both an acceptance of the fact that he is likely to be defeated and a flat refusal to accept that the people of Zimbabwe have the right to vote and decide in secrecy as to who their new leadership should be. Here we are three months after the 29th of March and not one of the results of that election has been implemented. Not a single Council has been sworn into position, not a single MP or Senator has been sworn in and all Ministers, even those who were defeated in the election, remain in office and drawing their full allowances.

This is a frontal attack on democracy by a full member of the SADC and the AU. It is a direct challenge to Mbeki and his team of facilitators who have worked for 15 months to bring about this very electoral process. All that has been said and done by anyone with direct responsibility for this shameful state of affairs is to wring their hands ineffectually and say that 'what more could they do'? Mbeki's snide remarks in the House of Assembly in Cape Town this week of 'do you want us to throw stones at Mugabe?' fall into this category. My personal response would have been that it might help! Certainly preferable to a bland silence that Mugabe rightly interprets as acceptance and approval.

At home the US dollar has cruised to Z$4 billion even with three zero's knocked off at the end. A payment through a bank is now halved in valued when it is finally credited to your account. Cash is impossible to come by and the payment of the very large denomination bills by financial institutions simply creates problems for both customers and the business community.

There is no food in the markets - bread is almost unobtainable, maize meal, the basic staple food, is only available in small quantities and via Zanu PF political structures - and I thought that the manipulation of food supplies was a crime against humanity? Government institutions that can only adjust their prices after consultation simply cannot keep pace with the situation - a return flight on Air Zimbabwe to London is about US$200 - a real bargain in any language and that is business class!

In the hope that change might happen after the election, many have held on and kept their businesses open, paid staff and sacrificed. If the outcome of the run off on 27 June 2008 is one that retains the status quo many, if not most, will reach the end of their tether.

Recently I have become more and more irritated with the frequent claim by Mugabe that the MDC is a puppet of the West - in particular, Britain and the United States. Mbeki shares this view even though he knows full well that the MDC is a homegrown opposition movement based on a mass membership. Not so, Bright Mutonga, the Zimbabwean government spokesman at present, went even further and said last week that the US had given MDC and other NGO organizations US$6 million and that Britain had given these same groups over 3 million pounds.

Apart from the fact that the MDC has seen very little funding from any overseas sources since its inception and very little from the business community and none at all from the British administration, it is difficult to refute such puerile arguments. We are not a liberation movement - but many of our leadership served in the liberation struggle even helped lead that struggle. We do not want to back to that route as a means of 'regime change' - we simply want our democratic rights as citizens of an independent state to be respected. Is that such a threat to present leadership in many African States that they are prepared to allow Mugabe and his henchmen to get away with the farce that is taking place here right at this time.

I watched Tendai Biti go to Court on Saturday in chains and shackles - what a mockery of everything that the South African and SADC leadership is saying that they stand for. Three days ago he was in sponsored talks in Pretoria on the possibility of a negotiated outcome to the present impasse. He was given assurances that his personal safety and security would be respected. This is simply not good enough and I hope that the leaders of the G8 make that point to any African leaders with whom they have to deal in future. At the same time what courage he has showed, the shame is on South Africa!.

If African leadership fails us again on the 27th June, it will be a step too far for Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans. If you want a shooting war then so be it, but do not blame us when we start. Do you want South Africa to find itself firmly fixed on that slippery slope that so many African States have ended up on and to slide into corruption, negative growth, the collapse of economic and social institutions and despotic authoritarian leadership?

Or are we going to see African leadership standing by their numerous commitments to principle and insisting that the Zanu PF regime step aside and go into political opposition in a new dispensation. That would make all the difference, its do or die time.

Eddie Cross
Johannesburg, 15th June 2008