A New Beginning, a New Zimbabwe

In March 2006 the MDC held its Congress in Harare and 22 500 delegates and guests spent two days working out what to do to get the process of change back on track in Zimbabwe. Six months previously the MDC had experienced a split in its leadership that had weakened its structures and undermined it's standing in the whole process.

In addition to electing leadership and resolving to rebuild and fight on, the MDC adopted a road map' back to democracy. This involved getting the planned elections scheduled for June 2010 back to the date originally set of March 2008, negotiating conditions for a free and fair election and then fighting that election and setting the course to a new dispensation in the aftermath.

Looking back now, after the negotiations concluded last night in Harare, we can say that nearly all of those goals were achieved. We got the elections rescheduled to March, we negotiated critical reforms, won the subsequent election and then had to deal with a fight back by Zanu PF, now desperate to hold onto power at all costs.

In the context of an escalating economic and political crisis and faced with growing hostility in the region and Africa as a whole, Zanu PF simply could not hold its position. They were forced into talks with the MDC and after six months of tortuous negotiations under the guidance of President Mbeki, a deal was eventually crafted that all parties were able to endorse - albeit reluctantly.

Final closure came yesterday when Mugabe was finally compelled to agree to a compromise put to the talks on Tuesday by the MDC leadership. There are all sorts of stories floating about on the deal but we will not get sight of it until Monday morning when it is signed at 10.00 hrs in Harare. However I think we can claim that while we did not get everything we wanted, the final arrangement is workable and should be good enough to see us through the process that lies ahead.

Under the agreement both the major parties have no choice but to work together and on a consensual basis to resolve the economic and political crisis that faces the country. The MDC on balance holds a fine majority in the new administration but not enough to allow it to bulldoze its way through the issues that confront us. This will not be easy. MDC has seen many hundreds of its leadership and ordinary members murdered, tortured, beaten, raped and their personal assets destroyed. Now we are required by this agreement to work with our tormentors!

Our first task is to put together a new Cabinet to run the country. With 31 Ministers and 15 Deputies plus a Prime Minister and two Deputies this is going to be cumbersome. We had wanted 15 Ministers and no Deputies. The present Zanu Cabinet has 58 Ministers and Deputies. We have 18 months to put together a new Constitution and to start the process of stabilisation and recovery.

My own calculations put inflation right now at 334 million percent - it was 3,2 million in June 32 million in July and now 334 million in August; and still climbing. On top of this our Cities have restricted water and little electricity, fuel is expensive and scarce, food is almost unobtainable. Preparations for the next cropping season have hardly begun and yet another year of food production has been lost. Half our kids are not in school and our hospitals are on strike.

Getting consensus on the many issues that confront the new government will not be easy, implementation will also be difficult. The one great advantage that we do have is that everyone is now desperate to change things and get us back on our feet. In fact I think we will be surprised when we do start work at just how relieved our Zanu PF colleagues will be, to be able to start to do the right things.

We have not been idle, a detailed and comprehensive stabilisation and recovery plan is in existence and we have plans on how to deal with the humanitarian crisis. The international community has likewise not been idle - they have structures in place and have made arrangements to respond to our needs in a significant way.

But in the end this is our task - this was a solution negotiated and mandated by African leadership, not the United Nations or any international group. This was an agreement worked out by Zimbabweans with the minimal of outside help or pressure. It is up to us to deliver a better life to the Zimbabweans people.

At our 2006 Congress we adopted the slogan 'A New Beginning, a NEW Zimbabwe' . We are there. Rather than celebrating we should all be pondering what could I do, to make that dream a reality. It's our task to do so.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, September 12th 2008