The Zimbabwe Crisis in Focus

With so much going on, the crisis in Zimbabwe hardly rates attention. But in the midst of an electrifying election in the USA, the global meltdown in financial and stock markets and the fast changing situation in South Africa, we must be reasonably satisfied that we are not forgotten.

By and large events have strengthened the hands of those who seek a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. The new leadership in South Africa is more amenable to democratic change in Zimbabwe and there is no doubt that the Obama administration will continue the policies of the Bush administration in Africa. If anything pressure from Obama will be more difficult for the regime in Harare to handle.

In the context of the global financial crisis it also seems that international donors remain committed to the stabilisation and reconstruction of the Zimbabwe economy, once we demonstrate that we are implementing new policies that will deliver change and growth with respect for the rule of law and the norms of good governance.

The failure of the SADC leadership to resolve the crisis is a disappointment but it's by no means the end of the road. The response by the MDC gives regional leaders a chance to support the implementation of the Global Agreement in a way that makes it possible to start the process of stabilisation and recovery. Initial reaction to the MDC position is positive - it looks as if Zanu PF and Mutambara will not be able to go ahead with a new government until the demands of the MDC are met.

How quickly those demands can be satisfied is entirely in the hands of the local leaders. A draft of the required legislation exists, Parliament is on stand by to meet to debate the draft and then vote it into effect. All Parties are then ready to nominate their candidates for the many positions that must be filled to bring a new administration into existence.

Once the new government takes over from the Junta it can then begin meeting the laid down benchmarks that have been decided we must satisfy to qualify for aid. These are not onerous and this should be achieved quite quickly. As they are satisfied the volume of aid will gradually escalate until it is able to meet our essential needs.

But time is not on our side, the situation in Zimbabwe is deteriorating rapidly. Most children of school going age are no longer in school, 2008 has been almost a complete failure, pass rates in public examinations are expected to fall to 3 per cent. We now have outbreaks of Cholera in many centres - in Harare it is out of control with hundreds being affected.

The food crisis is spiralling out of hand - hundreds of thousands of our people are facing starvation. People are collapsing in queues, children are dying of malnutrition and hunger. Deaths from disease now outnumber deaths from aging by a wide margin - perhaps 3 to 1.

But perhaps most seriously is the rapid reduction in our capacity to recover from the crisis once its roots are torn out. Government departments are perhaps most affected - nearly all are shadows of their recent past. Skilled and experienced civil servants are fleeing in droves. In my last letter I mentioned that a recent survey had said that 53 per cent of all Zimbabweans had considered emigration in 2008. In fact I have seen the survey now and the actual figure was 43 per cent of all Zimbabweans having attempted to leave the country since 2000. This was in a sample of those who still live here - it shows just how widespread and substantial the flight of our human capital has been,

Estimates of our current population are as low as 7 million. I do not think it is as small as that - but it could be 8 million. If that is so then Zimbabweans in the Diaspora must be approaching 5 million. That assumes that 3 million have died since 1997 as a consequence of rising death rates from a myriad of ailments.

In the private sector many executives and owners have hung on hoping that change would come in time to save what was left of their enterprise. Even the most determined are now giving up the struggle to keep their businesses running. A long time ago they lost many of the skills they needed to run their enterprise properly - but what is happening now will make it very difficult to resurrect the business network that essentially have kept Zimbabwe on its feet through the crisis.

As one of the 'change brigade', I have always striven to encourage people to hold on and fight to maintain their homes and enterprise in the belief that eventually we would get change. But I never thought that this struggle would last 10 years. But it has and I still think that the end is in sight even though it's hard to see that at present.

So where does this put us? Well first of all, I think our struggle to establish the conditions needed to put Zimbabwe back on its feet has been worth all the sacrifice - we have all given up a great deal to stay and see this thing through. We are not wavering in the struggle - not for one minute. We are right; we have chosen the difficult but principled route and will stay the course for as long as it takes.

But it is becoming very difficult to persuade others to stay the course with us in these terrible conditions. But to those who choose to stay the course, I want to say a special thank you for your courage and commitment. I respect the decision of those who feel that the price of staying is too high and decide to go. You go with our blessings and wishes that wherever you land you will make a home and will not forget those of us who chose to stay and fight.

But all of you can help us love our neighbours - we need your help, wherever you are, to try and meet the immediate needs of those who live around us. About US$25 a month will feed a family for a month. We need to keep people alive while we fight for their rights and our future. So much of official aid and commercial supplies controlled by the Junta are denied to millions - you can help us defeat this tyranny by standing with us in this way. If you want to know how, just drop me a line.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 15th November 2008