Christmas is missing

There will be very little to celebrate this Christmas in Zimbabwe if you're not a Christian. There is very little food - my trousers are all hanging on me as I have lost so much weight in recent months. There is very little sign of any progress politically and the economic and humanitarian crisis just goes on deepening. For thousands this will be a Christmas to forget and many will spend the holiday grieving over loved ones lost.

Since the start of 2008 some 560 people have been abducted - the bodies of only 220 have been found, many mutilated and burned almost beyond recognition. In the past three weeks some 44 people have been abducted - Gandhi Mudzingwa, a senior MDC activist was taken at 16.00 hours in a busy street and his companion dumped on the street while the abductors - all men with arms, sped off. Justina Mukoko was abducted from home at 5 am in front of her children, was taken dressed only in a nightdress and without her glasses or heart medicine.

On his way to Parliament a senior MDC leader was the victim of an attempted abduction in the early afternoon in traffic - the brazenness of these attacks stands out, the perpetrators are all armed, in numbers, driving unmarked cars - many without number plates and they show no fear of arrest or discovery. Just who are they? Of one thing you can be sure - they are organised, financed and protected by the Junta that runs the country today.

In Parliament this week, MDC legislators hammered the message home - 'these are violations of human rights, they are crimes against humanity and will not be forgiven or forgotten'. The perpetrators were put on notice; they will eventually, be brought to book.

On the political front it was not a great week - at least in public. After the success of the week before where President Motlanthe had forced the Zanu PF negotiators to accept a draft of the required constitutional amendments to implement the SADC Agreement, he had thought the game was over. He wrote a letter to the Parties saying that they should get on with the amendments and then immediately form a government.

Mugabe responded by writing to Morgan Tsvangirai and inviting him to come to Harare and be sworn in as Prime Minister. Tsvangirai's response was that Mugabe had no right to swear in anybody - he was not President until the Parliament of Zimbabwe said so after adopting the 19th Amendment. We do not have a legitimate government at present and do what they will, Zanu cannot pretend otherwise. Nothing they are doing has any legal foundation, and they know it.

Instead Tsvangirai demanded that the remaining issues be dealt with by the negotiators , the structure and composition of the National Security Council, the equitable allocation of Ministerial Portfolios and the appointment of Governors. In addition, Tsvangirai added a new demand - produce all the people abducted by the 1st of January or the MDC will break off all contacts with Zanu PF.

I have seen comment in South Africa that these are empty threats - they are not. I can assure everyone that Morgan Tsvangirai is determined not to move one iota before these demands are met in full. If MDC does withdraw from the SADC brokered deal then the country and the region have a very real problem. There can be no solution to the Zimbabwe crisis without the MDC and if a solution is not found soon, the consequences for the country and the region are dire.

I represent a constituency with thousands of poor, struggling people in a high-density area of Bulawayo. I rub shoulders with Zimbabweans from all walks of life every day. I know of no one - not a single person, who would advise Morgan otherwise. Even though they must struggle to live and face a completely uncertain future, Zimbabwe is saying to us do not give in and do not go in until we have a fair and workable deal with MDC in charge of Government.

So the ball is now in Motlanthe's court once again. Zanu PF is in turmoil. On Tuesday night their Harare Province was electing new leadership and violence broke out. Live ammunition was used and we understand there were deaths and injuries. Amos Midzi - a former Minister, was forced to run for his life. The Police were called and fired tear gas to quell the trouble - the State media completely ignored the incident. Number three in the military hierarchy and a member of the Junta was driving on his farm in Shamva when he was ambushed and shot. His car was riddled with bullet holes and there is no sign of him at present - he is not in any private hospital and all the State run hospitals are closed. Our information is that this was an inside job.

This past week the debate in Parliament has been a nightmare for Zanu PF. Several issues were debated and a resolution on the food crisis by the MDC was adopted without opposition. Debates on political violence, the health crisis and on the false allegations about the MDC training militia were also debated - almost completely without opposition from the Zanu benches. I was pleased with the quality of the contributions and the courage of the speakers - after all they were standing three metres away from Emmerson Mnangagwa who is nicknamed the 'crocodile' and who sits in his place with his eyes almost closed but listens to every word that is being said.

But I am convinced that South Africa will now take appropriate action to ensure that the MDC demands are met, in full and quickly. I would not be surprised to see this happen before Christmas. Then we might, just might, have something to celebrate.

At this time of the year we celebrate the birth of Christ. He came as an ordinary baby to an ordinary family and was raised in poor circumstances and trained as a manual worker. He never held high office, ministered for a mere three years before being convicted as a criminal and murdered in one of the most cruel manners still known to man. His death closed a chapter of hope for his people - a subject community held in abject slavery to Roman dominance and colonial cruelty. His small band of disciples were shattered and thought that it was all over, the light of their lives had gone out.

But Christmas was followed by Easter and the miracle of the resurrection with its confirmation that everything Christ had said and done was true. Defeat was transformed into triumph, slavery into freedom, colonial domination to self-government and discipline. Nothing was the same again - the world was turned the right side up.

We know from history that tyrants always get their comeuppance. We know that truth and justice always prevails. But we also know that change, real change takes a lot of pain and that is what we have been experiencing in the past ten years. Outside my office right now it's a glorious day - about 25 c with deep blue skies and a light breeze. The veld is a verdant green, the rains have come and the long dry season is over, perhaps this Christmas will be a turning point for us, what a gift that would be!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 20th December 2008