The Beachhead Expanded

The situation in Zimbabwe is really difficult to read right now. I have journalists and analyst friends who are watchers with a lifetime of experience and knowledge and they simply cannot make out what is going on. One of my early ancestors fought with Robert the Bruce in Scotland against the English and I can just imagine what that must have been like - thousands of men with simple arms running at each other and doing battle. From the sidelines the men in command would be watching and I am sure that it would not be clear for some time, who was winning.

When the Allies landed at Normandy, even though they had prepared meticulously and used deceit and guile to confuse those defending the beaches of Normandy, they could not have guaranteed what the early outcome would be. The smoke and confusion, noise and the inevitable muddles that accompany such an operation would guarantee that progress could not be reported on for many hours - maybe days.

So it is in Zimbabwe. MDC has opened a beachhead in hostile territory that has been under Zanu PF control for 29 years. Anyone who thought that those who did not want this would give up and lie down, are naÔve. Many argued that we should never have gone in - should have waited until the collapse in the country beyond the beachhead would soften up the opposition. Our problem was that our invasion fleet was already at sea and turning back was not an option, we had to take our chances on the beaches.

The opposition had been trying for a couple of years to get us to abandon the landings. They tried every ruse in the book, even holding some of our troops for ransom and exerting every provocation. When we eventually went in, they were taken by surprise and were then forced to fight back. By then it was too late for them - we were on their territory and were well prepared and equipped.

What we found when we landed was a seriously disillusioned population and a force whose rank and file no longer had the stomach for the fight. Although their elite forces and many senior officers were still loyal and had some resources and weapons, they are greatly outnumbered by those who quickly changed sides.

The opposition elite have a great deal of cunning and experience and have reformed what is left of their forces and are fighting back. Like all such conflicts it eventually rests on logistics - who can fight on longest and who has the better reinforcement capability. In 1944/5 that rested with the USA even though the majority of the troops on the ground were European. It was the factories of the US that actually eventually gained ascendancy at Normandy, although it was the courage of the men on the beaches that caught our attention and won our admiration.

The key to understanding what is going on in this fight lay in six chairs that were empty at Morgan Tsvangiraiís swearing in at State House 10 days ago. Their occupants were invited, came and left before the ceremony. They meet daily, in secret to plan their fight back and have financial and civilian support. The beaches are found in the Courts of the land where Bennett and Mukoko and their lawyers do battle, in the government buildings of Harare and out on the farms where skirmishes rage.

We know where their funding is coming from and who their foot soldiers are. We know who the key players are and what they are doing; we are not deceived by their seeming acquiescence in meetings with our team on the beaches. We also have two huge advantages, we are on the right side of history, are fighting to defend our own freedoms and values and our cause is just.

They seek to defend tyranny, corrupt and inept administration and vast secret abuse of basic humanity. That they are good fighters is not in dispute, that they are ruthless and willing to go to extreme lengths to get their way, is also not disputed. Itís just that they have nothing but greed and power to defend and in the end that is not enough.

Another lesson from the beaches of Normandy and perhaps my ancestors is that the men in the battle knew they were winning before it became apparent to the commanders on the hills. When they secured the beachhead and then climbed the cliffs, they found only light armour and resistance - the hard battle reinforcements were still critical days away. When they gained a village or a town and were greeted with joy and happiness by those who had cowed and cooperated with the occupation forces, the men on the ground knew they were winning.

Battles still to fight ahead and another year of conflict before Hitler died in his bunker, but they were on their way and eventually they knew victory was certain. They mourned the casualties but honoured their courage and determination. Most important of all, they knew the factories at home were working and they were not alone.

I feel the same way. Those watching from the hills cannot see what is happening on the ground - itís covered by smoke and dust. We are beyond the beachhead and are encountering resistance but nothing that we cannot handle. As we fight inland, further from the beach we watch anxiously to see if the logistics are working - because we are using our ammunition and food rations fast.

Right now the international community are watching from the hills and saying they will wait and see who wins before they send additional supplies. They are giving us the basics, but that is not enough to win. Our regional friends are coming to our aid but they do not have the capacity to really push us into a commanding position. Itís time for faith and courage. They should put their faith in our ground troops, after all we have been at it for ten years - twice as long as in the Second World War and I think we have proved our commitment to the key principles of freedom and democracy. They must exert the courage of their convictions and back us in this fight.

As for us, we are in this for as long as it takes. I can remember an interview with Golda Meier after the Six Day War in the Middle East. She was asked what the secret of the Israeli Army was. She replied, 'We have nowhere else to go'. What a privilege to be a part of the landing that brought freedom, democracy, the rule of law and justice to our own country at a time when it really mattered. Final victory is still a long way off, but at last, we are on our way.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 23rd February 2009