The Tyranny of Time

We are all aware of time. The older you get, the less time there is for anything and it seems to accelerate each year. Only when we are children does time seem interminable. Can any of us believe it is June already? The changes in the veld tell us it is winter although the clear blue skies and warm days belie that fact. So far no frost although I heard that there was light snow in Francistown the other day!!

Two years are left before we can really expect another election. That seems a long time but it will be gone in the blink of an eye and we must make sure that we are able to accomplish all we have to do by then. The list of our priorities is intimidating.

We must try to manage the affairs of State and put the country back on the path to recovery and growth. We must get all 85 local authorities back on their feet and restore basic services to ordinary households. We must get new legislation passed by the House to correct the legal environment and make conditions amenable for the restoration of our basic freedoms and rights.

If that is not enough, we must draft a new Constitution and get it passed by a referendum. We must reform the basis upon which the next elections are held so that they can be regarded as being 'free and fair'. We must rebuild the Party so that we can compete for power in the new elections and persuade the electorate that we are the people to back when it comes to creating the conditions under which Zimbabwe can be restored to its rightful place in the world.

This daunting task is made all the more difficult because we are in a transitional arrangement that requires us to work consensually on everything despite the fact that we hold diametrically different views on everything. This is compounded when you understand that within this transitional government there is a secret cabal that seeks to undermine the new government at every opportunity.

It has taken us 4 months to secure agreement on the appointment of Governors, Permanent Secretaries, Diplomats and Roy Bennett as deputy Minister of Agriculture. Such issues should have been routine matters for the new authority but became a battle ground for power and influence and even control on the ground.

Still no progress on Gono, Tomana and the rule of law. Still no progress on agriculture - in fact in this area we are still rolling backwards, down hill. No progress on reform of security services, hundreds of prisoners are still dying each month in the Prisons and the political control of the Police Service remains a problem.

I think Zanu PF understands a few new truths about the situation now and it will be interesting to see how they handle this in the weeks and months ahead. They now know we are in this deal until it runs its course and results in the adoption of a new Constitution and are able to hold an election on a free and fair basis. They also understand that if this programme of reform does take place they are basically finished.

So we can expect them to try and arrange for elections before the reform process has a chance of getting underway and taking root, we can expect them to fight the reforms that we need to create democratic space. I think they understand also that this will not be easy or without cost to themselves. They are on the wrong side of history and they simply do not know how to stop or slow down the passage of time.

We of course also suffer from the passage of time. We want to see economic recovery get underway and living standards restored, we want to see our economic institutions recovering and delivering the services we require for everyday life. We want to see our schools and hospitals operating again and the level of skills and performance being restored. None of this is going to happen anytime soon. We have to adjust to the harsh reality of life in a shattered economy and broken infrastructure.

All of this we can take if we are satisfied that at the end of it all we can expect life to become more liveable. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I have never had any doubts about the final outcome of this struggle, just had no idea of just how long it would take to get there. It has already been ten years and there have been thousands of casualties. MDC has always said this was not a sprint, it is a marathon and we must be ready for the long haul.

Telling people that we must accept another two years of hardships and struggle before real change comes is tough. Many are tired of facing the daily grind; business does not seem to get any easier. Itís that time in the race when your legs are giving way and cramp threatens, you have a stitch in your side and wonder just how you are going to tackle that long slope that you know is just around the corner.

It is at this moment that the mind must take over and your courage and determination much kick in. I spent last week in South Africa having a health check up and doing some business and MDC 'stuff'. A week of full supermarkets and street lights and no potholes. A week of heavy traffic and congestion and great meals in many different places. A week of a free press and free debate and no watching what is behind you or waiting for you when you get home.

Yet when we crossed the Limpopo there was no doubt we were home. Driving along a terrible bit of road, potholes and worse, a small car passed us and then turned and chased us waving us down. It was four leaders from the local MDC leadership - we stopped and had a great discussion on the side of the road. That would not happen in South Africa. We held a meeting in my constituency attended by at least 2000 people - poor as mice but universally cheerful, warm and welcoming. They are willing to go on for as long as it takes to finish this job, trusting us to stay the course with them and help where we can.

Back in the saddle, I discover that we have made some progress but much remains to be done. No one is going to sort out this country for us - they will and are helping but in the end it is down to us - the people who live here and who love the country and its warm hearted, courageous people. We are going to win; itís just a matter of time.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 28th May 2009