The Century of Cyberspace

If one was to characterise different periods of world history you could decide to do it in several ways - the 19th Century was perhaps the century of steam, the 20th perhaps the fossil fuels century, this century may well be called the century of cyberspace. When I started this weekly letter it was to keep a few friends informed of what was going on in the political sphere. It now goes out to a base line circulation of several thousand individuals and they in turn circulate it to thousands more.

Some friends offered to start a website - just titled Eddie and if you Google my name, you will find nearly two million entries. It gets about 10 000 hits a month - mainly in the States but also in many other countries, even the far-flung corners of Russia. All sorts of people tell me they read my letters and they are published on a regular basis by newspapers and other journals - mainly because they are free I suspect!

Then along came Obama. A friend in Harare made a donation to both the Republican and the Democratic campaigns - each of US$500. The response from Obama was immediate - a personal note from the man himself and then on a regular basis, he got updates on the campaign, on policy and current affairs. From the Republicans - a polite thank you from an official in Washington DC. You know who raised more money, you know who won the campaign - now you know partly why!

Even here the war in cyberspace is fierce. I had an attack on my website - they penetrated the codes used to protect its contents and scrambled my content and inserted some funnies - it took my friends a few days to sort it out. Zanu PF took a long time to appreciate the importance of the web in their affairs but are now at it full time with a number of websites - none of which tell you they have anything to do with Zanu PF or with the Zimbabwe regime, but are still vehicles for their brand of disinformation and propaganda.

MDC has never been very good at this sort of thing to the despair of many. At the start we had two volunteers who took up the cudgels and started a MDC website. In 2001 they won a global award for the best political website in the world. When they had done their service and retired to other things, we slumped and the battle was left to a number of enthusiastic individuals who took it upon themselves to fight the good fight. ZW News was one result - Graham fighting a lone battle in London - a fight that he has continued to maintain for 8 years now.

I know of others, who for a fee will scan the web every day and respond to debates on virtually anything on an hourly basis - they never seem to sleep. Zanu PF has employed such people in the past and continues to do so. MDC now has several sites - none of which really set the world on fire but we are better than we used to be. However we come nowhere near the efficiency and intensity of the Obama campaign.

At lunch today, taken in glorious weather at the Hillside Dams in Bulawayo, one of our lunch companions referred to a Zanu PF propagandist as an 'evil genius'. I concurred. Just look at what these guys did to Morgan this past week.

It started at the Zuma inauguration in Pretoria a month ago. A woman arrived at Morgan's doorstep claiming to be a relative (in Shona culture that is used as an immediate establishment of a contact with obligation - at least to be courteous). She had an invitation to the inauguration but needed a ride - could MT oblige? Certainly. On arrival at the venue a photographer appeared and he was captured with this woman - well dressed and attractive and this photo got everybody talking.

Unbeknown to Morgan she had been involved in an attempt to grab a home and small farm outside Chegutu. No sooner had she been identified as a 'relative' and linked to MT than she resumed the attempted theft of private property in Chegutu. Just as MT left for the United States the case suddenly is brought to the surface and presented as an example of his duplicity - how can MT attack the farm invasions if his own relatives were involved?

As soon as he had landed in the States he instructed his staff to call this women and to tell her to withdraw her claim and break off the illegal action or he would issue a statement condemning the woman's actions. Immediately a story appeared stating that she had said that it was her 'right' to claim the property and that her claim was legal. She has been living in the United States for 30 years and has no possible rights to act in the manner she has. My own advice to the US government is to pull her green card and kick her out and then allow the Chegutu family to sue her US estate for damages.

I spoke to a meeting yesterday in Ward 5 in Bulawayo - well attended and found that they all knew about this case and wanted to know what the real facts were, I was astounded when I found out how well informed even ordinary people were of the facts in a case like this. Mainly because the transmission of information today - even misinformation, is instantaneous and is broadcast into remote corners of this country by one of the radio services.

I think the visit to the US and Europe is going very well, it gives the leadership of the main players on the global stage a chance to get the measure of MT and to appreciate his personal capacity and charm. It is yielding the results we expected - the passing of a resolution by the US Congress just prior to the Obama meeting basically to establish the boundaries of reengagement by the US government and to specifically state that there will be no lifting of sanctions or restrictions until more progress towards democracy and justice is achieved.

The new funding announced by the US Government (another $73 million) comes on top of an existing programme of $250 million for humanitarian assistance and another $200 million under the global fund for health needs, raising the total of the US governments commitments to Zimbabwe to over half a billion dollars - all of it in the form of grant aid, extraordinary in any language.

Unless you are linked into the cyberspace war, you are unlikely to hear or see anything like that in the media - especially here in Zimbabwe, but it marks out the rules of the game for the next two years - major leaders like Obama are firmly on our side in this fight and if we do our part, you can be sure we will achieve what Morgan promised the US President - 18 months to an election when the people of Zimbabwe, at last, can elect a government of their own choice.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 14th June 2009