Following the Wounded Buffalo

You will recall my analogy last year of the wounded Buffalo in the Jesse. Well I thought today I should revisit this situation and find out just what has happened since then.

Visibility in lowveld Jesse is not more than 5 metres and when wounded, a typical buffalo will quickly find refuge in such bush where he can wait for the inevitable pursuit. Anyone who has hunted Buffalo will know they are extremely wily and dangerous. They will back track and wait alongside their recent spoor to see what is coming and stand completely still until they can start that short furious dash that so often has resulted in a rather painful flight into a nearby thorn bush or worse still impalement on his horns and possible death for the hunter.

In our case the buffalo has been mortally wounded and he knows it - but there is a lot of life in the old bull and he has some real dagga boys with him. He knows pursuit is inevitable but has time and the environment on his side. The question is what are his tactics?

Well, first he understands this is a fight to the finish. Secondly he knows that stealth and silence are essential, so he keeps his true intentions a closely guarded secret. Thirdly, deception is a great help when it is available. Cut off from the rich grass of the riverine bush and the vlei’s his other need is nutrition and water. Both are scarce and the sun is hot over head.

They have found a patch of rich grass and browse at a place called Marange - there they are finding the resources and water for the fight back. They know the hunters are aware of the secret grazing but are confident that because it is well into the Jesse they cannot be approached without warning.

For the rest they understand that there is little they can do if the hunters catch up with them and are able to train their weapons on them before the bulls get going and therefore they strategise every day - constantly moving and hiding in different locations - always watching what is happening and keeping an eye on the weather.

So Zanu PF fights on. They have latched onto the illegal mining operations at Marange and despite the pressure from the whole world through the diamond trade and despite a High Court ruling that the diamond find belongs to a British firm - ACR and the diamonds being produced and marketed are stolen property, they are pressing on with total disregard for the legal niceties and international and regional opinion.

The real problem is that while output was fairly modest in 2009, production has escalated sharply with the introduction of new capital and equipment. So much so that I understand the volume now being traded is impacting globally on prices. This has far reaching implications for the political crisis in Zimbabwe and could affect the entire region. The funds being generated from Marange far exceed the yield of blood diamonds in Sierra Leone which led to regional instability and violence in West Africa .

With these funds Zanu PF is now receiving the resources required for the fight back. They can pay members of the armed forces and militia and support their political programme of violence and intimidation. They can make mischief in the region as they so choose. But the consequences of this criminal activity for countries like Botswana and the other regional States is such that they must be becoming increasingly alarmed at this turn in events.

The GPA process is becoming a joke as it is now 16 months since we signed the agreement in Harare, almost 12 months since we formed the Transitional Government and only 12 per cent of the agreement has been implemented - all of that exclusively by the MDC. Zanu PF has made a complete fool out of SADC and continues to flagrantly defy regional rulings and requests while they play games with the South African facilitators. Just look at the process since the MDC suspension of contact with Zanu PF in the State when Bennett was rearrested and charged falsely with crimes against the State. Mugabe is on leave and I understand that there will be no further discussions on the implementation of the GPA until February.

While they fiddle - Zimbabwe burns. No progress with health and education or economic recovery and investment. No reduction in political violence and human rights violations. No change in the media and the daily outpouring of propaganda. No change in respect for Court judgements and ethnic cleansing goes on in farming districts. We are in the middle of a lousy rainy season and another crop failure looms with an exhausted donor community and new challenges such as Haiti on their minds.

If regional leaders do not take effective action in the near future, MDC will have no choice but to go into the Jesse on its own and try to finish this fight on the wounded buffalo’s territory. Only those who have been there before know how dangerous that game can be. But we will have no choice.

In plain terms this would mean a messy reform process, a totally inadequate situation of electoral and governance reforms with continued international suspicion and hostility and finally an election held under very similar conditions to those in March 2008. An uneven playing field, complete Zanu PF control in rural districts and a corrupt and distorted electoral process that is vulnerable to manipulation and deceit.

Can we win in such circumstances - of course we can but the danger is that if we do not, then the hunter may be fatally wounded himself and the region will have to decide whether to leave the old bull to die on his own and simply let Zimbabwe slide back into the chaos and collapse that characterised our situation before the Transitional Government was formed. We could be back at square one.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo , 24th January 2010