How to Handle the Wounded Buffalo

Many of you will recall my story about the old buffalo bull that was shot by hunters and retired into the Jessie bush to recover. I have been asked on several occasions what happened to the old dagga boy. He never did come out of the Jess and I think we can assume that he is still seriously injured and relies on the Jess to protect and shelter him.

I have just read a book on the establishment of the Gona re Zhou National Park in the southeast lowveld where the author came across a similar situation except that in this case the old dagga boy had been shot by poachers with a dum dum bullet and had a badly injured right shoulder. This animal discovered the District Commissioner had established a no hunting zone around his offices and he sought sanctuary there - grazing within a few metres of the offices and staff houses.

He never did fully recover but did gain confidence and would wonder away from his sanctuary on occasion. One evening the DC heard a huge fight going on down at the river and in the morning he went down to investigate what had happened - he found evidence of a fight between the old buffalo bull and two male lions. The buffalo had backed against the river bank which at that point was a sheer drop of some metres, there with his back against the bank, he had fought off the two adversaries and in the process actually broke one of his horns off in the attack. He resumed his habit of staying close to the office and died of old age a couple of years later.

My old dagga boy has done a similar thing - knowing full well that going out into the open and confronting his enemy, he would be no match for them and receive the inevitable fatal bullet. So he has stayed in the Jessie provided by the GPA and is trying to recover his strength but has not been able to get back his health and will probably have to accept that he is no longer up to the fight. Like the old dagga boy in the lowveld, I expect him to retire and live out the remainder of his life close to the only sanctuary he has - one created by an old adversary turned protector.

In other words this old buffalo bull has run his course and is no longer able to have anything more to do with the real fight for the future of the herd. Of course he was not alone in the original contact, but he was the dominant bull and his skill and cunning had kept the herd together and pointed in the direction he wanted to go but is now without effective leadership and therefore very vulnerable.

I have stated on several occasions recently that the GPA process offers no hope to Zanu PF. If the road map is implemented and followed as is being demanded by regional States, then in about a years time, Zanu PF would have to come out of the Jessie and face the MDC. But this time it would be under very different circumstances that would be tantamount to a turkey shoot.

A new electoral Act will be in place, with a new voters roll that actually reflects the nature and distribution of the population. New delimitation would have reduced the number of seats in the so-called Zanu controlled areas and increased the number of seats in the MDC areas, the media would be under professional management and control with independent radio and newspapers. The campaign, voting, counting and reporting would be controlled by an independent Electoral Commission and watched by a skeptical region and an even more skeptical world community. The Military and the CIO would be unable to do what they have done in all recent elections - no targeted violence and intimidation, no killings of MDC activists and officials, no assistance to Zanu PF candidates and leadership.

Zanu PF under such conditions would be naked in a blizzard. They would not survive, I doubt if they could win even the three seats that Muzorewa won in 1980, and they know it. So what options do they have? I am afraid they have only one. Like the old dagga boy in Nuanetsi, they have to do a deal with their archenemy, the MDC. The big Mzwiti who up to now they have viewed with distain and contempt. Now the MDC is their only friend and the lions of Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina are also out there and are hungry.

Our obligation is to see that change takes place in a peaceful, legal and democratic manner. The only way for that to happen and to allow Zanu PF some sort of protection in the last years of its life, is to do a deal and this involves Zanu PF going back to the proposal that MDC put on the table in December last year. Limit the election that is coming to a contest for the Presidency.

If the price of such a transition is going to be a decent retirement for the old dagga boy, so be it, it is cheap at any price. If the price involves giving the same protection to the dagga boy's gang called the JOC, so be it. It is better than a savage fight with the old dagga boy's backs against the bank of the river and still able to gore its opponents and perhaps do serious damage to the rest of us.

What Zanu PF is only just appreciating is that the SADC has joined the line of beaters that is driving the old wounded buffalo from his place in the Jess. If they delay, soon it will be too late and their calls for a harmonized election will come to fruition - but only after they have been forced to concede the ground on which that battle will take place. There are many who would say let the day come, we have been waiting a long time for this and cannot wait for the final shot to go in. Time is not on their side.

The danger of that course is that the final showdown will be a real battle between titans and the grass and trees will suffer more than necessary. The only answer is to do a deal, accept the inevitable and arrange, like Smith in 1976, to watch the final in this series to be played out on a field and in a game that does not call for any more suffering. Then we can all get on with rebuilding this broken land of our.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, July 23rd 2011