Who would be an Ox in Zimbabwe?

I have used the illustration of a span of oxen being used to pull a plough as a means of explaining the way our society works and what are the essential elements for success. In this illustration I say that the person who leads the span is like a democratically elected leader. Their job is to win the confidence and trust of the oxen - without this we cannot expect the team to work well. Their other job is to ensure that the oxen are properly fed and safe. They cannot be expected to plough properly if they are half starved and weak or having to spend all their time and energy trying to survive.

The person handling the plough could be the Government or local Council leadership. Their job is to ensure that the plough is in good shape and able to do the job required and then to see that there are no errors in how the plough is managed day to day. Since 2009 I have also said that the oxen could be regarded as the two main Parties to the GPA - how we plough for the people depends on the two oxen working together, rather than against each other.

In the Bible, the New Testament talks about an ox working on a threshing floor, pulling a wheel and in the process walking around and around a centre pivot to enable the farmer to thresh the crop and later mill the grain into flour. It talks about the need to allow the ox to feed while it works - as a right and a sensible thing to do. The other aspect I witnessed as a small boy on a farm is that the oxen need to trust their keeper. When he calls they respond and come without coercion. Discipline is used sparingly and then only when absolutely necessary.

In any society the number of wealth creators is a tiny minority. These are the risk takers, the entrepreneurs, our business persons and our managers. They are our oxen and in a social democratic society the oxen are regarded as being just that - the productive sector designed and meant as the engine of growth, the provider of jobs; the generator of wealth. A sound and sensible social democratic society recognises that they have to feed their oxen, they have to keep them safe, they have to have them feeling confident and secure.

In Zimbabwe under the Zanu PF, our oxen were beaten, intimidated, threatened and starved. It is no wonder that under Zanu leadership the economy collapsed and died. In 2008, far from being able to plough, our wealth creators were starved, unable to even walk, let alone plough. Had the GPA not brought relief and forced dual management of the situation, those oxen would have died, without exception. Now we are faced with a similar ploy by Zanu PF. This time they are taking the oxen in our midst that are back on their feet and looking fat and well, and are killing them and inviting all and sundry to a braai. The only problem is that the next day, we are left with bones and a hangover and in another twelve hours we are hungry again. When Zanu has killed all the oxen, they will have nothing left to offer the people.

By contrast the MDC regards the oxen in our society as key stakeholders, critical to our long term welfare, they are the only people who can raise up our standard of living, give us a better quality of life. So we say that we will not do what Zanu PF has done since 1997, kill the oxen and using the meat to attract the poor voters to a braai. Then saying to the same people, if you want to eat again, you have to support us. They did that to the farms and now we are hungry and importing most of our food, they are now doing it to the mines and investment inflows have dried up and instead, people with oxen are taking them out of the country for safety or hiding them in the bush where they cannot be found. Now it is the banks, industry and commerce is next, followed by hotels and services; until all oxen are killed and eaten.

As a social democratic political Party, the MDC says we will give the private sector security, stability and the right to make a decent return on investment. We will encourage everyone to bring in capital and technology and skills. We will work hard to be trusted by our productive enterprise. We will not coerce or beat; we will not make impossible demands on them. This does not make us capitalists - we are just following the biblical injunction to allow the ox to feed while it works. What we expect from our oxen, is that they operate transparently and work in the interests of the communities they serve and who rely on them. We expect them to charge prices that are competitive and fair, we expect them to pay their taxes, on time and in full, we expect them to serve the needs of the country, as well as the interests of their shareholders and customers. We will celebrate our oxen - rejoice in their strength and good looks, share pride in the quality of our stock and their abilities. We will celebrate our Econets, Zimplats, NMB Bank, our schools and hospitals and the people who make them work.

Our approach to our oxen is not to kill them and divide up the spoils with those that follow us like Jackals follow a lion, but to harness them in a yoke that will link them to the plough. To then grow a crop on the land we are ploughing and making sure that everyone eats and that next year, we can do it again, and again and again. We will not eat the ox; we will use them to meet the needs of the people. I hope that in an MDC led Zimbabwe, the oxen will know the voice of the democratic leadership, will trust us and recognise that we will act in their interests as well as those of the State. I hope that in a MDC led Zimbabwe, we will handle the output of our people and our oxen with care and honesty, using those scarce resources for the benefit of all who call Zimbabwe home.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 16th June 2012