Julia Banda

On Sunday I had to get 10 voters in my Constituency to sign my nomination papers. To get this done I had to drive from Mutare to Bulawayo – 600 kilometers, then get the signatures and drive to Harare – another 480 kilometers. I had asked the leadership to have 10 people standing by and when I arrived I found a large crowd gathered on the street.

They all wanted to sign my forms and I let down the gate of the rear of my truck and they lined up to sign. Number 8 was an elderly woman called Julia Banda. She was bent over with age and walked with a cane, she had to be helped to sign and did so carefully in her own hand writing but she could not for the life of her remember her ID number. I told her not to worry – I was sure the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Judge of the Court would recognise that this was one special signature.

For me that was a special and precious signature with more meaning that all the others and the recognition and trust that they represented. If I had the choice I would not waste that signature on ZEC and the Court but frame it and put in on the wall of my office with a note that said “Never forget me and what I represent, respect me for who I am and all that I have done, never forget, you hold my future in your hands and by this signature I put my trust and my future, and the future of my family in your hands”.

Doing the primaries for our Party around the country, from Binga to Buhera, I have seen thousands (some 250 000 people) attend the meetings, having travelled by foot and by donkey cart or mini buss, sometimes for over a 100 kilometers, to get to a polling point and then wait hours in the sun to vote for the candidate of their choice. 95 per cent of those attending were just ordinary Zimbabweans, many peasant farmers or low income workers and people who make their living in the informal sector.

On Thursday last week one of our national leaders came over to me in Parliament and said that he wanted me to go the our Headquarters to talk to some villagers from the northern parts of Mashonaland Central who were gathered in our caucus room. I walked down to our HQ and found the room full of very tired people. They came from three Wards in a Constituency on the Mozambique border some 350 kilometers from Harare. I listened to their complaints and all it was about was that they had been left out of the primary in their District. They said they had been unable to get to the selected location of the primary that had been held, by the difficulty of getting there over rough roads and had missed out.

I assured them that the Party would make provision for them to vote and that this would take place over the weekend and with that they packed up and returned to their homes – an arduous and expensive trip for anyone. This kind of commitment by simple people with very little is typical of the MDC structures around the country. So few people see this and understand what it means, the diplomats do not see this and few journalists take the time and the trouble to recognise the determination of these people to take part and influence the outcome of decisions that will affect their lives.

Among the wealthy and the sophisticated I often find total apathy when it comes to such issues – elections are a great big yawn for them and they make no effort to participate or even vote in the main elections. Total cynicism seems to rule the day in these communities and this contrasts sharply with the dedication that I see every day in the lives of the absolute poor.

But with this comes a sense of responsibility, on Friday 2500 people selected by the six month long primary elections process of the MDC will go before the Nominations Courts in all the larger urban centers and be confirmed as candidates for the MDC – T. Four to six weeks later the great majority will be elected to represent their communities in government. What a responsibility that will be and what a mess we will inherit from a corrupt and hopeless Zanu PF administration. All the weight of that will rest on our shoulders and the weight of the faith that people like Julia Banda are putting in us will weight greatly on my mind and heart.

At this time my mind goes back to 1980 when Zimbabweans put their faith in a team of leaders who had fought to bring freedom and human dignity to their lives. They held in their hands the same mandate that will soon be ours and we need to remember what they did with that trust and how they failed. In the early stages it was very exciting – we built a primary school every 2 days, we brought peace after a decade of war, we restored our international relations and restored the dignity and standing of the country; only to destroy all of that with bad policy and corrupt self seeking government.

I want to promise Julia that while I do not know about all my colleagues in the MDC, I personally will treasure her trust in me and our leadership and will work hard to make sure that her dreams come true. She and I may not be around to see the full form of the new Zimbabwe, but our grandchildren will be and I am sure that we will make a better and more dignified life for them in the future.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 25th June 2013