Where is this Train going?

The past sixteen years of struggle by the MDC to unseat the Zanu PF regime has held many highlights for me. One such highlight was in the very beginning when we had formed the Party and were campaigning against the referendum and then fighting our first election.

Mr. Mugabe was totally disdainful of us and made a speech where he belittled our leadership saying “What can a train driver (Sibanda – the Chairman of the Party) and a textile worker with little education (Tsvangirai) do, if and when, they are in Government?” A few days later, Morgan gave a press conference which attracted about six camera crews and perhaps 30 journalists.

One of the international journalists (I think it was the BBC) asked Morgan about these remarks and said “did the MDC have the capacity to form a government”. Morgan looked at him for a few moments and then said “You know, train drivers have many skills, but the one thing they must be able to do at all times, is keep their train on the tracks.” The whole room erupted with laughter – no more questions about capacity!!

We are truly derailed as a Country right now. Like an aged King Canute, Mr. Mugabe sits on his throne and gives orders and makes decisions that simply cannot be carried out. Like Canute, he is sitting on the beach with the tide coming in and despite all the evidence in front of him; he continues to maintain that the tide is in retreat.

This past week has been amazing, after years in which we in the MDC have seemed almost to campaign alone against tyranny and corruption and to demand change, real change, in how the country is governed, suddenly the country has stood up and spoken. It started with protests against new import restrictions and Police corruption. It spread across the country in many different forms and then a Pastor, with a flag around his neck called for a national stay away from work.

On Wednesday we woke up to an eerie silence. I drove down to the nearby highway, got to a T junction where it is normally difficult to get into the traffic, looked left and right – not a soul. Two people were walking up the road very disconsolate – no busses and taxies running. Later I spoke to a former Minister in the Regime and he said to me “the people have spoken in the silence of this day”.

But questions remain – who is in the driver’s seat, where is this train carrying the hopes of the people going?

When we had been in the trenches for a few years, we realized that this journey we had embarked on was never going to be a sprint. This was more like a marathon and we had better dig in for the long haul. We also began to appreciate that until the main pillars of the regime had disintegrated, we would have great difficulty in dislodging the regime without physical violence. This has proved to be true, no dictatorship has ever given up without a fight and we were not prepared to use violence in any form.

But in the past three years we have seen Zanu PF torn apart by its own internal divisions and competition. The Old Man of Zimbabwean politics has steadfastly refused to countenance stepping down or handing over to anyone who could carry the baton of power into the future after him. This has simply resulted in the disintegration of what was once a united and powerful force with a broad base of support in the country and its institutions. In fact this regime is characterized by a common feature of all “successful” dictatorships in that they have created a system of control over every aspect of life here so that any opposition is bound to have a rough time.

By simply hanging on and continuing the struggle, we have in fact succeeded by still standing, every time the dust clears over the electoral battle fields. The process of disintegration started, I think, with the assassination of General Mujuru, then continued with the expulsion of his widow from the Party, the emergence of several factions supporting different candidates for the post of President in a post Mugabe era.

Although this has now synthesized down to three groups – one fighting to keep the Old Man alive – physically and figuratively; and the other two coalescing around Emmerson Mnangagwa and the President’s wife; the fact remains that their divisions are now so deep that a reconciliation is simply not possible. All have money and arms and this is the greatest danger facing the country.

Finally the remaining pillars of support in the Army and the War Veterans have now clearly stated that action is needed to get the Old Man out of his deck chair in the sand and drag the country back from the incoming tide so that we can avoid a mass drowning.

The question is who should be given the task of taking over the Drivers Cab on this train and then steering the train down the chosen tracks into the future?

There are lots of applicants – 41 by my counting and growing. So the first activity that is required is some sort of vetting by the Nation as a whole. That is called an election. In recent weeks we have seen a string of former Zanu PF leaders all saying the same thing, previous elections in this country have not been free and fair. So if we are going to have an election it has to be conducted by an independent agency that is neutral and competent and can run an election; the outcome of which, everyone will accept.

That is not difficult and we could set that up in a few months. Keep it simple – allow all adults with Citizenship to vote, where they live; inside the country vote for a Councilor and an MP and the State President. Outside the country vote for the President – after all he is the one that really counts.

Then we can all jump onto the train and at the first station drop off Mr. Mugabe to go into retirement; that is if he does not win the contest.

With so many contesting parties and interests and so much to do and achieve, we need a transitional national government (TNG). This should include our very best leaders and technicians – men and women with the skills and experience to take charge of our Government and firmly steer us through the rough waters that lie ahead.

Driving a train is not rocket science, but you have to stick to the fundamentals. If you do not, then you come off the rails as Zanu PF has now done, not once, but twice since 2000. We know what has to be done and we know where we want to go, all we need is a bit of help with fuel and some work on the track in front of us. We may also need some help to do the heavy lifting to get us back on track to start with.

I think the past few months have clearly shown us what we need to agree to get the help we need. We even know the type and the capacity of the equipment required to do the job. The people have spoken; it’s time for action; by all of us to get us out of this collective mess before it does irreparable damage.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 9th July 2016