Africa's new winds of change

Eddie Cross on SADC's turn against Mugabe

I remember attending a meeting addressed by the then Prime Minister of Britain in what was Salisbury and hearing him make a version of his famous 'Winds of Change' speech. It was a seminal moment for Africa, much like Churchill saying after the Second World War that an 'Iron Curtain was descending across Europe'.

Somehow those two statements went on to describe an era on each continent that lasted in Europe's case for over 50 years and about the same length of time in Africa (Ghana came to Independence in 1958, South African transition to democracy in 1994). In 1998 a small-scale farmer took a bus from his home in the Masvingo Province of Zimbabwe, and after debussing in Mbare he walked several kilometers to the Headquarters of the Trade Union Federation where he asked to speak to the President, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai.

Morgan is the sort of person that does not stand on protocol; his secretary went to him and he agreed to see the visitor without an appointment. The old man told Morgan that he felt he had a vision from God. He said that he had been told in that vision to tell Morgan that his Party symbol should be an open hand, palm outwards, depicting openness and non-violence and that his slogan should be 'Chinga Maitero' or 'Real Change'.

It became the rallying cry of the MDC and in fact constitutes our vision for the period through which we are traversing at present. At our first Congress, Morgan paid for the man to come to Harare and he presented him to thousands of delegates and gave him our first T-shirt with the slogan printed on the front and back.

Over the past decade or more, the forces of dictatorship in Zimbabwe have thrown everything at us - we have been beaten, tortured, killed and maimed. Thousands have been imprisoned and many have simply disappeared. In the State controlled press we are vilified every day as 'revisionists', 'sell outs' and 'agents of the West'. We are accused of wanting regime change - as if that is not what all politics is about! It is certainly what we set out to do in 1998, Chinga!!

In 2006, after the split that almost destroyed the MDC and saw Morgan Tsvangirai stripped of bank accounts, vehicles and staff as well as a significant number of his original leadership, we rebuilt the Party from the ground up and emerged, in my view stronger than ever. At that Congress we adopted a 'road map' to real change. It was quite simple - democratic resistance, negotiations with Zanu, reforms to the electoral process and then a free and fair election.

I well recall the near panic in Zanu circles over our 'Democratic Resistance' campaign. They could not understand what resistance meant, were we going for an armed struggle? Was this going to be mass action with thousands on the streets? They arrested people, tortured them and even murdered a number of key activists, never quite believing that we meant just what the title said - we would fight them with our votes, in every possible way.

We have been faithful to that old mans vision in 1998, we have not killed one person, we have not even broken a glass window, or raised a stick to a Policeman. We have been the people of the open hand, always laughing at our difficulties and facing scowls with smiles. But we have pursued change, real change in our country consistently and democratically, and slowly Zanu has been pushed back against the ropes.

Nothing represents this sea change better than the outcome of the SADC summit in Zambia last week. In 1999 when we launched our campaign, South Africa set its face against us and supported Zanu at SADC, the AU and even at the United Nations.

They covertly funded the effort to restrain the forces of change in Zimbabwe, fearing that they would spill over into South Africa and destabilize the ANC Alliance. The majority of SADC leaders supported Zanu and Mr. Mugabe and felt that the MDC was also a threat to their own status as former liberation movements.

Now, suddenly, we have a regional summit where in his opening remarks, the Chairman rebukes Mr. Mugabe and demands that all leaders in the region listen to their people and allow reform and change or face the wrath of the people.

Mr. Zuma, President of South Africa not only demanded that Zanu PF live up to the signatures on the Global Political Agreement signed in September 2008, but stop the flood of propaganda in the State controlled media and stop all acts of violence and intimidation. They stated that the Zimbabwean leadership would not be allowed to deviate from the GPA or the road map to free democratic elections that is contained in it.

Mr. Mugabe and Zanu responded with fury, 'we will not be dictated to by the region'; 'we are a sovereign State and will decide what is best for our country'. Even a veiled threat to leave the grouping, but that is all wind.

Zanu is stuck with playing the final game of this series with the MDC on ground that is defined by the visions of a simple peasant from Masvingo and a carefully crafted road map that follows the guidelines set by 18 000 delegates to our 2006 Congress. It's our game, our rules and now the referee has said you must play on until the final.

This key decision by the region was of course preceded by the reelection of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of the House of Assembly. Again this was a strategic move by Zanu that backfired. They had the case against Moyo on the books since 2009, but only chose to use it when suddenly Mr. Mugabe looked mortal and they realized that if they stayed on the field of the GPA, defeat and worse was the only outcome. They then triggered the court case and had Moyo dismissed and set about trying to make sure they won.

They put up S K Moyo as their candidate, tried to lock up or neutralize our Members of Parliament and hurriedly swore in two new Members. Hefty bribes were paid to a number of MDC MP's and they threatened their own MP's with dire consequences if they went against the Party line. They were confident that they had done enough to recapture control of the central pillar of the State.

In the end they failed miserably - 106 votes for the MDC candidate (one spoiled) and 93 for the Zanu candidate - that is 13 votes for us that turned the tide and many came from the Zanu benches. Just for a laugh we nominated Jonathan Moyo as a candidate to the chagrin of Moyo himself and to the consternation of the entire Zanu front bench.

Although the nomination was at first accepted it was then disallowed after a hurried appeal by the Crocodile, but if it had gone through, what a nomination speech that would have made! We would have stated how eminently suited to be the Zanu candidate he was, devious, without principle and dishonest, a hired hand who will work for the highest bidder. But we were not allowed to have our say - we responded with our votes, the very weapon we always said we would use to defeat tyranny in our country.

Eddie Cross is the MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website www.eddiecross.africanherd.com

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