Mugabe too sick to stand for president

Eddie Cross says events are increasingly leaving Zanu-PF behind

Zanu just does not seem to understand that suddenly the world has moved on and in the process left them behind. They now understand that the President, Mr. Mugabe, cannot be the next candidate for Zanu PF simply on health grounds. The mirage of an election in 2011 under the same conditions that prevailed in 2008 has dissipated and the reality that they are going to be held to their signatures on the GPA road map is dawning on them.

The consequence is an election in a years' time, time they simply do not have, reforms to the electoral process that will prevent the essential rigging they had planned and therefore seals their fate. Zanu PF simply cannot win any election in the near future.

Discussions in the Cape this week will almost certainly produce a proposed road map to an election in 2012 and will bring with it essential reforms to the whole process, supervised and guaranteed by the region as a whole. I have been saying to people for some time now; do not underestimate the commitment of the region and wider African leadership to the GPA process. This is an African construct and they are going to see it through.

I spent the afternoon today at the opening of the Trade Fair in Bulawayo. This was attended by Mr. Mugabe and it was clear as he drove into the Stadium with full pomp and glory; outriders, armed soldiers, brass bands and a spectacular honor guard, that he was greeted in almost silence except for the rent-a-crowd sitting in one part of the stadium and a few loyalists behind the podium. The heads of the Army and the Police were there and this may be the last time that we will see them in their uniformed splendor. Both are listed for immediate, compulsory retirement in the road map.

The Trade Fair was a pleasant surprise - they had pulled out all the stops and it was packed with people and nearly all stands were taken up. Much different from the dismal affair in recent years and giving me hope that our private sector is not yet totally dead.

The previous weekend was our Congress and contrary to all the expectations, it was a great success. There was no violence and the elections were properly managed and the whole process democratic. Several senior leaders lost their posts and accepted defeat gracefully. Resolutions were adopted and speeches made - and in particular the keynote address by the President, Morgan Tsvangirai, was in my view one of the best he has ever made.

Not far behind was the opening speech by the Prime Minister of Kenya who pressed all the right buttons. That was followed by the heaviest storm of the season when nearly 100 mm of rain fell on the grounds, soaking everyone and all the equipment. Rain is always welcome in Bulawayo and it did not spoil the mood. In the morning we woke up to a brilliant clear blue sky and the final day was weather perfect.

There was one interesting development after Congress - in a two page comment in the local State controlled paper, one of their many 'analysts' wrote about efforts prior to Congress to influence the elections in our lower structures (branches, wards, districts and provinces) to support an effort to weaken the power base and support for the Party President.

This was interesting because it confirmed what many of us had seen first hand in the field for several months now - a concerted effort was made to try and subvert the whole process and very large sums of money were spent in doing so.

We allowed it to carry on because we did not want to subvert the democratic process as a whole and because we simply did not have the time or the resources to counter it effectively. But now that Congress is over, the MDC has resolved to investigate the whole thing and to take action against the many who were responsible for violence and vote buying in the lower structures of the Party.

Building a democratic system in any country is not an easy or a quick process. Like an internal combustion engine, all parts must be working and no part is less important than another - tyres may not be glamorous but you cannot move without them. You cannot mix oil, fuel and water - but you have to have all of them in close proximity for the engine to function properly.

If the Parties representing the people in a democratic State are not themselves democratic it undermines the whole system. The democratic system itself is a complex structure with many parts - each of which has to function properly to yield a result that the people will accept.

I doubt that we have had a single real democratic vote in this country since Independence. Zanu PF has used every trick in the book and a few of their own invention, to ensure that they retained total power in the past 30 years.

Despite this, our people have never lost faith in the system and for me, one of the great experiences that I have had in recent weeks was supervising elections at Ward and District level in remote areas on the country. Driving into a village after a 150 kilometer journey to find 300 men and women sitting under a tree waiting to conduct their own secret ballot elections for new leadership. Many walked 20 or 30 kilometers and then walked back when we finished. Simple farming families who revel in the opportunity to influence how they are to be governed in the next five years.

All this effort (perhaps 10 000 branches, 2000 wards and 210 districts) led up to the Congress where several thousand elected delegates sat patiently in the sunshine in an open stadium, to listen to the speeches, participate in the electioneering and campaigning and then to line up and vote for the leaders of their choice.

Not a policeman in sight. Zanu sent two truckloads of young people past the Stadium - perhaps to try and incite some violence and I was so proud of our people as they simply laughed at them and gave them the MDC open hand and then turned back to the business in hand.

Nothing terrifies a despot more than the freedom of his subjected people and if the recent tough stance by SADC and the AU was not enough to rock their world, believe me the sight of those events in the Stadium in Bulawayo, would be enough to totally discourage them. Zanu is trying to work out just what to do. They are deeply divided, their strategies in the past two years have not shaken off the grip that MDC has taken on the political process and now they are tied into an exercise in self destruction.

A glance at the international news shows that the game has changed - the events in Pakistan, the Ivory Coast, Angola, Sudan and Kenya, all show a new resolve to build and enforce democratic practice in the world around us. The world has moved on rapidly in recent months and we are part of the process. Those who stand still, are simply left behind as yesterdays men.

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

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