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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So Close, Yet So Far - Eddie Cross

I bumped into Max Chigweda last week and in the course of our discussion he said to me, "At least we are closer to the end than the start". That just about sums up where we are right now and the territory in front of us is as deadly as any we have traversed so far. As has been the case so often in the past 30 years, we are dependent in part on what the region does or does not do to ensure we can cover the ground that remains.

I am quite encouraged by the news from South Africa where the Prime Minister saw the President on Monday. It seems clear to us that the South African leadership understands the situation we are in right now, both the President and the Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs are savvy, street wise and certainly more committed to a democratic outcome than was Thabo Mbeki. But the ghosts of the Mbeki administration remain and those in the region who want to try and protect Zanu PF from its fate are still embedded in the system and active.

The visit to South Africa and the discussions held with the President are in the same league as the September 1976 visit to Pretoria by Henry Kissinger when the Americans delivered the final blow that led to the demise of the Rhodesian Front and the eventual transfer of power to Mugabe in 1980. Because of the nature of diplomacy it will be some time before we see the final outcome of all this diplomatic manoeuvring.

If we look back over the past six months since MDC entered the transitional government, we can point to a number of key achievements
- we have stabilised the economy, secured a resumption of all basic services - health, education, water, sanitation and communications.
We have been able to restore markets and get the retail and wholesale sector back into business.

The finances of central government are recovering steadily - total revenues to the State have grown from $4 million in January to $70 million in July. My guess is that the theft and plunder of public assets has been reduced from perhaps $1,5 billion last year to $250 million.
That is partly because we have closed down the Reserve Bank and partly because there is not much left to steal.

We have been able to partly restore our relations with the international community - the World Bank and the IMF are both back in Zimbabwe with limited programmes of technical assistance and the Bank is making its first forays into local finance since 1997. We have made formal contact with virtually all the OECD States as well as the Non Aligned countries; international grant aid has reached $100 million a month and lines of credit negotiated, although we have yet to see the colour of this money.

On the downside we have seen little progress in media reform. No changes in the attitude or the activities of the security agencies and no changes to repressive legislation or improvements in the management system for elections. The constitutional reform process has started, but faces a difficult and tortuous path over the mountains in its way. The judicial system as a whole is being used as an instrument of oppression and a political weapon. No progress has been made in agriculture where output and activity continues to decline.

Yesterday the South African Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs said that she wanted to see "the acceleration of the implementation of the Global Political Agreement". In fact I think she said the "full implementation" and that would be even better. More we could not ask for, as the GPA, even though it has numerous weaknesses and faults, is the only way forward.

I attended the annual Congress of the Commercial Farmers Union this week in Harare. It was a courageous and well organised affair and Deon Theron was elected President. I was glad to see both - it is vital that while we work on the solution to our problems and negotiate the difficult terrain ahead of us that we keep what is left of our economic institutions alive and operational. Deon will make a good President and is an important player in this situation.

The keynote address was given by a farmer from Zambia who is the current President of the International Association of Agricultural Unions. It was an excellent summary of the global state of agriculture and it was good to see a farmer from Africa in such an influential position.
Zimbabwe's displaced farmers are making a huge impact on agriculture throughout the continent and are a real testimony to what we have lost in the way of human capital.

C G Tracey died the other day and his book "All for nothing?"
was on sale at the CFU Congress. It is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in this country and wants to see what has gone on over the past century - no man played a bigger role in building the country and served its best interests more than "CG", as he was known. The title was suggested by his wife before she died and all he did was to add the question mark to emphasise that it is not yet all over.

I hear rumbles that JZ may visit Zimbabwe for talks with Mugabe shortly.
The Vice President of SA is here for the funeral of our Vice President who died last week and he will be buried on Monday and no doubt talks will take place on the sidelines - funerals are great events for this sort of activity. Certainly we will have to wait for a couple of weeks to ascertain what is going to happen on this front.

If (as usual) we are let down by the region, we will have to fight our way through some very tough terrain. There is no doubt in my mind where the people are and if we can mobilise the resources required, we could stun Zanu PF yet again with a significant electoral victory in the bi elections. I was listening yesterday to some music especially written for the MDC and one song in particular asked "if you vote for Zanu, where are you going?" That just about sums things up.

This is not the time to relax or to abandon the prayer mat - we need to work and pray. At its heart this is a spiritual battle and both activities are vital to our eventual victory.

Eddie Cross

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