COMMENT

Zimbabwe: We can't afford to squander the next five years

Eddie Cross says the MDC Alliance's claim of a presidential victory with 2,6m votes is not credible

We Simply Cannot Afford to Squander the Next Five Years

2 September 2018

All of us have a stake in what is going on right now in Zimbabwe. When I say all of us - I mean everyone, every Zimbabwean from the peasants in the Tribal Areas, the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, the urban populations and the people in the formal and informal sectors. Everyone. No one can say 'stop the world, I want to jump off'. We are stuck with what we have and have to make it work. 

How are we doing so far? Well here is my personal check list, it may not be to the liking of many, but I think it represents where we are and what might lie ahead. 

Firstly, we have held another election, it was more open, democratic and acceptable than any other election I can recall, and I have been a player in all of them since 1980. It was contested, but when you appreciate that the MDC Alliance won only 570 Councillor seats out of nearly 2000 (28,6 per cent), you can understand why I think the MDC Alliance claim of a Presidential victory with 2,6 million votes as being most unlikely and not credible. 

Not one of these council elections have been challenged - how can they? They were secured under the close scrutiny of the tens of thousands of local Government candidates and their election agents - counted very carefully and then concluded at all 210 Control Centres run by ZEC with the Candidates and their Agents signing off on the results which were then announced at the Centres and at the National Control Centre in Harare. 

That is why the Constitutional Court unanimously decided that Emmerson Mnangagwa was elected as President. That is why they said the MDC Alliance had not proved their case, that is why they even awarded costs - normally a punitive measure. It must also be understood that he beat Nelson Chamisa by over 300 000 votes - nearly the majority that Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mr Mugabe in 2002. Thank goodness he got enough votes to avoid a runoff - that would have been a disaster for all of us - extending the uncertainty and the very real possibility of undoing all the positive things that were actually achieved in this election. 

Secondly, it is now clear that the international Community has accepted the above outcome - with reservations. But Theresa May's comments in South Africa that Emmerson Mnangagwa was elected as President and then the German Minister of Development Cooperation announcing that their Government was again open for business with Zimbabwe, sealed the issue. This Government is being offered legitimacy - not on an open platter but on condition that the Government meets expectations and implements reforms to economic and political policies which will deliver a more stable and growing economy and a free and fair election in 2023. 

Thirdly, the new President, for the first time, is asking the whole country for help to secure the future. He has extended the hand of reconciliation to the opposition, he has stated time and time again that he wants an inclusive and more open government and wants to put the past behind us. I am deeply disappointed that the MDC Alliance seems to have turned its back on these initiatives and instead have continued to make the assertion that this was a 'stolen' election and that Nelson Chamisa is the legitimate President and that they are threatening rolling mass action to enforce this position. 

Not only is this futile, but it also threatens further violence and instability when what we really need is national unity and an agreement to put our difference aside in a concerted effort to deal with the tough issues that confront us in the next 5 years. If the MDC Alliance would agree to this, then they would receive much more recognition for their role in bringing us back to democracy after 37 years of dictatorship and tyranny. They would be part of the solution instead of being a problem. The business community would welcome such a move which they would see as being statesmanlike and as helping bring about stability and growth. Our people would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we can at last concentrate on the really important things rather than things that simply divide us and are a diversion from the real task that confronts us all. 

Right now the President is in China and will, have a one on one session with the President of China. I am quite certain that in that meeting he will be assured of every assistance from China in dealing with the political and economic issues that lie ahead of us as a nation. That is not an insignificant matter, China is a giant, it has learned what happens when 'you burn down your own house' (a description of what they did during the Red Revolution in China). They know what it takes to rebuild and to repair using only your own sweat and tears, because they have been there and have done that. They know how important it is to stop corruption, work as a united nation behind a qualified and dedicated leadership which works for the welfare of all. 

But I do not think he will make any unconditional offers of help. He will back a deal with the IMF that will return us to compliance with recognised international macroeconomic norms and standards. He will join any international alliance we can put together to help us meet economic and social objectives. He will offer technical assistance and a security alliance. He will seek to establish a trading and economic relationship with Zimbabwe that will deliver prosperity and growth. China has done that in both Ethiopia and Kenya, they will do what is required here. China is back in a global war with the USA - this time its trade and China has shown that they are not scared to take on the Trump bluster and bullying. Emmerson Mnangagwa knows this opens the door to great opportunities if we can exploit the huge demand of China for imports. 

But the Chinese know that their turnaround was not achieved without both sweat and tears and we are going to have to face the same. I was pleased last week when the President said that we may have to find our way in the world without donor aid. Donor aid is toxic in many ways. It breeds dependency and corruption and reduces self-dependence and initiative. There are no examples of any country in the world growing more independent and wealthy on the back of donor aid. All that it does is inhibit the adoption of the painful steps we have to make, all of us, to make a living and secure our future. 

When the President comes home at the end of his trip to China, he will have to get down to selecting and appointing a new Cabinet. This time what he does will be watched across the world and in very village and town in Zimbabwe. He must scale back his executive - perhaps to 20 or less, he must select new faces all of whom are persons of integrity, capacity and experience. The Chinese Government is, at its heart, a meritocracy, ours must reflect the same. We are proving to being world leaders as Zimbabweans in all sorts of fields, it's time to draw on that skills base and pick a team of winners. 

Then it's time to get down to work - how will we know we are making progress? For me there are a two select indicators - are we getting all girls into schools and are they getting a decent education and a start in life? Are we changing life in the rural villages? I was in the Inyangombe river valley this week at the invitation of local traditional leaders who had asked us to come and see what we could suggest to relieve the absolute poverty there. What I found was a community that is so typical of the rest of rural Zimbabwe, villages with no active males, homesteads with widows and grandmothers and children - all living at levels that reflect absolute poverty. Every Village with husbands, sons and daughters overseas or in South Africa. 

We can only achieve all of this if we agree together to work towards these common goals. A start has been made, we need to keep up the momentum for change let's not allow our personal agenda's to deviate us from the task. Do not think, for one minute, that we have time on our side - the crisis under our feet is brewing and I see the real possibility of economic problems in the immediate future. 

This article by Eddie Cross first appeared on his website www.eddiecross.africanherd.com