What did we get wrong – Eddie Cross

via email by Eddie Cross

Last week we looked at what we did right in the past 7 years. Generally I got a very positive response to that mailing – today I want to ask myself what did we get wrong. That is a tough question, it calls for honesty and frankness and it is quite painful for those of us who are engaged in the daily struggle to keep the flame of hope alive in Zimbabwe. Another aspect of this exercise in introspection is that this is not hind sight – which is easy with 20/20 vision, we knew all this stuff before the elections.

Firstly we overestimated the commitment of the SADC and South Africa, and perhaps even the international community, to the principles that underpinned the reform programme contained in the Global Political Agreement. We assumed that because the region and the international community had been the motivators and even the instigators of the negotiations between the Parties and first, the Kariba Agreement in 2007 and then the GPA in 2008, that they would see us through to its logical conclusion. Wrong, at every key point they abandoned principle for accommodation – not of the views of the MDC and civil society, but of the hard liners in Zanu PF. This culminated in the abandonment of what was left of the GPA in May/June 2013 and the passive acceptance of the elections and their flawed out turn. Only the USA seems to have stuck to its guns on principle – plus Germany and Australia, but the rest just took the easy way out and compromised.

Yesterday this sorry tale was crowned by the congratulations issued by the Secretary General of the UN to Mr. Mugabe for his “victory” at the polls. Our mistake was not to recognise that we held the power of veto and that what we should have done was to demand compliance with the full letter and spirit of the GPA and refused point blank to go into elections without the necessary reforms to the electoral system. The GPA promised the dismantling of the infamous JOC system by granting the MDC a majority of the Governorships at Provincial level, it gave us significant control over foreign policy and contact with other governments by allocating us 23 diplomatic posts, it called for the reassignment of the Attorney General – long a stalwart of Zanu PF and someone who has turned the legal system in Zimbabwe into an instrument of oppression and collective punishment.

The GPA gave us reform of the media and it gave us the right to call for repressive legislation to be abolished. It provided for greater influence over the Commissions. It provided for a reformed Electoral Commission that was totally independent of the political parties, a new voters roll and fresh constituency delimitations. It laid down the requirement for a new Constitution – which was partially achieved although the final document was a compromise. Even then, although the new Constitution provided for new rules for citizenship and new basic rights for all Citizens, in the end these were not implemented and were not observed in the final preparations for the elections. Not one of these critical reforms was implemented. It represents a total failure of the SADC guarantees so clearly expressed in the GPA. Our mistake was to lie down and accept every violation as they occurred throughout the life of the GPA. Some would say we had no choice, in hindsight, we always did have the final option of veto and we never used it and in the end we paid the price.

Secondly we totally underestimated the impact of the strategies being proposed by the advisors to Zanu PF who were principally the Chinese Communist Party and the Israeli firm NIKOV. The latter, we now know, was contracted to Zanu PF for the 2002 elections and remained active in Zimbabwe ever since – operating out of a house in Avondale in Harare and now operating in over 100 countries worldwide.  They were active in Kenya on the side of Kenyatta and are right now operating with Swapo in Namibia. Reading documents that have come into our hands in the past two months it is clear that these advisors brought their experience in China and across the world to assist Zanu PF in their efforts to subvert the Zimbabwean elections.

We were well aware of these strategies and had analysed them and knew full well what was going on but thought that the ground swell of support for the MDC and the failure of Zanu PF in the economy and the social services in the three decades before 2013 plus the genocide of Ghukurahundi and the savage campaigns on the farms and in the Cities through the Murambatsvina campaign in 2005 would never allow the ordinary voter to give their votes to Zanu PF when it came to voting in the elections. We were wrong and completely underestimated the residual influence of three decades of politically motivated violence against ordinary and marginalized rural and peri urban communities. People voted for self preservation and out of fear of collective and retributive punishment.

We knew that Zanu PF was settling tens of thousands of homeless families on plots of land on peri urban farms that had been taken from their owners in the decade since 2000. We knew that these communities had no security and were totally under the control and direction of Zanu PF we just underestimated their capacity to convert this subtle form of coercion into votes in the polling stations – a study of the vote shows that this explains many of the victories of Zanu PF in the peri urban areas.

We knew that the voters roll was totally subverted. There is no way that we have six million voters – 3,5 million at the most. What we did not appreciate was just how far they were prepared to go and how they would defend their position at the cost of clear violations of the law and get away with all the juggling and machinations. So we eventually had a roll with some 2 million ghost voters, up to 800 000 duplicates, 400 000 voters unilaterally moved from their chosen electoral districts, 45 000 voters who had their ID numbers changed so that they could not vote on the day. Perhaps most damaging, 1,2 million young voters between the age of 18 and 25, were deliberately denied the vote by manipulation of the voter registration system.

The voters roll was so manipulated that they have not dared to release an electronic copy of it to anyone before or since the election. Under the new Electoral Act and the new Constitution the Electoral Commission is obliged to facilitate access to the roll, before any election. We have gone to Court to seek redress to no avail, last week the ZEC claimed that a “technical” problem was holding up release. The voters roll determines who can vote and is the very foundation of any electoral system. We should never have accepted the voters roll; we should have stuck to our demand for a new registration of voters and a biometric roll that could not be manipulated. We demanded all of that – at successive meetings of the SADC Heads of State, at meetings with the facilitators. To no avail, it was a mistake.

Thirdly, we underestimated the effect of the control that Zanu PF exercises over the rural populations. Documents clearly show that both NIKOV and the Chinese understood its significance and their recommendations were followed to the letter. The Zanu PF documents call the MDC “the enemy” in military terms; they refer to the Communal Areas and the former Commercial farms as “no go areas” where no presence of the MDC will be tolerated. Villages were allocated to specific polling stations, all members of the village were recorded by their Headmen and then these poor defenseless and vulnerable people, dependent on the system for security of tenure and access to food and agricultural inputs, were instructed to vote at designated polling stations and told that if that station returned an MDC candidate, they would be subjected to collective punishment. Right now, across the country, collective and targeted punishment is being metered out to areas that voted in significant numbers for the MDC. We cannot protect them, they suffer in silence and they live in fear.

In 1980 Zimbabweans throughout the country queued in their thousands, long winding queues of people. This was their day of liberation from 80 years of white minority rule. This was the dawn of a new Country,tomorrow they would be free to live where they chose and to go to whatever school they chose. At last they could dream of becoming whatever they put their minds to. They had faith in “one person, one vote” after decades of conflict and guerilla war, after 15 years of mandatory UN sanctions. In 2013 they voted with courage and determination for the MDC and out of fear for Zanu PF. Is there any other explanation of the pall of gloom that has descended on the country since the elections? July 2013 was a funeral service for the last remnants of hope in the people of Zimbabwe that democracy would deliver a better future and we were all responsible.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 12th October 2013


  • comment-avatar
    Nyoni 9 years ago

    Eddie. We were aware before the elections that Zanu would win . The opposition were busy trying to appease Zanu . I wrote way back saying another Unity debacle was in the offering but alas no one cared. Sleeping with the enemy was the biggest mistake. By getting all Zimbabweans involved in the political debate from now on, maybe there is a chance one day.

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      NYONI you write rubbish….who slept with the enemy?? do not appease Edward Cross…this is the worse enemy rof all Zimbabweans…check what Bruce Grobbler wrote in his article…and check how old is EDWARD CROSS…he is the master minder of the regime change in Zimbabwe…so who is the enemy we Nyoni…do not be fooled the west-kits-and-kins…we want a intellinent Zimbabwean…Zimbabwe will never,never be a colony again…so,Britain for the British…be wise my fellow Zimbabwean…

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    matombo chiremba 9 years ago

    Yes we had an idea about what ZanuPF was up to but we lacked detail on their resolve to follow through most of their strategies. This due to an intelligence or information gathering system which was very weak or hopelessly under resourced to being almost non existent. Most of our underestimations were due to a lack of adequate and definitive information. This is an area that needs a lot of improvement going forward.

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    George Sebedebe 9 years ago

    The July 31 elections were a repeat of the 1980 elections for the majority of Zimbabweans and a funeral for white rhodies like Eddie Cross. How Eddie Cross still hopes to use the majority of voters to revive and bring back the privileges he and his fellow rhodies used to enjoy beats my mind. Whites should go to Europe and use Europeans to vote for whatever they want and decist from using Africans. All the so called mistakes that the MDC is purported to have made are nothing compared to the fact that Blacks have now awakened and will not be used by white people to advance white interests again. There were not a semblence of African, later alone Zimbabwean interests in MDC but white interests. If Eddie Cross thinks a day will ever come when Blacks will vote for white interests aheard of theirs he has a lot of thinking to do. That day will never come. Whites should simply go to Europe and try and influence events there and leave African matters to Africans. Why is that we do not have Black people trying to influence events in Britain? By the same token we ask why should Eddie Cross want to influence events in Zimbabwe. Eddie Cross is a foreigner by the mere fact that he is white. He should not have his dirty fingers in our affairs. Whites are losing everything, land, money, power, industries, and influence. We would like to see a Zimbabwe where whites will beg to be Black in order to live in the country. We would like to see whites enroll at our colleges to learn Shona, Ndebele, Kalanga, Chewa and Nambia and even learn our culture so as to be accepted to live among us. Eddie Cross should just go where he came from. Why does someone not just get rid of this fly for us? I hope you got that straight Eddie, you are a fly that must leave Zimbabwe voluntarily or someone will do it for you.

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      Chapa 9 years ago

      George Sebedebe – you are a total racist! Shame on you! Should all blacks be forced to leave Europe? You spout the usual rubbish about MDC being a white sponsered party – how pathetic you are that you can’t even put across your arguments in a rational manner.

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    zondi 9 years ago

    Some of the comments here are lies and mere propaganda from a former Rhodies who and his fellow whites used to enjoy milk and honey in our land. You still have hope of doing anything in Zimbabwe when you lost in 1980, 2002, 2008 and 2013. The sanctions you called for didn’t yield anything. Instead ZANU PF got the excuse to call the Chinese at the expense of your masters in Europe and USA.

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    Pablo 9 years ago

    Thanks Eddie – tough to be self critical and frank. Reading this, I did find myself wondering just how many times the same lesson has to be taught to the MDC? The very same letter applies to every time the people of Zim have looked to the MDC to represent them, and naively the same mistake gets made again and again. When will you learn? You’re on your own, and take responsibility for the faith that your voters place in you.

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    Bafunda 9 years ago

    Thank you Eddie for your in-depth of your failings. That is a good starting point. Going forward you need to appreciate the following:
    1. Can ZanuPf give up power, if doing so means giving up on diamonds revenue?
    2. We should never confuse an eloquent articulation of a problem with a solution…an analyst is not necessarily a strategist. You now need strategies.
    3. To judge who will succeed in the next election, you need to assess who has power, purpose and principle. It is the intersection of these 3 that strategies are played out.

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    Nyoni 9 years ago

    I thought opinions were allowed on this site. Racist comments by some readers is not on. Eddie you are African and entitled to do whatever you want in Zimbabwe and Africa. People that dont want change should simply die. We dont need them.

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    taona 9 years ago

    But Eddie, this was clear even from a layman’s point of view. How could the MDC agree to go to an election without a voters roll??. Come on!! The changes which were supposed to be done in the GPA were not effected because zanupf refused. All the MDC should have said to SADC was, “We are not going to the election because the GPA provisions are not yet in place”. Would SADC have forced the MDC to go to an election knowing fully well that the provisions were not in place? MDC had a rush of blood to their heads. They thought they were now ministers, had delusions of grandeur etc. and lost the plot completely. Yes, the vote was completely rigged but why did the MDC allow it to happen by participating in a grossly flawed process?. This I can not understand and have to seriously doubt the calibre of the the leadership in the MDC . This was a big let down. Led like lambs to the slaughter. Why????

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    The MDC's Failure 9 years ago

    I agree with a lot of things here, but I am shocked that there is no mention of the genuine loss of support brought about by the Leadership of MDC;
    1) Tsvangirayi’s disregard for his office. The well documented filanderings with 21 year old girls and numerous others. Asking ladies to have abortions etc. This was an affront to the very heart and soul of this country. Can a man with such a shambolic personal life run a country? People will bring up Clinton and Lewinsky in defence of “More Girls” Tsvangirayi, but remember that Clinton did this when he was in the white house, not when he was fighting to get there!
    2) The GPA was a disaster for the MDC. While there numerous benefits and stabilization, MDC Ministers got caught up in the day-to-day running of their ministries and forgot about the end goal. How do you explain that while Mangoma did wonders for ZESA, he was scarcely seen in his constituency? This urban focus needs to change, because as we have seen, the rural areas win elections, while the urban areas are good for ego and intellectualism.
    ZPF had a very effective “on-the-ground” campaign. Drilling boreholes, handing out maize and fertilizer etc, while MDC were holding rallies in “Freedom Square” and intellecutalizing about nonsense. Do you think that a man in the rural areas cares about FDI etc?

    You can go on and dream about this election, but the fact is, I am a former MDC supporter, who voted ZANU PF during this election. I was dissappointed in the apparent lack of focus demonstrated by the MDC and the loss of principle and direction. I will vote ZANU because I believe that though they have many failings, the are the better option right now.

    My advice to the MDC would be for you to change your leadership, stop complaining about this past election and start planning for the next one. because, rest assured, ZANU PF have started planning already.

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    Mapingu 9 years ago

    An honest analysis by the author indeed. Crudely put, the MDC slept on duty. I mean the genuine but rather brainless MDC.

    As for the other MDC or MDCs I know they are just ZANU PF appendages. I know right now their leaders are busy smiling all the way to their banks. Fat bank accounts, of course, for ensuring that the genuine MDC was kept busy attending to their shenanigans while the ‘ordained’ party was busy NIKOVING the electoral process. Their role was pretty significant during the ‘GNU’ government though their performance on election day was a no-show. Fact is the role of these ‘Dabengwa-Simba’ like characters played should never be under-estimated. They achieved what they were assigned to do – to ensure that the one and only party rule forever – and now where are they? Most of them are busy enjoying iamond proceeds that are pouring into their pockets at some posh resort places – of course thanks for their detractive roles so superbly executed. Do you see them or hear them now anywhere in Zimbabwe??

    Truth is genuine MDC is also dead neck-up. Kufunga politically kuri kuleka muMDC chaiyo-chaiyo. Chido chiripo zvacho. These guyz saw themselves in office well before they were there. What is that? Lack of political maturity at its waste. They even NIKOVED the constitution together with ZANU PF; and started demonstrating utter disregard of procedures. hence they didn’t even see anything wrong with the unprocedural election processes; they had became part and parcel of it. What a shame!

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    Munkee Tu 9 years ago

    Is the MDC this careless? Evidence? Libelous charges this is. I do hope that NIKOV and The Chinese Communist Party sue this fellow.

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    Nedziwe Rudo kennethNedziwe Rudo Kenneth 9 years ago

    Whatever these political analysts say I will not be satisfied until someone comes up with the truth that the problem does not rely on the opposition parties but the incumbent. Zimbabwean people want to be governed well. Its the peoples VOTE that was stolen, period.

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    scabanga 9 years ago

    mdc proved they are incompetent and don’t deserve to lead. Hopefully zanu can wake up and start doing the right things to stop the slide into oblivion!
    Today zim was rated 47th worst African nation out of 52 African nations.
    Go Bob go!!!

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    Michael 9 years ago

    Once again an excellent introspective evaluation of the failings of MDC-T/MDC or whatever or whomever, however this does little to console the people who have been betrayed by an inadequately lead party. These fundamental failings, by the MDC party, highlights the deplorable stupidity and defective conviction of the current leadership. The MDC has neither the leadership nor the resolve to achieve the most basic principles of an effective opposition party. With the GPA initiated and ratified by SADC and the international community the MDC held in their hands the weapon of change and democracy, yet with such a formidable weapon at their disposal the MDC failed to implement the very basics outline in the GPA.

    Failure or “what we got wrong” are not the words I would use, more like you (mdc-t) “f**ked it up”.

    Bottom line is Tsvangirai screwed up by participating in the last election, now the people must pay the price of his despotic mentality. Bottom line is Tsvangirai screwed up by not insisting on the implementation of the GPA reforms. Bottom line is Tsvangirai screwed up by going through with an election without an electronic voters roll. Bottom line is Tsvangirai screwed it up, big styley, now we must suffer for our stupidity in believing in the democracy the MDC had promised us. How foolish are we?????