What we did right – Eddie Cross

via email: What we did right by Eddie Cross 5 October 2013

Last week I described what might be regarded as our limited success during the Government of National Unity from 2009 to 2013. These achievements, although significant, seem to be just brushed aside as being irrelevant when viewed against the backdrop of the recently failed elections. Our leadership is under huge pressure right now and there is a real danger that people will not recall and recognise just what the MDC achieved in the process that led up to the GNU.

Zanu PF and the ANC in South Africa will both claim that they were responsible for the successful transition from minority rule to majority, democratic rule in their respective countries. They will in fact claim that it was the liberation struggle by their respective armed forces that brought about change. A close examination of these transitions reveals a very different situation and the following:

They both required that the collective forces for change in their respective countries worked together, in the case of Zimbabwe it was the Patriotic Front, in the case of South Africa, the UDF.

They both required that the international community be united on the way forward and that a major power take on the responsibility of representing those interests and being willing to exercise real interventive power to secure the transition. In the case of Zimbabwe it was the US and Kissinger followed by Carrington and the UK and in the case of South Africa it was Thatcher.

In both countries the struggle leading to the transition was a long drawn out affair – in the case of South Africa the ANC was formed in 1913 and the transition took place in 1994 – 80 years of struggle and sacrifice. In the case of Zimbabwe the struggle started in 1949 and was concluded in 1980 – 31 years. In neither case was the incumbent regime defeated by military means.

So we must ask why the transition from Zanu PF (an entrenched minority regime with control of the armed forces and the economy) to a new democratic dispensation should take place under any different conditions.  Clearly an armed struggle is simply not an option; I do not think I even have to explain that. Secondly a “popular” uprising is not possible – the State is simply too powerful and has too tight a control over the instruments of oppression. In any event, if that was to happen what is left of this fragile and collapsed economy would simply disappear and we would become a real “failed State” like Somalia.

In both historical cases the global consensus for change was unanimous – the small white community in Zimbabwe had no international or continental support – sympathy perhaps, but no real support. It was a question of a transition from a colonial regime to a democracy. In South Africa the global consensus was absolute; this was a struggle against Apartheid. A moral struggle with clear boundaries.

In the case of Zimbabwe the situation is different and the same. The same in the sense that the regime that took power in 1980, has become a rogue State, has almost destroyed the economic and social fabric of the country and has suppressed and is abusing all the rights and values that were the object of the liberation struggle. Hence the claim by the MDC that it is attempting to finish what was started by the struggle in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s different in that there is no international or continental consensus on the need for a transition. In fact most African States are fearful of what is happening in Zimbabwe and can see in it the seeds of the destruction and defeat of their own power structures.

It is in this context that we must examine just what the MDC achieved between 2006 and 2013. It started at the March 2006 Congress where 18500 delegates elected new leadership to replace the ones who had engineered the attempted removal of Morgan Tsvangirai from the leadership of the Party. Having done that they then set the agenda for the next five years by deciding on a programme that would:

  •  Use democratic resistance to bring about change (change via peaceful, legal, democratic means);
  • Force Zanu PF to the negotiating table and negotiate the reforms required for a democratic transition; and
  • Fight the subsequent elections and form the next Government.

We had already fought three elections against Zanu PF and in each case had been denied victory by a combination of electoral manipulation and rigging, regional interference and the use of the armed forces as instruments of oppression. We knew what we were up against and better than anyone, we understood what was needed in the way of reform.

In 2006 we rebuilt the Party from scratch – after the split we did not own a motor vehicle, a bank account nor had any staff. The only asset we were able to retain was our head office building in Harare and this was either empty or occupied by various arms of the CIO. In 2007 we succeeded in achieving our first goal – we forced Zanu PF to the negotiating table. At those talks, conducted in total secrecy at the insistence of the South Africans, we negotiated the Kariba Agreement and secured the first round of reforms that were then put through Parliament in October 2007. Mugabe was forced by pressure from South Africa to bring the elections back from June 2010 to March 2008.

Another victory secured at this time was a consensus at the G8 summit in Gleneagles that the international community would support regional efforts for change in Zimbabwe and any resulting democratic regime. In essence, in two years, the MDC (T) rose from the death bed of the split in October 2005, to really determining the way in which the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe was going to be resolved – without violence and on a legal and democratic basis.

In the March 2008 elections it is now generally accepted that the MDC won both a majority in the lower House and the Presidential campaign. Despite that South Africa did not stick to its stated principles and objectives and allowed the regime to undertake a last ditch stand to defend itself in the form of a runoff campaign for the Presidency. When that failed, the South Africans compounded their mistakes by forcing the Parties to the election back into talks to establish the Global Political Agreement which was eventually signed in September 2008. Five months of wrangling and a political transition in South Africa, resulted in the GNU in February 2009 and this led to the debacle in 2013.

The MDC (T) leadership got it right in 2006 – they were spot on and they achieved remarkable progress in the following two years and were ultimately successful in beating Zanu PF. The problem was that Mbeki was no Kissinger or Carrington, no Thatcher. When push came to shove, he went with his own interests in South Africa and not the interests of Zimbabwe. In the succeeding years, despite every effort on our part and to a limited extent on the part of the international community (the Friends of Zimbabwe Group) the main problems were related to the fact that the region failed in their commitment to ensure that Zimbabwe implement the agreed reforms contained in the GPA.

More than anyone, we knew what was needed to break the grip of Zanu PF on power. Any reading of the GPA will show this in great clarity. In fact, in the Politburo meeting after the signing ceremony, senior Zanu PF leaders demanded to know just what the leadership had done in signing the agreement. MDC, having secured its position in the terms of the agreement and holding a simple majority in Government, supported by the guarantee in the GPA issued by regional leaders, thought its job was about done. Then the fight back began aided by Marange diamond revenues.

Without the support and power exercised by the region, the MDC was unable to secure implantation of the GPA and when finally Mugabe was able to force through an election without reforms, there was little the MDC could do. Morgan Tsvangirai stated at every rally in the 60 meetings he held in the weeks running up to the elections, that whatever the out-come this election would be flawed and undemocratic. Just how much it was manipulated is now well known – I doubt if Zanu PF really gained more than 700 000 votes, the rest were fraudulent.

But the reality is that if the region and the AU plus South Africa accept the outcome, there is very little the MDC can do about it. Such acceptance is not based on principle; it’s based on self interest and fear of the consequences of a successful transition to democracy in Zimbabwe. Such a transition would be a threat to 12 of the 14 regimes governing States in SADC. For Africa it sets back the democratic forces and the forces of law. In Zimbabwe it negates the progress made in resolving the crisis that has gripped the country since 1980 – first manifesting itself in Ghukurahundi, then the farm invasions, then Murambatsvina and finally the violence of 2008.

To me there is really no alternative now but to go back to the basic strategies adopted by the 2006 Congress – a united front for democracy, international consensus and support to force regional States to continue with democratic reform and then a renewed attempt to implement the essential reforms needed for a free and fair election when that time comes in the future. While we do that, keep the country stable and try to get things working again and resume the recovery started under MDC leadership in the past government.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 5th October 2103


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    essexfarmer 9 years ago

    A good article. Sad but true. It is going to be a long haul. Due to their considerable investments and interests in Zimbabwean agricultural and mineral outputs, the Chinese now have such a strong behind the scenes influence, that the whole playing field has changed considerably since the MDC 2006 position, so much so that I don’t think the Chinese will allow real democracy to threaten their investments. I am so sorry for ALL the people of Zimbabwe.

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    Dickie 9 years ago

    A good synopsis of history Eddie,as always with your writings…….
    What the HELL are you going to do to change the present situation?
    The MDC and all others who can plainly see that ZPF policies can only lead to a much worse situation are in fact powerless to do anything to improve things.
    Wait til 5 more years go by and hope you can win another rigged election?……there will be nothing left to rescue by then,
    there will have been some kind of non peaceful movement………

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    imvi dzechembere 9 years ago

    ingenuity,not trenches as you rightly put it is the only way out of this quagmire. Wide constultations will yield us something.

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    I clearly remember the situation in 2008.Zimbabwe was on its knees with a failed currency and all government institutions in free fall. Mugabe had just run an election that not even a blind or deaf man could call free or fair.So what did the MDC do!Yes now I remember,instead of standing up and demanding free and fair under UN supervision,they decided to jump into bed with ZANU PF under the charm of Mr Mbeki. Mugabe got the US dollar to save his failed state,and the MDC gave him another ten years in power.One would be tempted to believe that this was pre planed. A travesty to all the great Zimbabwians who gave everything especially those who lost their lives,in the struggle for Democracy and real freedom.At the time,the MDC could have refused to go into partnership with Mugabe and then let him govern with his Zimbabwe dollar and real sanctions,that the International community would have had to impose on him,because not even SADC or the AU could call the 2008 elections free and fair.Lets be honest,Eddie,what democratic party keeps it’s leadership for nineteen years.The current MDC leadership has totally failed,they might as well join ZANUPF on the gravy train.
    The truth is if the next generation of Zimbabwians want real freedom and democracy,they will have to go through the whole terrible process of shedding blood in a liberation,all over again.The last one was a failure.

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      Diego Zhaba 9 years ago

      @Kurt, I want to agree with your observations to some extent but I also think MDC managed to achieve much more that the negativity that goes with the failure to win the 2013 elections. If you really lived through the 2008/9 period you will agree with me that Mugabe and his cronies were seeing their last days in power and were only rescued by the GNU, but whichever way, ZANU PF was never going to just reliquish power.

      It was the conditions of the time that determined and dictated the formation of GNU. While on one hand we blame the MDC of taking a wrong political course, we should not loose sight of the impact the violence lashed by ZANU PF brought to the people of Zimbabwe. The effects of economic failure were the worst ever in the history of Zimbabwe and even the Ian Smith era never ever went through such but thrived beyond imagination. The decision was either to save the lives or let hell loose on them – ZANU PF violence. Was it worth to let the lashing of violence continue or was agreeing to the GNU helped the situation? Did the position taken only benefit those in MDC (as they enjoyed the sweetness of power) and not the generailty of the people in Zimbabwe? Consider the level of inflation, the level of food insecurity, loss of life, and the social impact this political turmoil brought. The 2008/9 was but the climax of the developemnts that had long been building up since 2000.

      How best could MDC have made “perfect” decisions in circumstances that weighed against them considering the imapct their decisions would have on the peole? Some decisions and postions made by MDC didn’t best suit everyone else but still decisions had to be made and a political position taken thereof. This I believe was done not only for the purposes of them getting a bite of the cake but in a much more comprehensive way that took cognisance of the political dynamics and circumstances that prevailed over pros and cons in taking such a standpoint.

      True, some positions taken did not ultimately contribute in any way possible to a change in the status quo – removing ZANU PF from power. But to wholly blame the MDC for all that without taking stock of the bigger picture would further undermine the only and real opposition that has given Mugabe nightmares. True, there is need to revamp and build a much more solid oppostion but lets not forget that the armed struggle that brought Zimbabwe’s independence was not fought overnight, it was a protracted and aurdous journey. The struggle for democratic change continues with or without Tsvangirai and crew but for as long as they are there and the will-power urges on then let it be. Despite the pitfalls that MDC has gone through it’s the only oppostion currently with the impetus for change and can still take ZANU PF head-on.
      Support is massively build overtime and never will any political party formed today dislodge ZANU PF, lets face it. And never undersestimate ZANU PF in any way, they have been in the struggle that brought independence and have gone through a number of elections, they know it all. They are well resourced in terms of keeping themselves in power even through dubious means and so any meanigful opposition has to really come up strong and fight ZANU PF inorder to reign over the seasoned riggers of alltime.

      It is healthy to make positive criticism that will help shape the oppostion into a formidable force that can stand up the heat.Morgan and his team have done their part and they can still do more but the surprising thing is that the people calling the shots are not proactive and not contributing in any way to the democratic revolution. Let’s walk the talk and let’s positively contribute for the change envisaged and let’s self introspect, stand up and demand for change.

      Many people want to change the world around them but nobody wants change – plunge yourself in the democratic revolution, stand up and fight for change and it is this change in you that can bring the change you want. The revolution is not fought in being critical of what others are doing but by giving input and helping the revolutionary process. The best player in any form of a competitive game is the spectator watching from the terraces. If you put them in a game situation is as good as hanging them. I tend to agree with the notion that there are three sets of people 1. those who make things happen 2. those who watch things happening and 3. those who do not know what is happening – we need to belong to the first group for reality of change to dawn on us. And so let those who have the guts and have sacrificed for a democratic revolution lead and let the rest of us give input in anyway possible.

      The question that remain lingering in my mind, though hypothetical is, if MDC had won the July 2013 election what would we be saying about MDC?

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    Raymond Mazembe 9 years ago

    Sour grapes Eddie!

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    Mudhara Eddie, how many novels did u read in parliament during your gnu tenure???

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    Observer 9 years ago

    Join them and change from within.

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    Perhaps your only mistake was to take part in the last elections. It was so obvious how Mugabe was going to cheat but because MDC took part it gave a credibility to the elections. The MDC should have absolutely refused until it got that voter’s roll.

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    Katundu 9 years ago

    Poor leadership is all I can say.How do you stick to the same strategies despite overwhelming evidence that they do not work.You should be contemplating strategies that can outwit your detractors otherwise you have lost relevance.

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    Charlie Cochrane 9 years ago

    Katundu put it in a nutshell.
    I’ll just add that, as with zanu, the MDC leadership has run out of ideas, Tsvangirai has had 13 years at the helm and its time for a change…………..young people need to take this revolution forward.
    The tree of Freedom needs occasionally to be watered with the blood of Patriots.

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      Diego Zhaba 9 years ago

      @Charlie Cochrane – You are the people we are looking for. Where have you been? Come forward please. Ha ha ha ha ha easier said than done.

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    Johann 9 years ago

    The first step toward change is to change the leadership of the MDC who so foolishly led the population into believing that by going to bed with Zanu pf was the right thing to do in 2008. What price a Mercedes Benz, Mr Tsvangirai?

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    Tjingababili 9 years ago


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    Charlie Cochrane
    “The tree of Freedom needs occasionally to be watered with the blood of Patriots.”

    Never has the truth be pronounced more crisply.

    Tsvangirai must go now as head of MDC (we want him to stay as a senior leader of the party, but not as head), 2016 will be tooooo late as much ground will be lost. More now than ever MDC must stand up to the words that make up the party’s name, in particular the word DEMOCRACY, let the people vote for the change in MDC leadership now, not in 2016 by congress.

    Otherwise Tsvangirai appears as a despot, likened to none other than the evil Bob himself.

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      Diego Zhaba 9 years ago

      @Mic – is that so Mic that he is a despot? Didn’t know. However the general impression I have is when a leader makes a decision by virtue of his office and it doesn’t water down well with individuals persuing own agendas, one is bound to be labelled. In a democratic process does the leader entiltled to make decisions based on circumstances or every decision one makes should go through a consultative process? Please help me.

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        Diego Zhaba
        The democratic principle held within a political party’s constitution is the single most import aspect of that party, it defines who they really are. The party’s constitution must be revered and honored, so when the leader changes that constitution, to allow himself to have a third term in office, to suit his own agenda, alarm bells should ring in the minds of the supporters. Alas this did not happen, as I fear we Zimbabweans do not possess the political maturity to appreciate the significance this autocratic maneuver has had on the MDC party’s democratic credentials. Tsvangirai now seeks to remain in power as leader till 2018, not acceptable. Tsvangirai’s mindset, of this is my party and I am the leader for life, is a despotic trait.

        Leadership renewal is a paramount principle in constructing a robust political party and thus a liberal and progressive government. The current MDC leadership has failed to unseat Mugabe for the last 13 years, Tsvangirai included. The fact that the MDC contested the last election without being in possession of the electronic voters roll was a fundamental error of judgment, that judgment is attributed to Tsvangirai and the party leadership.

        The day after the deadline for political parties to receive the voters roll, as laid out in the constitution, had come and gone. Tsvangirai should have been making loud noises to the press, SADC, the AU and to international bodies that the MDC would not contest the forthcoming election without being in possession of said document, as this would be a breach in the electoral process and would not be accepted. The elections could then have been delayed until the electronic voters roll was made available. That document, the voters roll, would have revealed to SADC, AU and the world that the MDC had lost the election before it had been run, due to the rigging, record falsifications and voter exclusions included in this document. This failure is accredited to Tsvangirai’s inept abilities to react to Mugabe/ZANU pressure.

        Whilst I do not wish to belittle the magnificent achievements Tsvangirai has brought to the political arena, I do feel the MDC has lost direction, lacks any inspirational progressive thinking and right now is wandering around like a zombie. The blame for this dilemma lies squarely on the shoulders of the leadership, manure rolls downhill but the buck stops at the top, and that my friend is Tsvangirai. Hope this offers clarification.

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    The MDC's Failure 9 years ago

    UNfortunately, the MDC has failed to realise that there is a need to change their approach and idiology. The “protest” vote in 2008 was simply that….a vote in protest against the suffering people were enduring. The economic landscape in Zimbabwe has changed in 2013 and the need to “protest” is not in the psyche of the Zimbabwean voter. MDC were too intellectual and too far removed from the man on the street or the man in the rural area. You cannot go to a rally in the rural areas and tell a person that you will bring FDI. That is not his concern. The man who sinks a borehole and gives him fertilizer is the man he is going to vote for. The secret to winning an election in Africa is to identify what the common man needs, and give it to him. After you have satisified his immediate need, then you can go on and make lofty promises and get all intellectual on them. Unfortunately/fortunately, that is where ZPF have got it incredibly right.

    I am really concerned that the leadership of the MDC are fixating more on trying to tell the world that this election was stolen from them, rather than focusing on how to win more support. I predict a dismal failure again in 2018, because they dont seem to get it.For a party full of Doctors and Lawyers and men of inspiration, the MDC have shown themselves to ber very shallow. Stop intellectualising, stop with the lofty promises and ideas of democracy and freedom. These ideas do not resonate with the population. They sound like good ideals to other countries, but they do not mean jack squat to the average man.

    Get a grip and strategize.