Let it crash and burn!

When I hear people talking about putting pressure on the regime in Harare they often express concern about the impact on the ordinary men and women living in the country. No such sentiments are in fact heard as grass roots level - in fact quite the opposite, ordinary people are the most vociferous in their view that the MDC must not enter into any sort of deal with Zanu PF as a junior partner.

A good friend in Harare called me just after Christmas and said that in his conversations with people in the capital, he was hearing the view that we should let the country crash and burn and then pick up the pieces. People are very perceptive in what they think and say about sometimes complex and difficult issues. Take for example the use of street traders of the word 'burn' to describe changing money from hard currency to the local paper. It aptly describes the otherwise complex process that simply destroys the real value of the currency once it in local form.

So what is outstanding? We have got a decent draft of the amendments required for the constitution to give effect to the Global Political Agreement, now all that remains are four issues - the legal basis for the National Security Council, which will replace the Joint Operations Command, the equitable allocation of Ministerial portfolios, the rescinding of the appointment of the 10 provincial governors and their replacement with 10 new ones agreed with the MDC as required by the GPA and now a new condition - the production in safe and sound condition of the 42 people abducted by the regime in recent weeks.

Mr. Tsvangirai has received his passport - that was finally extracted from the Registrar Generals hands and taken to Gaborone by the South African Ambassador and handed to him by the Ambassador on Christmas day. They have also 'found' 30 of the abductees and produced them in Court to be formally charged. 12 still; to be produced. A number will be in Court on Monday and we will then learn what the State intends and what case they will try to make against them.

This leaves the question of the Ministerial portfolios, the governors and the Security Council. South Africa is still trying to persuade the MDC to go into the transitional government without these issues being resolved. What they fail to understand is that we will not get on the bus until the steering wheel and the accelerator and the gear lever are in our hands. Last time someone did that they ended up in the bush, dumped on the side of the road and having to walk back to civilization - they are still walking.

So the stage is set - Parliament will sit on the 20th of January and is ready to debate and vote on the amendments and the new legislation to set up the Security Council - but we will not do so if the outstanding issues are not agreed and in place. It is not grandstanding, because of the way the GPA was agreed, largely at the behest of the South African mediation team; this bus is a peculiar one in design.

In the front of the bus - up against the windscreen, is a large sitting area that will be empty most of the time until we have to decide which direction to go next. Then the President will get on the bus and meet the driver and passengers and hear their views and together with the driver, will map out the next stage in this journey. He will then get off the bus and the driver and his passengers will move to the divers seat, take charge and actually drive the bus to its next destination. Clumsy, but workable if there is no doubt about who the driver is and how he will operate. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers is clearly designed to take this role but the bus hasn't been built yet.

Since this machine was designed in South Africa we expect them to deliver a completed vehicle into our care. To do this, the South African President has to return to the factory and give final instructions to the factory staff on the completion of the bus. Then, if we are satisfied it's to specification, we will take delivery and be prepared to drive the bus to its destination.

Spectators underestimate the MDC. In March 2006, when 22 000 delegates and guests crowded the National Sport Stadium in Harare for the MDC Congress, the Congress resolved to adopt a road map - first the democratic resistance campaign, then negotiations, a transitional government, new constitution, then free and fair elections - and only then, a genuine MDC Government. I do not recall any commentator saying that this was a brilliant plan or commenting at the time on the prospects for the MDC achieving its stated objectives.

Yet two years later, stage one is complete, stage two is about to be completed and we are shortly to start work on stage three. What people also need to know is that we have a detailed road map of how to traverse the ground ahead of us. A road map exists already and is agreed with Zanu PF, as to how and when we are going to complete a new national, people driven constitution to guide us into the future. It even has a timetable and the next elections will be in mid 2011.

We also have a detailed understanding of the territory we must traverse in the next two years. The shambles in education and health, the collapsed economy with closed mines and factories, the deserted farms. The absence of the rule of law, freedom of association and information, the destruction of our own currency by stupid, myopic bad management. We know what the obstacles are and how rough the road will be - we think we will have to fuel for the bus and we certainly know how to steer us back to sanity.

But you cannot drive a bus with two drivers trying to do so at the same time. The GPA says the MDC is in charge of the bus and MT is the driver. We just need to make sure, absolutely sure that there are no dual controls in the front of the bus - they remain where they were designed to be - further back in the hands of the Prime Minister.

What the people at the bus stop are saying is 'we will not get on the bus until we are satisfied that the driver is our man and not Mugabe'. And that is not negotiable. If Mugabe is anywhere near the wheel, we would rather let the bus crash and burn.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 4th January 2009