By Eddie Cross
Somehow life always manages to disappoint. When I was younger, I was ambitious and aggressive and at 38 years old found myself at the head of a large Agri-food company with over 3000 employees. I was voted the “Most Outstanding Young Zimbabwean” by the Jaycees and then Businessman of the Year. To the world around me I had arrived in human and financial terms.
But the reality was that I found that my achievements were an empty paper bag, smart on the outside, empty and nondescript on the inside. It was a shock and a wakeup call. There were compensations – the aspect of being the leader in some sense, of a management team and staff, the challenge of taking them through the turbulence of the transition in 1980 when we became Independent and a new government took control. The challenges of meeting market demand with limited resources – both financial and human.
When you get married it is often in the glow of a new love. After a few years the glow fades, neither of you are what you were at 25 years old and what is then needed is commitment and dedication. Marriages based on both are rewarding and satisfactory. If you do not believe me then look up all the research – why do orthodox, conservative (theologically) people have more fulfilled marriages than those without a faith? Even the sex is better!! It’s the same with life itself – so often it is all about a struggle with controlled satisfaction and a sense of achievement is very often missing.
It is not about status or money – it is something that grows inside of each person who faces life with the right attitude. At one of the companies I led, I found a person in Head Office whose job it was to make and deliver tea and coffee to the staff. In middle age he was quite happy with what he did but the service he gave was lousy.
I called him in and told him he was fired. He reacted with complete shock and then I told him that I was instead, going to give him his job back as a business venture. We would fund the project, give him what he needed but he had to sell his services to the staff. In weeks he was in a smart uniform – had employed an assistant and was not only offering tea and coffee but snacks and light lunches. He was a roaring success and the small kitchen he had been using for years was completely transformed. I am sure that change reflected into his home and into his social life. What he made was not my business, just that the staff at Head Office had a better service available to them at a price that they accepted.
When we started the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999, it was in great hope that we would sweep the board and take power in a matter of a few years. We nearly did, beating the sitting Government in the referendum in 2000 and then nearly unseating them in the elections. The man who made it all possible was the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Morgan Tsvangirai. Dynamic and charismatic he caught the imagination of the people of this country in a way that we had not seen since the era of Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole. As we followed him into battle he earned our respect and loyalty.
I am certain he won the 2002 Presidential election – beating the incumbent, Robert Mugabe by a wide margin but the regime simply falsified the results and stopped the voting after two days when it was clear he was heading for a landslide. Three years later, in another heavily manipulated election MDC was beaten soundly and found itself facing a regime with a clear two thirds majority. Then came the near total collapse of the economy and South Africa stepped into the ring and facilitated a reasonable election – MDC won most seats and Morgan won the Presidency gaining 54 per cent of the vote – Mugabe 27 per cent.
Again, he was denied the Presidency by the security services who simply falsified the results and this led to a Government of National Unity in 2009. Then 2013 when, MDC was undermined by the failure of Regional States to keep their side of the 2008/9 bargain, Zanu PF were again able to crush the Party and retake a two thirds majority. Once again, the country slid into an economic and political crisis which now threatens the stability of the State and the welfare of all its citizens.
During all this, Morgan Tsvangirai stuck to his principles, refusing to allow violence or retribution, when abandoned by his closest colleagues he carried on, he has suffered constant propaganda attacks and worse. His wife, the light of his life, was killed in what many of us believe was a hit in the form of a staged accident caused by a State controlled truck driven by an army officer. Without financial support he has often gone without and has been unable to pay his essential staff who have simply gone on working without pay.
Now, just as we expect a wave of support for our 2018 Chakachaya program, he is suffering from an aggressive form of colon cancer. He has been struggling with his treatment and the family is concerned that he might not handle the election and subsequently the responsibility of being President of a country in a deep crisis. After a lifetime of principled struggle, to have it all threatened by a disease in your body. Life can be a bastard at times.
And if you think that is a tough situation – just think about Emmerson Mnangagwa who in the past two weeks has just recovered from being poisoned at a Zanu PF Rally, been lambasted publicly on several occasions by the so called “First Lady” and now humiliated in public by the President – someone whom he has loyally supported all his life.
So often in the past 50 years, Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken the heat for Mr. Mugabe, it was the Vice President as Chairman of the Joint Operations Command who gave Zanu PF their two thirds majority in 2013 and returned Mr. Mugabe to State House for another 5-year term. An effective, even brilliant organizer he has held the State captive for Zanu PF. One of the very few Zanu PF Ministers whose hands are relatively clean of corruption he has survived in the Shark Tank – but now is under sustained and coordinated attack.
Many will argue that those who live by the sword will die in the same way, but still it’s a tough call for a man whose whole life has been dedicated to his Party and the State President, even though he knows full well, that the President, more than any other person, is at the very center of our problems and must go or the country runs the risk of either armed conflict, a coup or simply becoming a failed State.
And if you think that these two gentlemen have been given a tough ride by life, just think about the rest of us. We have had our entire life savings wiped out and it looks like it’s happening again, we have suffered under a Military Junta of sorts and the ravages of life under a totally corrupt regime for 37 years and it shows no signs of going unless forced. Where does that leave us – just depending on God for our survival and for some sense that the struggle is worth it and that we must carry on.
My own experience is that despite all that life throws at us, if we have the right attitude and real faith in God, we will discover the wonderful truth that the rest does not matter and that God does not owe us a dime. In the end we are “more than conquerors”.
Eddie Cross is the MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South but writes here in his personal capacity