- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

The following essay is by Eddie Cross, secretary for economic affairs in Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change. It reflects her views as an individual and not necessarily the MDC's position.

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe Pundits say that we have the best white-water rafting conditions in the world at the Victoria Falls and into the Devil's Gorge on the Zambezi River. I have done the run, with a white-water rafting guide from the Colorado River in the U.S., and she thought it was the best in the world. She was a geologist who did nothing else but guide people through the white-water experience all over the world.
If you have not done it, it's a wonderful and exhilarating experience. The river is huge, a mile wide at the falls, which plunges 1,000 feet into the pools below and then runs through gorges that at times are less than 165 feet across.
Here the water is deep and fast, and the existence of huge boulders in the riverbed creates conditions like you have never seen. Some of the rougher areas are best traversed by foot along the water's edge. It's just too dangerous for most mortals. When I rafted, I was thrown out a couple of times and received a huge bruise across my torso and face from an encounter with an oar. I also saw the odd crocodile but [had] no encounters of that kind while in the water. It was stimulating, fast and unforgettable, and at the end, the ride was too short. Climbing out of the gorges was the worst part.
The present political campaign in Zimbabwe is much the same sort of experience. It's fast, exhilarating, dangerous and a never-to-be-forgotten experience. The water rushes on, unscathed by boulders and deep drops, and emerges at the end unaffected.
So it is going to be here with the vote.
The voters are running the gantlet of ZANU-PF (President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Force) obstacles and violence, but will emerge intact. And when they vote it will change everything. Suddenly we will be out in open country again, into silent pools and the sunshine, out of the darkness of the gorges.
Climbing out of the hole we are in is going to be the tough part one where we will need help. In the gorges, nobody can really help except those in the water with us.
We are all in different rubber dinghies for this trip one for the lawyers, another for the actual politicians, another for the economists.
I sit in the latter, with as fine a team of economists [as] have been assembled anywhere. David Coltart who leads the lawyers' raft and I agreed that we are having such fun, it's almost a sin to be enjoying the ride so much. Sure it's rough and dangerous, and the risks are great even life-threatening at times.
In Dave's raft are some of the best legal minds in the country: Adrian de Bourbon, Brian Elliott, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and ream of others all of whom are working for a quarter of what they would charge otherwise or, in Dave's case, working for free. The lawyers are engaged in their own struggle within this campaign and what a fight they are putting up. The electoral act is bombarded every day. We have the registrar general on the ropes and even threatened with jail for contempt of court. Edison Zvobgo, not a member of the team but a helpful bystander, single-handedly ran roughshod over the Media Bill [in January], damaging egos all over the place.
The fight in the courts is for justice and for the basic rights daily struggles in the courts, bail hearings and worse. We can be justly proud of our legal profession, and at the end of this all we will have something even better: a country that appreciates the value of the rule of law and the need to protect, with our lives if required, our basic human rights. Never again will we take lightly the principles of equality before the law, the rights to freedom of speech and association.
In the political raft are collections of former trade unionists who have worked and struggled together for the past 20 years. Led by [MDC leader] Morgan [Tsvangirai], their work is dangerous, and the water is as rough as it gets anywhere in the world.
They hold onto each other, support each other and laugh a lot. That's important prayer and laughter whilst we are in the struggle. What do they face? Gunfire from the sides of the river, impediments in the form of the draconian new media and security legislation, arbitrary arrests, the prospect of one's homes being burned down and a [state-owned] media that screams abuse at every turn.
If they fall into the water and struggle to the shore, people there simply push them back into the river with the injunction that they must find their own way out. When this raft gets to the end of the gorge, they will know they have been in a fight. Bruised but exhilarated, we will have a sense of loss for the casualties and grief for their families, but an understanding that it was all in the pursuit of a better life. This will be one crew of political leaders who will know what is important and what is irrelevant, what works and what does not work, what to do and what to stop doing.
In my raft, our main concern has been to plot the gorge ahead and warn the other rafts of what lies ahead: joblessness, hunger, lower life expectancies, corrupt practices and the failure of current strategies.
Our other job is to prepare the way out of the gorge. We know the crews will be exhausted when we get there. They will need a clear route to the top. They will need to know what has to be done and by whom.
I can tell you, there has never been in Africa a political movement or party that has been as well prepared as the MDC is to take power and climb out of this gorge we are in. It's deep and hot and dry, but there are lots of people who will help, and they need to know what sort of help we will need.
In the media raft, there are some really fine people with excellent minds: Trevor Ncube at the Independent, Geoff Nyarota at the Daily News, Mdlongwa at the Gazette. To this list we must now add Georgina Godwin and the blond bombshell, Jerry Jackson at SW Radio Africa in London, not to mention the Voice of the People out of Holland.
Then there are the dozens of journalists who defy the odds every day to tell the truth and to cover the expedition. We respect these guys very much, and will never again take lightly the issue of the freedom of the press and the right to impartial information as a foundation stone of democracy.
The raft that attracts a lot of attention and has more than its share of characters is the farmers' raft full of guys who know the water well and wear strange things like veldskoens without socks and floppy hats on brown heads. They are deeply bruised and have taken some tragic casualties but exhibit great determination and courage at every bend. There is Roy Bennett in full sail, bellowing orders in fluent Shona.
Their raft is full of tough guys. Not able to farm at present, they have thrown themselves into the challenge of the white water in the hope that there will be some sort of future for them.
When we get out of the gorge, hopefully, we will then be able to stand on our own 2 feet again and perhaps help others who are in the river or on their own way out, just as we have been for the past two years.

* Distributed by Associated Press


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