In the Shadow of the Moon

Yesterday we went out to witness the total eclipse of the sun. It was awesome! Thousands of Zimbabweans took time off to travel out into the path of the eclipse and we went to Plumtree for the event. We set out our breakfast things and were suddenly aware that the sun had started to change, we took out our glasses and looked into the sun and saw the moon start its move to cover the sun.

It was a superb African sunrise, the air was clear and crisp, there were no clouds and the dry veld stretched to the horizon. Gradually the atmosphere changed, the temperature dropped and the clear early morning light faded. The birds were uneasy and then quiet, our shadows changed. Watching through our special glasses we saw the sun gradually slip under the moon until that moment when the sun disappeared altogether. We took off our glasses and there was the sun and the moon, locked into a deadly embrace, with the suns light completely surrounding the moon as a spectacular halo.

I glanced around and we were surrounded by sunrise on all sides. It was dark and the stars were out again, but it was like the darkness just before sunrise, cold, and a sharp wind blowing, but full of promise. We were all bathed in an almost mystical light – we could see quite clearly but the light was unlike anything we had seen before. Just as fast, the sun broke free of the moon and as soon as it shone over the lip of the moons shadow, the new dawn broke over the veld, in minutes we were back to normal. The sun slowly returned and the early morning chill was dispersed by the heat of the day. We packed up and went back to work.

I have a feeling – nothing more, that the situation in Zimbabwe is much like the eclipse of the sun that we have just witnessed. Two years ago the moon of Zanu PF started to eclipse the sun of Zimbabwe. This is a very special country. Everyone who was born here is crazy about the place; people who visit find the land and its people very special. I do not know what it is but Zimbabwe shines like a sun over Africa for those of us who know and love her.

Zanu PF, by contrast is a cold dark moon, lifeless but there and making its way across the sky of history because of what it once was. Unable to create anything, it draws what light it has from the sun that is Zimbabwe. It has no light of its own.

Two years ago in a desperate attempt to steal the light, the Zanu moon started to try and put out the light of the sun, the violence, the killings, the abuse of our rights and the subversion of our democracy. Slowly and inexorably the Zanu moon has tried to swallow the sun. Today, with the recent measures adopted by the Zanu PF regime, it seems to us who live here as if suddenly the eclipse is total, its dark and cold and a sharp wind blows. The birdsong dies.

But if we look up, we see the sun with a dark cold centre, but that halo of light; did you ever see such a beautiful sight? I look around me and I see wonderful people – caring for each other, supporting each other in a famine. I see a mother with six of her own children and 14 others whom she is supporting with the help of the older children. We enjoyed a presentation of the Messiah on Sunday night in the Cathedral – a full philharmonic orchestra with two choirs, it was magnificent and the Cathedral was so crowded, people were sitting on the floor.

I hear of a farmer’s wife who cleaned the house she had lived in all her life, in preparation for the arrival of the “new Zanu PF owners” who were taking this home and a lifetime of hard work away from the rightful owners under the guise of “land reform”. For two years thousands of white farmers have suffered abuse and violence and yet there has been hardly one act of retribution. We are not talking about people who are afraid – these are real men amongst men, proud, independent and as tough as they come. All armed and many with military training. It must stand as one of the most remarkable acts of collective courage and restraint in history.

An elderly woman standing on the side of the road as Mugabe drives past in his motorcade – 30 odd vehicles bristling with weapons. She stands up and shows a small red card as her demonstration that she thinks Mugabe must leave the field of play. Now Mugabe has “banned” such displays of opposition. The street kids in Harare blowing small red plastic whistles when Mugabe tried to maintain his dignity as he opened Parliament and inspected a guard of honour.

No matter what Zanu does, the spirit of Zimbabwe shines through. Right now things are about as bleak as they can get but the light refuses to die. All around us are signs that there is a new dawning in the world in which we live – Zanu is learning that they are alone in a hostile world that will not accept their errant behaviour.

I have a feeling that very shortly the sun that powers the real Zimbabwe will emerge from behind the shadow of Zanu PF and we will discover that ancient truth that has been tested down through the centuries of history, that light always overcomes darkness. Then the birds will sing again in Zimbabwe.
Bulawayo, 5th December 2002.

Eddie Cross ran for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) against Mugabe’s ruling ZANU in the last elections in Zimbabwe. He is the MDC’s economic spokesman.