MDC veteran sings praises of Mnangagwa's reform programme
Former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP Eddie Cross didn't just reach across the political divide when he spoke about President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Cape Town this week - he went for an embrace.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Mnangagwa will take Zimbabwe down a different route. And I think in the past nine months [since the election] he's not received sufficient recognition from the international media for what he's actually achieved," Cross told the Cape Town Press Club.
The recently retired MP said he was optimistic even with Zanu-PF in charge until at least 2023, and was particularly pleased with Mnangagwa's focus on political reform.
"There would be no engagement from the international community if a political reform agenda is not adopted and followed," said Cross.
"In [Mnangagwa's] view, we had to have legitimacy recognised by the international community in order to put the country back on its feet. We were really quite surprised at the strength of his view."
Cross said UN Development Programme staff in Harare believed Mnangagwa was doing a "great deal" for reform and that the international community would also take notice within the next couple of years.
However, "I am not a Mnangagwa fan", said Cross, claiming the president had threatened him in the past for criticising him. "He has to deal with these recalcitrant elements inside his own administration, particularly the G40 [Generation 40 faction].
"[But] what more does this guy have to do, except stand on his head, to really persuade the world that Zimbabwe is on a new path?
"We were so far out of the field economically that we couldn't expect to remain a player internationally," said Cross. "But in six weeks, we had a surplus. The International Monetary Fund couldn't believe it. And from September 2018 onwards, we have run a surplus."
The economy is still in a precarious situation. Only 6% of the population has a job in the formal sector, and a 150% fuel hike in January sparked chaos in the streets. A recent hike of 75% of the price of bread is the latest to hit the economy, which is in hyper-inflation at 67%.
Cross gave credit to Mnangagwa for helping to quell the violence, but said the continued revival of the economy would be "painful".
Cross said he did not see the MDC remaining intact for much longer.
"There's a real possibility the MDC will split again, probably after the next congress," Cross told the Sunday Times.
"I don't think [party leader Nelson] Chamisa will give the established structures of the MDC sufficient recognition."
Chamisa is expected to be confirmed as the party's 2023 presidential candidate at the MDC congress next month, after being nominated by all 13 party provinces.But Cross was not convinced Chamisa could lead the party into the future. "I think [there are a lot of] significant leaders who will challenge him," he said. "Whether he will allow a challenge is another matter. And if he does not allow a challenge, then I think a split is almost certain."The Sunday Times reported last week that insiders in the party fear that allegations of ballot-stuffing, candidates being barred and violence in the midst of MDC elections are driving the party towards another split, which would be its fourth since 2005."We need a new generation," said Cross. "One of the reasons I retired from my seat before the last elections was that I really felt a new generation should take over."It was crucial for new voices to emerge. "I sincerely hope that by 2023 we will see some new people, new faces, because the younger generation is amazing," he said."And I hope in the end they'll bring some sanity back to our politics."