BULAWAYO South MP Eddie Cross has disclosed that he has been advised by his family and grandchildren to retire from politics at 77 because he has cancer, as does his MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
By VENERANDA LANGA
He said this in an exclusive interview with The Standard following uproar over his public statements on Tsvangirai’s state of health and his political future.
Cross said despite his prostate cancer condition (also diagnosed last year) and pleas by his family that he retires from his business and quit politics, he is not prepared to leave politics just yet as he feels he still needs to help transform Zimbabwe.
He said when he gave his advice, through his blog post that Tsvangirai must take a rest if his health condition deteriorates; the advice was coming from deep down his heart as a person who was also afflicted by cancer and knew its dangers. He was also speaking as a realist who believed in truth, he said.
“I believe that the person that has high command to win elections now is Morgan Tsvangirai, but we must also look at that if his medical condition becomes difficult that he is unable to do that, and then we have to be honest and think about what to do,” Cross said.
“Tsvangirai is my president and I will support whatever decision he takes, but if I was his late wife Susan, whom I knew very well, and she was a fantastic person, I would say to Morgan it is time to take a rest and let someone finish off.
“My family has said the same to me that I must not stand again for elections because last year I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and my doctor said I should undergo treatment for the next two years. However, the cancer is not yet impacting seriously on my life and it is not my decision to leave politics. I am committed to changing Zimbabwe.”
Cross said he could not make a decision for Tsvangirai, and if the former prime minister wanted to continue, then the MDC-T membership needed to strengthen the structures around him to lessen the burden on him.
“We have always relied on Tsvangirai’s leadership, strength and energy, especially after the situation in 2005 when three quarters of leadership abandoned him,” Cross said.
“However, he picked up the whole party after the disastrous elections and restored confidence in the MDC alone. In 2013 the same thing happened with Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma abandoning him, but he exhibited faith in himself and picked up the pieces and all of us have been depending on him.”
He said as a realist, he felt that Tsvangirai’s medical condition was unfair after he fought for democracy for 22 years since 1995.
“He is clearly more popular than President Robert Mugabe and I believe with free and fair elections he will win by more than 75%. My article was based on that it is tragic and life is not fair because his health is letting him down,” Cross said.
He said the same tragedy could be said of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who stood by Mugabe’s side for 40 years, but now he was being persecuted by his own party Zanu PF.
Cross said people had been wrongfully describing him as a controversial person.
“In my political life I try to be honest and objective and I try to speak in the national interest rather than parochial interest. For that reason, I have found that groups with specific, rather than national interests often attack me. It was the same during the Rhodesian era. I joined the national struggle in 1975 while I was at the University of Zimbabwe and I felt that no whites were speaking on behalf of black rights,” Cross said.
“I articulated what was unjust and for that reason I became ostracised. It was not pleasant. I was referred to by the Rhodesian Minister of Justice Lardemer Burke as a threat to society. I am not controversial but I am a realist and believe in speaking out the truth.”
Speaking of his fellow whites in Zimbabwe, Cross said: “I believe whites have to earn the right to be considered Zimbabwean and I think many of my colleagues are still racist. I am part of the failed generation of whites, but the next generation of whites will be different and I foresee the transition in the next five years.”
On the Ndebele leaders’ issue which courted the ire of many people from Matabeleland, Cross said it was counterproductive to concentrate on tribal issues as all people in this country were Zimbabwean.
“There is a deliberate government policy to virtually wipe out Ndebele culture, and it is true, but it cannot be resolved by creating a regional hegemony for Bulawayo and Matabeleland. That is why I believe in the MDC-T because it is a national movement and commands support of all tribes and regions.
“If this goes unchecked Ndebele hegemony can create a threat which could result in the country being torn apart. South Africa now could be thrown apart by ethnic issues as its politics has become very ethnic,” Cross said.