In conversation With Trevor
Former MDC politician Eddie Cross says he could not turn down an opportunity to write President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s autobiography because he was impressed with his attitude.
Cross (EC), the author of A Life Of Sacrifice, an Emmerson Mnangagwa Biography, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube on the platform In Conversation With Trevor, that he got to know the president in the 1980s.
He also revealed why he backs the Zanu PF leader’s economic policies. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
TN: Edward Graham Cross, otherwise known as Eddie Cross, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.
EC: Thank you, Trevor.
TN: Eddie you are so many things, and I am looking forward to this conversation.
A life that is inspirational in so many respects.
You were the chief economist of the Agricultural Marketing Authority. The CEO of the Dairy Marketing Board.
The CEO of the Cold Storage Commission.
The MD of the Beira Corridor Group. Currently the chairman of Cross Holdings.
You were one time, quite recently, the non-executive director of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
You were also a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
This is a life that has been well-lived.
A life where you have given quite a lot to this society.
When you look back 81 years, what has life taught you Eddie?
EC: It has taught me to value wisdom and humility.
I have discovered during my life that intelligence is not enough.
You actually have to have wisdom in the choices you make, and wisdom is far more important than virtually any other attribute.
Humility means you have to listen more than you talk.
You have to understand that you do not understand everything.
You are not all-knowing.
Intellectual arrogance, I have found, is a major problem in our society, and the world at large.
So I think those have been the main lessons that I have learned.
The other thing of course is that there is no substitute for hard work.
If you are going to get anywhere; and I have been an aggressive executive during my life.
You do not get to where I got before the age of 40 without being a very aggressive businessman.
I think that is essential to life, but at the same time it is not particularly attractive.
TN: Which aspects of your life, which experiences taught you humility?
EC: I had a great deal of success, I was businessman of the year before I was 38 years of age, I handled a lot of big business.
We had a lot of success and if you are not careful, it goes to your head.
You begin to actually think you are more important than you actually are, that the world is at your feet.
Then I started a company after I left the Beira Corridor Group, our own family company, Cross Holdings.
We built that up to 2 500 employees.
We had 11 companies, we were doing all sorts of things.
We had very considerable success over a very short period of time.
Then one of our companies where I was a 50% stakeholder went into liquidation.
The liquidator sequestrated me. Why?
That was because amongst the eight directors and shareholders I was the guy with the assets.
So they felt that in order to recover the assets they had to sequester me and the company involved.
That was a huge challenge.
Anybody who has been through a liquidation, a failure like that, will know that it is a fight.
It took me four years to pay our debts.
I eventually paid all the debts of all the companies involved and came out of it clean.
So I was rehabilitated and I was left with three companies still operating.
We have subsequently rebuilt that and right now what I am doing, as you know I resigned from Parliament in 2018, I decided I would go back into business because as you know, I have a family.
My family are here, my grandchildren are here, I have obligations.
The Bible says you should provide for your grandchildren, and I am busy trying to do that now in the last few years that I have got of active life.
TN: One thing that I have found interesting is that your decision to write this book, A Life Of Sacrifice, an Emmerson Mnangagwa Biography.
Tell me, what made you do this? What made you write this book?
EC: It is a really strange story. When they mounted the coup against Robert Mugabe in 2017, I was still a Member of Parliament in those days.
I have been part of the process to remove him from power, and I was having lunch with friends in Bulawayo.
I got a phone call from Kwekwe, a young voice said to me, “Mr Cross the president would like to see you.”
I told them I was in Bulawayo, but they said well the president wanted to see me that afternoon.
TN: You were still a Member of Parliament for MDC?
EC: Still a Member of Parliament for MDC.
So we drove to Kwekwe, and I found four ministers waiting for me.
They had not been sworn in yet, July Moyo and a couple of other guys.
The president was not there, he said he had to return to Harare, but they said the president wanted my ideas and what was wrong with the country, and what needed to be done to put it right.
Well, what do you do when you are asked to do that?
Of course, I said yes.
So I sat down and wrote a 22-page document, which was handed in to the transition team the following Friday.
He read it, and on Sunday I was told that it was going to be part of the 100-day programme.
Sure enough after the Cabinet was sworn in and sat for the first time on the Tuesday, my paper was in the papers of all the ministers.
I then got called by a number of ministers on what we would do about my proposals, and how we would tackle the issues.
I spent the next couple of months frankly helping the new government with what I saw as being the critical issues.
In the process had a couple of meetings with this man (Mnangagwa).
The last time I had any direct contact with him was in 1983 when I was general manager of the Dairibord and Gukurahundi had just started, and we had had a couple of thousand people murdered at Lupane.
The Catholics in Lupane had called me and given me a report on what was happening.
I contacted the prime minister’s secretary, Charles Utete.
I said to Charles that the situation was not good.
Subsequently, I sent a report to three heads of state in Europe, asking them to put pressure on (former president Robert) Mugabe.
When I did that and after I got back home I got a warning from Emmerson Mnangagwa not to do it again, and to say that it was none of my business.
Charles Utete said the same thing to me.
I said to Charles in 1983, I said to him that this was going to come back to bite him, they could not behave like that and get away with it.
So then I met this man (Mnangagwa) and I was frankly surprised.
He genuinely wanted to do the right thing.
He said to me fairly early on when I had tackled him on political issues, he said that I should leave the politics to him, I should just deal with the economics.
So then the election came, he won the election, and again he turned back to me.
He asked me if I would participate.
I had retired from politics at that stage.
The new minister of Finance asked me to be an informal advisor.
In fact the moment Mthuli (Ncube) arrived in town he hauled me into his hotel room and said we should get moving.
So I found myself really in the thick of things and then out of the blue the publishers contacted me and asked if I would be prepared to write a biography on Emmerson Mnangagwa.
I thought, a sitting president? All this history? I said yes. I was paid a fee.
TN: What made you say yes?
EC: I had been impressed with his attitude. He genuinely, I believe, wants to put Zimbabwe on a new track.
I think as a citizen, as an African I have an obligation with my history, with my knowledge, with my experience, to play a role if I can.
So if you are called to serve I think you should respond.
TN: You also said yes when he said to you write for him a number of ideas on how to turn around the economy, the 20-page document.
At the time when you were a Member Of Parliament for MDC?
Again share with us your thinking process? Could you not have said no?
EC: Yes, of course yes.
TN: But why did you say yes?
EC: With the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been a personal friend for many years when I was chairman of the Employer’s Federation of Zimbabwe, he was the secretary-general of the trade union movement, we developed a relationship which morphed into me joining MDC in 1999 and becoming secretary for economic affairs.
I spent the next 17 years in the national leadership of the MDC with all of its problems.
Assassination attempts, I had a shooting incident against me, I was threatened by the (Central Intelligence Organisation). You name it.
Typical politics. But when Morgan died, I really felt that I could not support the new leadership, because I really felt they were on the wrong track.
So I retired from politics. I said I would quit politics and would not go to mess around and I said I would go back into business.
So when (Mnangagwa) asked me to help him, it was for the economic problems, and I recognise that if we cannot solve the economic problems of this country, if we cannot put this country onto a new path, we are actually going to go nowhere.
If there is going to be a future for the young people of this country, it is going to be on the basis of us adopting proper economic policies.
You know, from the time of the Rhodesian government, I was seriously critical of the policies of Ian Smith, which were isolationist, insular, they did not build up a competitive economy.
Sure it was self-sufficient, but it was based on closed borders.
It was China, pre-Deng Xiaoping, but under a white nationalist government.
Then of course we had Mugabe, 37 years of madness in economic terms.
I felt (Mnangagwa) basically gave me a carte blanche.
Now as an economist, a businessman, I thought what a great opportunity.
Then of course Mthuli, he has been a friend of mine for years.
He arrived and he is a vastly superior economist to me, he is a real professional, but I knew the country, he did not know the country.
I knew what worked here, and what did not work.
I remember the first night we had a chat, I said to him if he really wanted to discover Zimbabwe, he should call the street vendors from Robert Mugabe Street, just across the street from Meikles Hotel.
He did so, he brought them in, the money changers, and the traders on the corner.
Had a bar set up, gave them a drink and talked to them.
I said to him that if he talked to those guys, that was the real economy.
TN: Those are economists right there.
EC: Those guys are sharp.