The rallying slogan of the Zimbabwe Social Forum is “Another Zimbabwe is Possible”. This follows from that of the World Social Forum (WSF) of “Another World is Possible.”
This slogan expresses the yearning of the vast majority of society for a different society from that of today – A society, internationally where 3 multinational capitalists like Bill Gates have more wealth than 3 billion people, where the IMF, World Bank and WTO demand that the last dollars of poor countries be used to pay off debts accrued by local elites when hospitals are collapsing and millions are hungry, a society where tens of thousands are killed in Iraq, Lebanon and DRC so that the oil and mining barons can make more dollars…
A society where government and the Reserve Bank splash billions of dollars on fighter jets, Pajeros and newspaper adverts whilst 3 000 people die weekly of AIDS because of lack of ARVs, where hundreds of thousands of children drop out from school because they cannot pay school fees and levies; a society where bosses pay workers starvation wages whilst they pocket billions, a society where capitalists close down factories and bakeries retrenching thousands of workers when millions are without jobs or food. A society, where when women and workers come out in the streets to say they are hungry, they are instead fed with police buttons, truncheons and teargas and the head of state boasts – “vamwe vaakuchema kuti takarohwa, ehe unodashurwa” - as if tens of thousands did not sacrifice their lives so that we could have a free and democratic society.
In short the demands of this country’s and world’s people are for an alternative to the barbarism of the system of capitalism and imperialism.
This is what motivated the formation of the World Social Forum in Brazil in 2001 and the Zimbabwe Social Forum in 2003. To create an open space for working people, the poor, the oppressed and exploited to discuss and strategise and share ideas on how to link up our struggles and liberate ourselves, just as the rich, the capitalists and their governments, annually meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) and their various national, regional and international forums.
Along with the WSF, the ZSF has grown. Whereas in 2003 less than 300 people attended our first event in Harare Gardens, in 2004 we hosted the Southern Africa Social Forum (SASF) attended by nearly 3 000 people. In 2006 we have had regional social forums with over 500 attending in Chitungwiza and 200 – 300 in Mutare and Bulawayo. Whereas in 2003 and 2004 we only discussed and mourned about our problems, in 2005 we resolved to become a living social forum of struggle, with the ZSF massively supporting the ZCTU called Action Against Poverty of 8 November 2005 and scores arrested. So was the support on the World AIDS Day on 1 December 2005.
Challenges and Way Forward!
However, as we again meet in Harare Gardens on the 29th September 2006, many challenges we still face. The most urgent challenge is to accelerate the transformation of ZSF into a truly living forum that relates to the bread and butter struggles of the ordinary people as well as the struggles against dictatorship in our country and for a truly people driven and anti-ESAP new constitution. To meet these challenges, we recommend a few ideas on the way forward:
-Adoption of Campaigns / Action Programme: Instead of various organisations doing individual little demonstrations, we need to unite our forces – united we stand divided we fall. We should come with a few well selected agreed campaigns, which all clusters and organisations will mobilise and support, just like we did with the ZCTU Anti-Poverty Demonstrations of 8 November. An example is a possible big demonstration on or around Budget Day in November when the chefs decide on how to share the money they have looted from the povo instead of using it for social services, drugs, housing, education and removing taxes on workers below the PDL. Besides these big campaigns we should also do small cluster based campaigns and actions including the guerrilla ones that residents and WOZA have been doing.
-Build Township and Industrial Social Forums: The social forum process must now go down right to the grass roots. If the big campaigns, demonstrations and general strikes are to be successful, mobilisation has to start right at the grass roots, where the poor live and work. The experience from South Africa in the 1980s is that the way forward is regular social forums in the townships and industrial areas, combining the different clusters, supported by festivals of art, culture and sports.
-Build regional and international solidarity: Whenever we organise the big campaigns and demonstrations we must mobilise for progressive solidarity actions regionally and internationally especially through the coming Southern Africa Social Forum in Malawi and World Social Forum in Kenya in January.
-Build a democratic, accountable and non-commodified ZSF. The culture of buying activists and plane – hotel activism has seriously undermined our struggle. Like during the war of liberation, we must promote commitment, discipline and sacrifice as the true qualities of cadres. Leaders must be accountable and decisions made democratically by the decision of the majority in meetings. Structures of regions and clusters must be revitalised.
-Ideology! Ideology! Ideology! The social forum is an open space but with an ideological straight jacket. It is a platform for the poor, for peasants, for workers, for women, for youths for those denied health, education, housing. It is not for fat cats and chefs. It is against capitalism, against neo-liberalism, against imperialism, against dictatorship against the multinationals, the capitalists. We argue that only socialism offers the way forward for the vast majority of humanity. The challenge is to organise teach-ins, video shows and educational materials for members to learn more about these things and past struggles and not just shout slogans.
Shinga Murombo! Penga Murwere! Ahoy Union! Qina Msebenzi! Penga trader!
Pasi ne Capitalism! Amandla Awethu! Forward to Socialism!