Since the beginning of the year, working people struggles in Zimbabwe has risen. The year opened with the Zesa workers, doctors, nurses and teachers strikes and the civil servants industrial action. The continued sharp rises in the prices of food and transport going up twice every week has given confidence to unemployed township youths and women and has put pressure on the opposition leadership to take some action.
Women vendors in Mufakose and other townships resisted the continued harassment from municipal police by raining stones on them - though the acts were isolated and easily crushed by the police. The Zanu PF government in response has imposed a state of emergency banning rallies in towns where the opposition enjoys support and where the pinch is being felt most by ordinary people.
This has led to debates among the opposition leadership as to whether the time has come for a head on with the government or whether foreign intervention is the way to end the crisis or to wait for the masses to come out on their own. When MDC Democratic Resistance Committees (DRCs) demonstrated in support of the teachers and doctors leading to the arrest of demonstrators, Tsvangirai attacked the demonstration saying it was not the time to be involved in “reckless” acts.
As the situation continues to open, the pressure from below for action continues increasing. When the police stopped
Tsvangirai’s Highfield rally from going ahead the youths responded by fighting back so fiercely that police had to call in
extra support and use riot water cannon that where bought from Israel. The arrest and beatings of the opposition leaders climaxed it all that everyone is now calling for removal of the current regime
On the other hand, Zanu PF, just as in 2000, has now gone on the campaign trail to consolidate its power in face of the
crisis. Mugabe’s consolidation of his power is not just aimed at the opposition but also within his party against the Mujuru faction. Mujuru’s faction, realizing how bad the economy has gone, also called for Mugabe to step down and started having meetings with diplomats assuring them that if they take over, stable economic environment is guaranteed.
This has forced Mugabe to defend himself and come out in the open to say that he is standing again next year. He
has managed to silence the growing resistance within his own party by isolating the Mujuru faction. Though Mugabe, through his campaign that he has kicked off for 2008, is talking radical, his RBZ appointee Gono is viciously attacking the ordinary people through his policies. The economic crisis has deteriorated. Life has become difficult for ordinary people.
Whilst Tsvangirai, Madhuku and others were still in hospital there were talks over the issue of the Social contract with
government and bosses, the very same government that is unleashing violence on leaders and ordinary people in the
locations. But the social contract is not the solutions to ordinary people’s problems. What ordinary people want is action for prices, rates, rents, school fees to go down, and the availability of drugs. Under the social contract, bosses will not freeze prices but will only freeze wages.
When the government imposes price controls, commodities suddenly disappear from supermarkets only to
reappear on the parallel market at higher prices, the same will happen under social contract. If the social contract is to be signed today the wages will be frozen or controlled below what is needed for workers to survive. Instead there should be demands for a minimum wage linked to the Poverty Datum Line. There are calls for workers to be paid on a fortnightly basis because of the ever increases of prices. This is what the labour leaders should be calling for to cushion workers in this environment not social contract.
MDC and the crisis
Though the crack-down and the brutal murder of Gift by police has somewhat revived the MDC, the leadership is still not convinced that the time for change is now. They were very reluctant to attend the Save Zimbabwe rally. They made a Uturn on hearing that Mutambara had been arrested and drove to Highfield police station, leading to their arrests and beating.
The masses under MDC have been revived their resistance mood. However, the leadership is slow to move with the
masses. An MDC activist said “Tanzwa nekuchekereswa (we now tired of their sell out)”. This is the frustration that is being experienced by many who are angry with the MDC’s lack of decisive way forward in challenging Mugabe. They are totally opposed to mass action and wear also reluctant to have the mass memorial service of Gift taking place. This is why the memorial service was held in Borrowdale, safe from the police. Although people were bussed from locations it was different if it had been held in Highfield or Glen View. This would have radicalised more people including forcing the labour leaders to join in.
What is now happening out of the frustration to publicly call for action is that other leaders are now engaging in
bombings as the way forward. The DRCs are now sponsoring youths to engage in violent acts of provoking the police and government which will eventually lead to mass uprisings as they are hoping. The recent bombings of 5 police stations and Zanu PF activists businesses and houses is all part of a plan of how to fight back. This has had a negative impact with Zanu PF retaliating in the same manner with the attack on Chamisa at the airport and the kidnapping of Maengahama at the on his way from the memorial service. However, they still believe that if they increase their attacks it will eventually work.
The crisis in Zimbabwe cannot be solved by merely engaging a few dedicated activists. There is need to take
advantage of the rising resistance mood of residents, vendors, ordinary women, HIV activists and link it in with the ZCTU stay away. Already there is the idea of renting activists to stop commuter buses from ferrying people to work, blocking roads and attacking the police so that there will be violence and people will not go to work. This must be stopped as it promotes the idea that only a few can solve the crisis. This idea does not recognize the role that workers, students, vendors and the urban poor can play in unseating a dictator and changing the system.
Another weakness currently is that though the masses are making demands that challenge Mugabe and Gono’s neoliberal free market policies the MDC leadership have narrowed it down only to democratic, anti-dictatorship demands. It is interesting to note that Mutambara leader of the other faction, who is now aligning himself more with Tsvangirai faction and wants reconciliation with, is the one taking an anti imperialist stance in his speeches.
There have been calls from several regional civic society bodies and individuals in an advert in the private Sunday press calling for some sort of foreign intervention to solve the Zimbabwean crisis. But the crisis is more than a political crisis. The political crisis in Zimbabwe derives from the economic and social crisis. This economic social crisis is as a
result of the drive of the investor classes, both local and foreign, to make money. The barbaric price rises of 300% in just 2 weeks this month are testimony to this fact. Any intervention will be to safeguard the system of exploitation and profit.
The calls for military intervention are mere dreams. The horrific reports of interventions in Somalia, Sudan, the DRC and others show what kind of “liberation” will be offered – intervention will be to further the aims of the elite and the ruling class. Following interventions across the globe; Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf implements the worst neo-liberal policies in Liberia; Karzai oversees construction of the most modern building in Kabul to cater for the whims of the elite while those outside the capital still lack reliable water and electricity; thousands are fleeing Mogadishu while Ethiopian soldiers unleash “peace, stability, law and order”; UN troops are involved in child sex trading in the DRC. In all these cases, and more, the disastrous neo-liberal policies demanded by ruling classes are carried out on the same scale or worse than before. Furthermore, the SADC meeting in Tanzania this month also shows what kind of people are being called on to intervene. Further, intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq based on ruling class agendas leads to more of the same.
Intervention must be called for by the struggling masses of Zimbabwe themselves on the basis of assisting the masses – not the investors whose ruinous policies caused the crisis in the first place. The cry of “Viva Zimbabwe Viva!” by liberals simply masks the class nature of the crisis in Zimbabwe. The rich investors still go on their boat cruises on Kariba, while ordering live prawns and crabs from Spar Borrowdale Brooke and other shops in Sam Levy’s Village, while the rest of us walk to work.
Mujuru or Mnangagwa?
A brief mention must be made here of the ZANU-PF Politburo meeting of Friday 30 March 2007 as it surprised a few
At the ZANU-PF December 2006 Congress, Mugabe failed to get support for an extension of his stolen term to 2010.
The provincial delegates refused to ratify his proposal. Yet Mugabe managed to do so at the 30 March Politburo meeting. The answer is that both main factions in the party are headed by a business elite - neither of whom is able, or rather willing, to mobilise popular support. This is why Mugabe, on the other hand, turned up with bus loads of supporters. Mnangagwa having concerns in the DRC while Mujuru has diamond concerns locally and is allied to big business in this country. Both factions leaders prefer a quicker solution to the economic crisis facing the country.
Similarly, Mugabe will have his way over the 2 factions in the campaign for the Parliamentary and Presidential elections next year when Parliament is reduced to a span of 3 years. All this means that the radical genuine anti-neo-liberal activists and fighters in the Zimbabwe Social Forum will have the better hand in the fight against neo-liberalism in this country. But to be effective, these activists must link up with genuine anti-neo-liberal activists in both the MDC and ZANUPF to lead a truly mass movement in both the towns, cities and country-side to unseat capitalism in Zimbabwe and provide an inspiration to others in the region and beyond.
What then is the way forward?
April 3 & 4 are very critical in the way forward of the current wave of resistance that has emerged. We must go all out to mobilize for ZCTU stay away – for participation of workers and ordinary people in it not just the paid youths. This way the resistance will be sustained as it will move to another action in follow up. This movement will talk about bread and butter issues, also saying no to current police brutality and state of emergency that Zanu PF has declared. Already radical structures of ZSF are mobilizing for the stay away, supporting the ZCTU call. This is the only way to counter the bombing campaign that is being encouraged. With ZCTU and ZSF leading the masses will follow with broadened demands that are on the left of what Mugabe is saying. Radical MDC activists must also join in this campaign. This action will stop Mugabe from running next year and provide concrete, working class based arguments, to solve
Zimbabwe’s crisis permanently. Mass Action ndizvo.
ISO National CO-Ordinating Committee