ZSF has now assumed a living character and is now probably the most organized Social Forum in the region if not the whole of Africa. This has largely been because of serious ideological and strategic debates and fights in the ZSF over the way forward. The growing success of ZSF has vindicated the arguments of the radical social movements and revolutionary socialists that rather than follow the model of a mere annual talk show or space run from above by loose, un-elected and unaccountable leadership structures dominated by NGO elites characteristic of most social forum processes on the continent, the way to go for ZSF was to become a radical living Social Forum with defined, accountable and democratically elected leadership structures rooted in the social movements and ordinary masses and one which actively supports and facilitates, in action and not just talk, the daily bread and butter struggles of the poor against neoliberal capitalism and the Zanu PF political dictatorship. The historic ZSF Annual Strategic Planning meeting of 10 March 2007 adopted the later approach and obliged all ZSF structures from regions, clusters and commissions to renew, democratically, leadership structures as well as accelerate campaigns of resistance.
So far many clusters and regions have met electing leaderships and adopting campaigns of resistance, as shown below. Unfortunately a few clusters, regions and NOC commissions are still lagging behind.
HIV and AIDS Cluster
The cluster had its first meeting this year on the 3rd May where they selected their AIDS Council Committee led by cde Douglas, deputized by cde Sibongile. They adopted three key campaigns on health, education and running consumer co-operatives to ensure the availability of affordable and subsidised food and other basics. Citing the articulated government policy stating that no pupils should be suspended for non-payment of fees, they wrote letters to several school heads demanding reinstatement of pupils whose parents are HIV and AIDS patients who had been suspended from schools because of non-payment of fees and levies.
The campaign was indeed a success for most school heads and the ministry of education had no objections to the idea but only expressed that it needs to be done early in the year before schools open so that they have a comprehensive list of pupils who need such exemption . The campaign must grow to include a right to education for all children and run in conjunction with other clusters like the youths, disability and gender clusters. The cluster also agreed to run community health forums in the townships demanding the right to free treatment and free ARVs drugs to all HIV and AIDS patients. These are yet to kick off. The cluster also successfully organized this year’s commemorations on the Global AIDS commemorations week in Chitungwiza
They had their initial cluster meeting on the 25th April and agreed to let cde Canwell, the ZCTU nominee to the ZSF continue being the convener of the cluster but deputized by cde Ady from the ZLC. Ever since then they have been meeting fortnightly .The cluster also agreed to fully subscribe to the ZCTU calendar of events in particular the campaigns and stayaways for a living wage. Comrades in the cluster also attended the ZCTU Health and Safety day.
They had their inaugural cluster meeting on the 19th of April with .cde Augustine from the cross borders association selected the convener. A well –attended teach-in was done in May. The key challenges facing this cluster and campaigns adopted included those of: the right to free trade in the SADCC region especially the removal of restrictive visa requirements in SA and the right to trade for vemusika and vendors in the urban areas. A new and recent challenge that the cluster needs to fight are the new laws imposing requirement that traders pay in forex for their imports.
Had a cluster meeting on the 12th of May. Cdes from WOZA, HIV and AIDS support groups, PADARE, ZCTU and ISO attended the meeting and backed cde Tabeth to be the convener and cde Tecla as deputy. The cluster adopted the following key campaigns: for food security and income generation through setting up consumer co-operatives under the Consumer Council and fighting for the right to trade of vendors ne vemusika; campaign to resist the privatization of water under ZINWA; a campaign for the right to education campaign by ensuring that no pupil is sent from school for not paying fees and levies; and to support the ZCTU WAC campaign for the right to dignity for girls and women by ensuring free or subsidized and affordable pads. The cluster resolved to run community forums in the townships to build up these campaigns.
Social Service Delivery
The cluster re-affirmed cde Mabhoo from CHRA as its NOC representative deputized by cde Taderera from CHIRRA. Members attended an extra-ordinary convention of residents associations in Masvingo over the ZINWA – water crisis and set up a National Task-Force chaired by cde Mabhoo to lead a national resistance campaign against ZINWA. CHIRRA held a powerful Chitungwiza report back meeting in June on the corruption in the MDC-Zanu PF run council in June in which resolutions for action were adopted. CHRA had earlier on a successful meeting in Harare on the need to fight water privatization and ZINWA. Already various groups in Budiriro have started local actions demanding that ZINWA dig boreholes and provide water bowers at selected points or face a rates boycotts. Similar demands have been placed on local business to help fund the construction of boreholes. The challenge is now to get the water campaign fully off the ground starting with community forums, rates boycotts and actions. As Hosia Chipanga says – “Ndakambokutaurirayi kuti mvura haitengeswe…”
Governance and Human Rights
The cluster is led by cde M. Chivasa from the NCA. Meetings have been sparse but a successful teach-in in conjunction with ZESN was done in late August attended by representatives from all clusters. ZimRights had a well attended public meeting on the 2008 elections in Harare. The key challenge of the cluster is now co-ordination and mobilization of resistance to the attempts by elites in the political parties to run fake and rigged elections under an imposed elitist new constitution on Zimbabwe without the involvement of the people. Civic society must re-mobilise for a Second Working People’s Convention to reject this and demand democratic elections in 2008 but only under a new, people driven and anti-ESAP constitution that would have been approved in a free and democratic referendum.
Generally as we write there are intense mobilization for the social forums in Chitungwiza - 22 September; Mutare – 29 September and Bulawayo - 6 October, which are all promising to be the most powerful and focused up to date and setting firm foundations for mobilizing resistance campaigns in the coming period. Thus the ZSF has mutated in all aspects from clusters, commissions, regions, the NOC and National Council gearing for playing a lead role in the unfolding struggles in Zimbabwe and SADCC. Now the way forward is to link all cluster activities in different townships and regions and have joint activities and campaigns. We must use the coming regional social forums and SASF in Mozambique on 17 – 19 October to sharpen our understanding of the crisis and forge effective new tactics and strategies so as to immediately roll out our campaigns of resistance. So its action full time after the forums!