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ZIMBABWE; As the MDC and Zanu PF grow closer

Only Mass Action can stop Operation Murambasvina… Mobilise for 18 June!

Munyaradzi Gwisai

 

Over 22,000 now arrested and dozens shot. As winter sets in thousands of cabins, flea-markets and houses have been razed to the ground nationwide, whether licensed or not  And with thousands retrenched and 80 % unemployed, mainly because of the IMF sponsored ESAP, the livelihoods of millions of those dependant on flea –markets, informal trade and gold panning has been destroyed. With biting transport shortages hundreds of commuter buses are impounded and others thrown out of the city center.

However, the masses led by township women who now fill more than half of the police cells, are now responding back in fierce riots uniting MDC and Zanu PF supporters, forcing the weakly leaders of the opposition movement to call for some action.  The MDC – dominated Broad Alliance which also includes the NCA and ZCTU, have in an Operation called Resistance Povo Yaramba, called for a nationwide stayaway – general strike on the 9 – 10th June. The Zimbabwe Social Forum Youths Council has endorsed this action. The urgency of the situation required action earlier than the 18th June action, initially bravely called for by WOZA. We say this is the only way to stop these barbarians and thousands must mass at Africa Unity Square on Thursday the 9th June when Mugabe officially opens Parliament and people are allowed to come whilst MDC Members of Parliament must walk out when Mugabe starts speaking, never to return to that useless pigsty again, and let Mugabe impose his iniquitous Senate and other constitutional amendments on his own. For unless we rise up now, expanding the brave resistance started in the townships into national mass actions paralyzing the regime, more is bound to come. Mugabe, after some silence, testing the waters, has now finally openly come out in support of Operation Restore Order – Murambasvina.

And let us be clear. This operation, fuelled by Zanu PF’s anger at its rejection by the urban poor in the recent elections, goes beyond just punishment of their supporters, as wimpishly claimed by MDC leaders, but is war on the entire urban poor on behalf of the rich. This is why victims have included war veterans, gold panners and informal traders in known fanatical Zanu PF supporting in urban and peri-urban areas, such as Whitecliff, Hatcliff and Chimoi and Nyadzonio camps near the Airport. The last two ironically named after liberation camps were thousands were massacred by the Muzorewa – Smith regime. And where is the west, the UK, USA, BBC, CNN and IMF in denouncing Mugabe as millions suffer, as they did with the invasion of the white farms? And in the midst of this hell, the British ambassador met Vice President Mujuru on the 3rd June to assure her of continued British support through DFID, the UN special envoy is in Harare and last week Bush met Mbeki, and not a single word on Operation Murambasvina despite it being a major story in Newsweek!!

No this is more than just cheap party politics. Mugabe and Gono have declared ‘2005 - the year to attract investment.’ With the elections over, their war on the poor to facilitate this, has just started. Through Operation Restore Order they are intent on sending a clear and unambiguous message to their capitalist paymasters in the world that the country has turned a new leaf and ready to do everything it takes to advance and protect the private property and wealth of the capitalists and the rich. The first step, being to  ensure that the plebians are forced back into their place, after the years of lawlessness starting in 1997.

                In the February Socialist Worker we had predicted as much: - “In ZANU PF we see the old guard winning a factional fight against the ‘young turks’, in a battle that is far less a case of age differencies but more of an ideological fight between the right-wing neo-liberal faction of the party and the hardliner, albeit opportunist anti-imperialist faction. Mugabe … swung his weight behind the old guard who have opportunistically used the gender cover through Mujuru to advance their anti-working people, anti-women neo-liberal agenda. Developments in Zanu signal a big shift or preparations for a big shift to the right, i.e. a return to full bloodied ESAP after the elections.”

It is therefore no coincidence that Operation Restore Order started simultaneously with Gono’s post election Monetary Policy Review in which he railed against every arm of the state and called upon them to urgently join his jihad against so-called economic sabotours. He promised billions to build new prisons, anticipating this massive crackdown. He promised the evicted white farmers he was inviting back, that this time they will be ‘backed by a resolute fight against any disruptions on the farms by the relevant arms of Government.’ A few days earlier Police Commissioner Chihuri, publicly savaged his senior officers for being ‘arm chair strategists’ soft on economic crime and demanded immediate action. Gono’s RBZ and Chihuri’s ZRP started holding joint workshops to unleash terror.

This is why in the last two issues of Socialist Worker, we have been warning that Gono has become a Chidzero – reicarnate, the deadliest enemy of working people, whatever their party.

However, even us have been surprised by the timing of this action. It is simply unprecedented in its scale, ferocity and brutality in the post 1980 period, rivaled and beaten only by the devastation visited upon peasants in Matebeleland and Midlands during Gukurahundi in the early 1980s. We had assumed that given its massive defeat in urban areas, Zanu PF would first cover its flanks by co-opting MDC leaders.

And  how risky has been shown by the growing street battles in the townships of St Marys, Glen View, Budiriro and Glen Norah, shaming all those wont to cry out that Zimbabweans are docile.

And hirtheto, all, the main opposition MDC leaders, who in fact facilitated this action by loudly denouncing mass action after the rigged elections and joining the parliament gravy train, had done was issue weak and ineffectual statements and talk of going to court, as if the regime ever obeyed court orders it doesn’t’ like. But rising mass anger has forced them to call for some action, even if half-heartedly.

 

Why now?

The first reason behind Operation Murambasvina is the massive and growing crisis of neoliberal capitalism in Zimbabwe, in the context of  western imposed sanctions. Our rulers have resolved that the only way to get out of such crisis is to introduce a massive ESAP neoliberal programme, as demanded by the west and capitalists. Despite Gono, the economic crisis has worsened as shown by the dramatic collapse in the Zim dollar, the return of the black market, fuel, electricity shortages. Western governments led by the UK and USA have demanded that to lift sanctions and resume aid, the Zanu PF government must: restore ‘the rule of law’, accommodate their political allies the MDC and its supporting NGOs and return to a full scale IMF supervised ESAP programme. They demand the restoration of order and an end to the attacks on private property that have characterized Zimbabwe since 1997 as workers, the urban poor, peasants and war veterans rose up against the effects of ESAP. In the words In desperation Mugabe sought political survival by condoning and encouraging farm invasions and factory invasions and partially reversing ESAP through commandist policies like price controls, subsidies, refusal to devalue or privatize and interest regulation.

To ensure that Mugabe is not tempted to use his new two thirds majority any other way, the capitalists have increased the pressure, threatening an economic implosion, which could lead to mass insurrections like in Ukraine, Kyrgystan, Georgia or Serbia. To avoid this eventuality Mugabe, using Gono,  is now ready to play ball and do the bidding of the capitalists – this is why this is called ‘operation restore order’ - to stop the lawlessness of the last six or so years. Gono was very open about this in his Review: 

Government has declared 2005 as the year of investment attraction …Government and Monetary Authorities have, over the last few months been working on a framework to regularize bilateral investment protection agreements that were inadvertently adversely affected during the emotive stages of the Land Reform Program, which has now been concluded …We are pleased to inform our potential investment partners with whom we have been negotiating for investment that Zimbabwe, as part of the global community, is fully aware of the need to protect and encourage inward investments as a tool to attract international capital mobilization… With the Parliamentary Elections now over, the marked peace … prevailing in the economy forms a solid launch – pad to deepen our turnaround thrust…we find ourselves at cross roads …Our Lord Jesus Christ also found himself at the crossroads of choice between pain and surrender …But God must have said ‘My Son take it like a man for it is written that You have to suffer the pain and die for the sins of mankind …’ We must realize as Zimbabweans today that we cannot postpone the turnaround, we have to take the pain like grown-ups and must know that the responsibility to turn around this economy squarely lies on our shoulders …” 

So herein lies the three fundamental objectives of Operation Murambasvina: firstly and most importantly, it is to send the right signal to the local and global capitalist classes that the political elites of Zanu PF have turned a new leaf and are now ready and prepared to defend and advance the interests of capitalist private property at all costs including: re-introducing ESAP, restoring some of the former white farmers and destroying Zanu PF’s radical base which spearheaded the previous ‘lawlessness’ or jambanja to save Zanu PF from imminent defeat by MDC in 2 000. This is well captured in the words of John Worswick, chairman of the extreme right-wing white farmers group, JAG, on Gono’s invitation to the white farmers to come back: “Farmers are demanding the return of the rule of law, respect for property rights, security of tenure, uncontrolled markets and financial incentives as prerequisites for coming back to the farms.’   Secondly, the operation is designed to deal a decisive pre-emptive blow against all lingering and potential centres of resistance amongst the urban poor, workers, informal traders, war veterans, peasants before Gono unleashes the promised full pain of his turnaround programme, i.e. an ESAP hasher than the original one. Thirdly, just like under colonialism, to kick out of the towns as many as possible of the urban poor, whom they are calling ‘tsvina’ or dirt, because they again overwhelmingly rejected Zanu PF in the recent elections, by destroying their houses and livelihoods. With no homes or livelihood they will be forced to the rural areas and the new farms of black chefs to provide cheap labour .This also means the regime is relieved from spending money in towns on new houses, electricity, water, transport, clinics, schools for people not directly needed now in production and are political MDC –supporting ‘tsvinas.’ Thus in his Review Gono slashed 40% of money earlier earmarked for local authoritites and parastatals and instead gave it to agriculture, meant mainly for the new black farming elite and old white farmers, although some peasants will get some crumbs to make them happy. Zanu PF supporters in the urban areas and peri-urban areas are being sacrificed because they have failed to win seats for the party – after the elections, the party leaders have now calculated that they can attack the entire urban poor as part of launching their ESAP programme, including their own supporters there, but still remain their hold on power, as long as they do not attack their rural stronghold, which will in fact receive some levels of subsidies from Gono. The timing of this blow has been dictated by the conducive political conditions, currently existing, that is that the organs of resistance of the masses are at their  weakest, organizationally and confidence wise, as discussed below. 

 

Political Conditions that have enabled Operation Murambasvina 

The first political condition is within Zanu PF itself, namely the defeat, post Tsholotsho, of the radical anti-imperialist base of Zanu PF composed of poor and ordinary peasants, war veterans and informal traders. They received support of anti-imperialist but opportunist intellectuals led by Jonathan Moyo, and whose massive strategic blunders at Tsholtosho, ultimately led to the victory of the neoliberal right-wing faction.

The later faction led by the so-called ‘old guard’, includes the likes of the Mujurus, Msika, Grace Mugabe, Nkomo, Zvinavashe, Dabengwa, Chombo and Gono. This faction has been more than willing, since 2000, to end the ‘lawlessness’ and re-intergrate Zimbabwe back into the neoliberal international community, which is why MDC so warmly welcomed the victory of Mujuru and the ‘election’ of Nkomo as Speaker of Parliament. Just after the 2 000 elections, when it first tried, with for instance Nkomo and Chombo trying to destroy informal settlements in Kuwadzana and WhiteCliff, it was stopped by the mass mobilization of the Zanu PF poor, led by war veterans. Now, bolstered by the crushing of their opponents at Congress including the expulsion of Moyo, the rise of Mujuru and the subsequent overwhelming election victory of Zanu PF, they are driving their advantage home, seeking to deliver the fatal blow to the party’s radical base ‘to attract investors.’ Operation Murambasvina could only be possible after Dabengwa, Zvinavashe and Mujuru had successfully dismembered and neutred the war veterans. 

The second condition is the leadership crisis in the MDC, labour and the NGOs. The Mugabe regime has attacked now, in the midst of a massive economic crisis, because it is convinced MDC and ZCTU leaders will not lead their supporters to fight back. In the last few weeks, the leaderships of both organizations have been involved in severe power struggles, paralyzing their organizations. Critically MDC leaders announced two weeks ago, that they will not call for mass action to protest the rigged elections but go back to the courts and call on their western friends to increase pressure. Such cowardice, together with the deferment of congress by a year, so angered the youths, that they tried to physically kick out of office all members of the National Executive, excerpt Tsvangirai and Matongo and repossess party vehicles. Leaders assaulted, included socialist renegade Last Maengahama, whose sell-out tendencies had long been exposed before when he engineered an opportunist split in ISO to form the still born Left Wing in 2001.

Indeed the emerging alliance between the Zanu PF and MDC leaders was dramatically shown last week, when the police, despite being busy with brutalizing the poor, rushed to protect MDC secretary general, W. Ncube, whose house was under siege from angry party youths!

Trevor Ncube, owner of The Zimbabwe Independent / Standard / Mail and Guardian had been the first amongst the local capitalists to call for such an alliance, with the MDC as a junior partner, in order to prevent social revolution and save capitalism. He wrote on the 31st January 2003– “The public’s confidence in the MDC waned after its failure to devise strategies to challenge Zanu PF’s fraudulent victory…This political paralysis must not be allowed to continue any longer. It is time for  those patriotic Zimbabweans inside and outside Zanu PF and MDC to put real or imagined differencies aside and work for the good of the nation … Let us all cut our losses whilst there is still time… The way forward is one that recognizes   we have one common destiny and that none of us benefits from allowing the country to go to the dogs …” He reaffirmed this with another statement just before the March 2005 elections declaring, ‘Only Mugabe Can Save Zimbabwe.’

The ZCTU has been severely weakened by disillusionment amongst members because of the failure of most of its leaders to mobilize a fight for a living wage and to defend jobs and their corruption. General Secretary Chibhebhe recently received the CIA – imperialist inspired George Meany award complete with a reception at USA ambassador’s Dell’s  house and subsequently invited another of Dell’s favourite local boys to a ZCTU general council meeting, Gono! And shockingly denounced the increments granted domest6ic workers as too high, opening the way for bosses and government to start manouvres to reverse such increments. Meanwhile the rest of the NGOs have been paralysed by fear of the long running NGOs Bill. 

                The above is why the rightwing neoliberals now in charge of Zanu PF and the state have calculated that now is the right time to attack.

 

Way Forward: Mobilise for mass action and fight back!

From the  above, it is clear that no salvation will come from either appealing to Zanu PF leaders as some of the poor, in desperation, are now doing, or expecting MDC leaders to mobilize for a real fight.

The MDC leaders long made up their mind, that they will not lead serious street fights against Mugabe, (who knows it), which is why they are issuing weak and ineffectual statements and even now are afraid to openly and directly call for an uprising as Pius Ncube did, hiding behind the so-called Broad Alliance. Essentially, what Zanu PF is now doing, restoring ‘order’ and going back to the IMF, is exactly what they have been calling for in the last five years. Their statement and weak calls for mass action are only meant to pacify their angry supporters, whose suffering has been maximized because of their loyalty to MDC. But instead of protecting such supporters by mobilizing them into action, in the week Harare burned, all they could do was hold meetings to try and ensare the NCA and ZCTU into restarting the  Broad Alliance! Thus the biggest mistake that all those who want to fight back, including rank and file MDC members, could do is to surrender leadership of action, including that of next week and 18 June, to such ‘leaders’, who will sure kill it like they did with the ‘Final Push’ of 2003.

Similarly, the end of week Zanu PF Central Committee meeting, chaired by Mugabe himself, fully endorsed Operation Murambasvina, supporting positions earlier taken by Chombo, Sithembiso Nyoni, Makwavarara and others. Officer Commanding Harare Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai told over 2 000 police thugs, before dispatching them into action: ‘Why are you letting the people toss you around when you are the police? From tomorrow, l need reports on my desk saying that we have shot people. The President has given his full support for this operation so there is nothing to fear. You should treat this operation as war. Those people fighting back need to be taught bitter lessons because that is the only way to avoid further confrontation.”

In the meanwhile Zanu PF leaders offer ‘alternative places’ to affected persons, their real aim, like  MDC leaders, being to pacify the anger of their supporters and to divide them from uniting with ordinary MDC supporters in fighting back as they did in Glen View, only to evict them, once things quieten.  

The only way forward now is united protest action and strikes, uniting workers, housewives, informal traders, lodgers, war veterans, the youths from across the different parties, as happened in Glen View, as reported by the Daily Mirror, quoting a resident -‘ This is a protest … The whole of Glen View was here… Zanu PF, MDC and NAGG supporters were all involved, they are fighting back. They hit back soon after police had destroyed the vegetable markets.’

Such united action, in 1997 reversed the taxes, in the January 1998 Food Riots forced reversal of price increases of bread, in 2000 stopped the demolition of settlements in WhiteCliffe. Earlier on in 1978 a 1000 year old Iranian royal dictatorship was overthrown by riots which started when the poor protested the destruction of a shanty town by the King’s police. And in February 1917 in Russia a 900 year old Czar dictatorship was overthrown by demonstrations which were started by women demanding bread and peace. 

Workers and trade unions must fully join the action, because even Gono’s new revised 100 – 120 wage % increments for the year is a joke, and in any case he also sent a coded message to bosses saying these figures were not binding, repeating what happened in the first half, when most unions ended up spending massive time at useless arbitrations. Their next biggest target are workers and organized labour, which is why they have infiltrated the ZCTU, causing confusion. Our rulers know that workers have the potential to mobilize all the other poor and paralyses the economy, as they did in 1997 – 98. Workers and radicals in ZCTU including the likes of its radical president L. Matombo, must move before Mugabe and Gono do.  Since most unions are already bargaining for the second half of the year, it makes sense to unite all efforts, with the unions joining in the national protests in which one of the main central demands must be that government uses section 20 of the Labour Act to gazette a national minimum tax free, monthly wage of $2.5 million and 120% increments across the board. Wages for domestic workers must not be reduced and those for agriculture brought to the same level. This is not just talking. ZCTU successfully won such a 20% national increment in 1998 when it threatened a 5 day general strike. The ZCTU remains potentially the most powerful instrument of working people and the poor and must arise to take its leading position, in this the nation’s greatest hour of need.

We need all out mobilization for the coming mass actions starting with the 9 - 10th June stayaways and demonstrations, including possible mass action at Africa Unity Square when Mugabe officially opens the new Parliament. If the regime does not back down this must be followed by further mass actions, starting with the 18th June national and international demonstrations called for by WOZA which must grow into an indefinite general strike from the 20th June until victory.  Simultaneously solidarity must be organized across the world, especially in places like the UK, SA and the USA with strong Zimbabwean populations, in actions that will expose the fake leftness and true neoliberal and rightwing colours of the Mugabe regime. A key responsibility in assisting with co-ordinating lies with the Zimbabwe Social Forum, which in the last two years has been developing a platform for many of these groups to learn to work together and has developed important alliances with other struggling masses and organizations of the poor in the region and internationally.  ZSF, under pressure from its youths section, now seems to be rising up to this, its historic role, although a few cowardly middle class conservative elements are still trying to derail this. They must not be allowed to succeed at all costs! 

To ensure success we must build and strengthen the emerging united front of the poor, spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Social Forum, to comprise all communities affected including informal traders, comutter bus people, residents of informal settlements, AIDS/HIV activists and war veterans  together with trade unions, residents associations, churches, progressive and militant NGOs in particular the NCA, ZLHR and ZimRights, students, housewives, militant rank and file leaders and activists from the main political parties including  MDC and Zanu PF and revolutionary socialists.  This will also ensure that the MDC chefs and their NGO – labour friends in the Broad Alliance won’t be tempted to again stab us in the back, call off action as in 2003, and strike deals with the regime at the expense of the poor.

Our demands must include an immediate end to Operation Murambasvina, return of goods and full compensation for victims in flea markets and destroyed cabins and houses; restoration of rights to trade at areas of vendors’ choice; new houses and stands for lodgers; a minimum $2.5 million tax – free month wages for workers; free and fully state – funded health and education facilities for those earning below this sum; living allowances for pensioners, the elderly and war veterans; subsidies for inputs for peasants and rural development;  drugs and living allowances for AIDS / HIV patients;  the immediate resignation of Gono, Chihuri, Chombo and Makwavarara and most importantly to also reject the entire free market neoliberal ESAP policies of the IMF and Gono and the system of capitalism that breeds all this. Forward to  gutsaruzhinji – socialism! 

Our rulers, in their desperate efforts to protect themselves and the capitalist system they serve, have stirred a honesty’s nest and opened a great historic opportunity for working people here to unite and smash the poverty and dictatorship bred by their system of capitalism, as others are doing in places like Bolivia and Venezeuala. Now is our time. Our World is not for Sale! Povo Yaramba! Let Operation Murambasvina be turned into Operation Murambanhamo! Another Zimbabwe is Possible! Shinga Murombo! Jambanja Ndizvo!

  

 

June 2005

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Gwisai is a leading member of the International Socialist Organisaton, whose main positions he summarises here. He also sits on the National Organising Committee of the Zimbabwe Social Forum and is  the former MP for Highfield (MDC), but is not writing here on behalf of either organizations.

For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism