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Zimbabwe: First signs of united front mass action against elite settlement

Protesting health workers in Harare, December 3. The protest was attacked by riot cops.
(See a short video of the December 3, 2008, protest HERE.)

By the National Co-Ordinating Committee, International Socialist Organisation Zimbabwe

December 2, 2008 -- The situation in Zimbabwe has reached unprecedented levels of crisis. As we have been saying for the last few years, such a crisis was climaxing and with a number of possibilities arising. First and most likely was the likelihood of the bourgeois elite politicians in [President Robert Mugabe's] Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) uniting together in an elitist government of national unity in which ZANU-PF would be the senior partner around a Western- and capitalist-supported neoliberal economic agenda. The MDC's popularity would be used to pacify the urban working people from rising up.

The strong possibilities of this happening has been shown with the MDC's willingeness to accept the crumbs offered by the ZANU-PF and endorsed by the regional Southern African Development Community in which Mugabe would remain with virtually all his executive presidential powers with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai acting as a prop.

Indeed the cynicism of the whole plot was shown in that as the MDC signed Constitutional Amendment 19 with ZANU-PF, Mugabe was appointing Gideon Gono for another five years as governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe -- the same Gono who has been the central figure in the ZANU-PF's and the ruling class' neoliberal onslaught against working people for the last five years. He is the virtual de facto prime minister of Zimbabwe, unelected and unaccountable to the people, accoutable only to his equally unelected and illegitmate masters.

However, we also argued that if the elites did not quickly resolve their differences through an elitist government of national unity and if the country did not descend into a failed state like Somalia, there was a real possibility of uprisings from below led by the working class, but critically involving a united front of labour and radical civic groups and social movements, and militant rank and file activists from the MDC. We have consistently called for the urgent formation of such a united front to lead united mass action, centrally demanding a people-driven and anti-neoliberal constitution.

In the last few weeks the tensions and fights between the elites in the ZANU-PF and the MDC over the share-out of power and the continuation of sanctions, and the economic crisis has accelerated the crisis and brought greater political disllusionament among the ordinary people, leading to an increasing wave of discontent in the last few weeks, with strikes and protests by teachers, nurses, doctors, members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), women and students.

And most decisively in the last few days, riots by lower ranks of the army in Harare beating up cash vendors sent by Gono, as well as shops selling in foreign currency. Yesterday they ran in the city centre singing and followed by scores of people denouncing Gono and the government. The situation is now extremely delicate ahead of the protests called for December 3 by civic groups led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and also involving he Zimbabwe Social Forum and the National Constitutional Assembly.

The International Socialist Organisation (ISOZ) is centrally involved in the demonstrations through the Zimbabwe Social Forum (ZSF), where many of its leading cadres are playing a critical role. We welcome the demonstrations as the first sign of united front mass action that we have been calling for as the alternative to the elitist political parties' negotiated settlement.

Please find below the statement issued by the chairperson of the ZSF, Munyaradzi Gwisai, who is also the general co-ordinator of ISOZ, calling for local, regional and international mobilisation and support for the mass action tomorrow on December 3, 2008.

We shall continually update comrades on developments whilst we call for your support on what could be a decisive day of action. The resolution among the leadership of the ZCTU, ZSF and NCA is that we are going all-out no matter what the dictatorship throws at us and we are confident that hundreds will turn up for the demonstration.

No to Dictactorship! Viva Socialism!

Zimbabwe Social Forum: December 3 day of action to say `No to poverty, oppression and dictatorship!'

December 2, 2008 -- Following the Zimbabwe Social Forum held in Harare on October 11 2008 and the Southern Africa Social Forum of October 18 in Swaziland, it was resolved that the only way to resolve the unprecedented economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe is united direct mass action.

It was noted that whilst the ordinary people were suffering and dying, elites in politics and business were wallowing in luxury. Yet it is their system of neoliberal capitalism that has caused the crisis in the first place. It was resolved that half-baked elitist political settlements centred around imperialist-inspired neoliberal economic policies, as in the non-inclusive SADC-Mbeki talks and already being implemented by the unelected de facto prime minister of Zimbabwe, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, who has been imposed on the people of Zimbabwe for a further five years, would only perpetuate the suffering of the people and the rule of his illegitimate and unelected masters in the ZANU-PF regime.

We cannot and we will not accept the same Gono who financed the destruction of our houses in Operation Murambatsvina and stole millions of US dollars meant for drugs and support of those with AIDS/HIV to buy judges, army and police chiefs and politicians Prados and Plasma TVs.

[The social forums agreed] that the only way forward to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis were immediate fresh democratic elections held under a new people-driven constitution that also guarantees the bread and butter issues of the working people and subordinates the private profit and wealth of the few to the human and social needs of the many.

To that end it was resolved to mobilise for all-out united mass action on December 3 by the Zimbabwe Social Forum (ZSF) together with the actions called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) demanding the removal of bank cash limits and the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) rejecting the elitist constitutional process agreed by the politicians, and instead demand a people-driven constitution.

In addition are those demands already stated in the People's Charter including:

  • Removal of all limits on cash withdrawals in banks -- it's our money! Gono must go now!
  • Abolish all forex shops -- pay workers tax-free minimum living wages in forex!
  • Declare the cholera outbreak a national disaster -- clean water for the people and full compensation for those who have died of cholera! [According to the UN, Zimbabwe's ``unprecedented cholera outbreak'' has claimed 565 lives from the 12,546 recorded cases since August, and ``is worsening and is becoming difficult to contain as it spreads from cities''.]
  • Free antiretroviral drugs and support care -- open our hospitals and pay nurses and doctors living wages. We want free quality health care for all!
  • Open our schools, colleges and universities now –- pay teachers and lecturers living wages –- abolish all fees in forex. We want free quality education for all!
  • Affordable quality state subsidised public transport for all!
  • Living pensions for the disabled and elderly and free aids for them like wheelchairs and crutches, and an end to the stigmatisation and discrimination against the disabled.
  • No to harassment of informal and cross border traders -- passports are our right!
  • Full, affordable and quality state subsidised social services: water, electricity, refuse collection; housing, sewerage facilities -- no to privatisation of social utilities.
  • Full democracy now: No to the elitist givernment of nationalal unity and the Kariba draft constitution which keep the losers of the March 2008 elections in power! We demand free and fair elections under a deople-driven constitution!

Already thousands have been protesting and striking in the last few weeks -- from nurses, doctors, women, students, the NCA and, in the last few days, riots by underpaid and starving junior members of the armed forces.

The hour has now arrived in Zimbabwe! None but ourselves shall free ourselves! We shall from tomorrow, December 3, gather and march from bank premises in our thousands as AIDS/HIV activists, traders, students, youths, women, the disabled, workers, residents, artists, socialists and social, constitutional and economic justice activists, regardless of what the regime throws at us. The hour of freedom is near. We call on all progressive movements and activists in Africa and globally to stand with us as we reject poverty, oppression and dictatorship and fight for freedom!

Our country is not for sale ... Another Zimbabwe is possible! Another world is possible!

Say No to privatisation, neoliberalism and capitalism!

[The Zimbabwe Social Forum is made up of more than 40 organisations and movements from the following clusters: AIDS/HIV; disabled; labour and trade unions; youth; residents; gender; social service delivery; informal trade; debt and trade; human rights and governance and faith based.]

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leaders arrested

Dear Friends,

December 3, 2008 -- Wellington Chibebe (ZCTU secretary general) and Lovemore Matombo(ZCTU president) have managed to hand the ZCTU petition to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor.

Soon after handing it over, Chibebe proceeded to address workers but was arrested while in the process of addressing the workers. He was arrested together with nine other people including Tonderai Nyahunzvi, Canwell Muchadya, Hillarious Ruyi, Cde Tarumbira and Joseph Chuma.

Another 10 in Harare were heavily assaulted by the police. These included Getrude Hambira (General Agricultural and Plantation Workers' Union general secretary), Angeline Chitambo (Zimbabwe Energy Workers' Union president), Tecla Masamba (Communications and Allied Workers' Union of Zimbabwe), Martha Kajama (National Engineering Workers' Union of Zimbabwe) and Mirriam Katumba (vice-chair Women's Advisory Council).

Meanwhile, Japhet Moyo (ZCTU deputy secretary general) Ben Madzimure (The Worker editor), Fungayi Kanyongo (The Worker intern), Raymond Majongwe (Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe general
secretary), James Gumbi (Zimbabwe Rural District Council Workers' Union general secretary), Osward Madziwa (PTUZ) were also arrested in Harare.

In Gweru, more than 25 people have been arrested. Amongst those arrested are the ZCTU central regional chair Charles Chikozho, Isaac Thebethebe (central region secretary), Moses Mhaka and Wilbert Muringani (both PTUZ) and Benard Sibanda.

In Zvishavane town 6 people were arrested while at Barclays Bank. The six are Elinas Gumbo, Ndodana Sithole, Nicholas Zengeya, Isaac Matsikidze, Sarudzai Chimwanda, and David Moyo. They are being held at
Zvishavane police station.

In most parts of the country, workers managed to hand in petitions to the RBZ offices.

Khumbulani, ZCTU information officer, 11620232/011620231

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