Crisis in Zimbabwe -- a long walk to freedom! Latest issue of ISO Zimbabwe's `Socialist Worker'

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Robert Mugabe (centre) and GNU partners Morgan Tsvangirai (left) and Arthur Mutambara.

[The following article appears in the December 2010 edition of the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe's magazine Socialist Worker. You can download the latest edition of Socialist Worker (PDF)  HERE or read it on screen below the article.]

By T. Sando

November 30, 2010 -- Socialist Worker (Zimbabwe) -- Several significant events in the political and constitutional framework of Zimbabwe have occurred in recent months. First, are the controversies surrounding the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) outreach exercise carried out from June 2010 to date. Second is the crisis in the Government of National Unity (GNU) following various unilateral state executive appointments by President Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

The GNU is facing its biggest crisis since its inception, following the unilateral reappointment of provincial governors and ambassadors by Mugabe. This has been one of the main outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which was supposed to be resolved by Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Afrcian Union (AU), the guarantors of the GPA. Prime minister and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) president Morgan Tsvangirai responded by declaring that he and his party did not recognise such appointments but also others that Mugabe had unilaterally made in the last 18 months, including the appointments of the Reserve Bank governor, attorney general, five High Court and Supreme Court judges and ambassadors to the UN, Europe and South Africa. He has since written to these various authorities formally informing them of his position. Mugabe and the state media have ridiculed Tsvangirai, with Mugabe saying this is why it was now mandatory to have elections by mid-2011 and do away with the GNU, which has become an unbearable hindrance to Mugabe.

The growing arrogance of Mugabe and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the crisis facing the GNU are not surprising and we had predicted right from the inception of the GPA in September 2008:

[The MDC–T leaders’] primary preoccupation is towards reaching a sell-out agreement with the ZANU-PF dictatorship that will not benefit the poor and working people ... the opposition is dominated by the petite-bourgeois elite, who long ago prostrated themselves before western neoliberal forces and are now eager to get into state power, even as junior partners, and accumulate as a neocolonial dependent capitalist class...

On the other hand Tsvangirai, supported by a duplicitous and largely cowardly civic society, actively undermined any attempt at serious mass action solely relying on Western sanctions. Not surprising they have been forced into a deal which gives a desperate dictatorship breathing space to renew itself, whilst laying the foundations for massive long-term assaults on the living conditions of working people. Make no mistake, despite the above concessions, the MDC is the definite junior in this deal with very unclear chances of success whilst the future of the deal itself is very uncertain...

... unlike the Patriotic Front, the MDC has no real fallback position if the deal collapses. Its only guarantor is a mediator who has now been ousted. Having consistently neutralised the mass action route, the MDC has solely relied on the Western sanctions. But MDC is not in full control of this. Locked in a hotel room and virtually coerced by [Thabo] Mbeki and Mugabe to sign there and then or risk immediate collapse of the negotiations, Tsvangirai seems to have signed a deal that does not meet the full approval of his Western allies...

With economic siege continuing, especially in an environment of global economic crisis, the deal looks very fragile and may unravel sooner rather than later. Popular acceptance of such an expensive and over-bloated coalition government, proportionately the biggest in the world in a country with the world’s highest inflation, is likely to wane rapidly if the promised economic recovery fails to take place, with the draft national constitution a possible flash point. At such stage Mugabe’s continued control of the security apparatus, the state and treasury will be decisive and the opposition’s nakedness and foolishness in signing such deal exposed. -- Socialist Worker (Zimbabwe), January 2009.

The above prediction has indeed come to pass. The GNU saved the ZANU-PF dictatorship from an impending social, economic and political implosion as foreshadowed by collapsing public utilities and rioting junior soldiers. The hyper-inflation dragon was tamed and Zimbabwe’s international isolation largely removed. Tsvangirai went the world over preaching, as recently as September 2010 in an interview with South Africa's E-News, about how Mugabe had reformed, was a well-meaning statesman worried about his legacy and so forth. He has now turned and is bleating a different song!

We now in fact seem to be reaching the point predicted when Mugabe, no longer needing the GNU, would flex his muscles and wee on the GNU. With a fairly stabilised economy and Tsvangirai having demobilised and confused his supporters, the hardliners in the Mugabe regime are now again on the ascendancy and clearly on the offensive, using the constitutional question as the launch pad. Mugabe has now called for elections, saying the GNU has become intolerable for him and his ZANU-PF. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has also told his supporters to prepare for elections in 2011, although he is insisting that these will be under a new constitution. Although Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has said this is grandstanding, events in the last few weeks show that the momentum for elections might be gathering its own pace and with increasing possibility could in fact happen.

Why elections in 2011?

Why is Mugabe pushing for elections when he lost in March 2008 and when recent polls show the MDC-T winning with 32% and Mugabe at 18%? It would seem following the COPAC outreach exercise, the hardliners in ZANU-PF have become convinced that the system they put in place with devastating effect in June 2008 is still intact and that threats of the return to such violence could land them victory. Moreover, they calculate the impact of the protest vote for the opposition arising from the massive economic crisis of 2008 has gone down, while the MDC-T seems to be focusing on their factional fighting.

The recent events show that Mugabe and ZANU-PF have no desire to leave power soon or peacefully. The discovery of diamonds, the growth in agriculture and the economic "indigenisation" program will require an appropriate enabling political framework that can only be provided by untrammeled ZANU-PF control of the state. Even though ZANU-PF is talking about a peaceful campaign, next year’s election is likely to be characterised by state-orchestrated violence, intimidation and the manipulation of the results to ensure a Mugabe victory.

What this means is that the struggle for democratisation in Zimbabwe is far from being won. What is now required is a united force of all progressive forces to build independently and renew both political and economical struggles against the ZANU-PF dictatorship as well as the neoliberal capitalist agenda of the ruling class in Zimbabwe. This movement must also not have any illusions in the MDC-T or [minority faction] MDC-M, whose leaders have shown themselves not only to be greedy self-interested and cowardly junior partners of the dictatorship but also have been at the forefront of pushing massive neoliberal policies that attack ordinary people. They are a vacillating lot, one day wining and dining with the dictatorship and the other moaning about victimisation. It is hoped that the latest events will show increasing layers of ordinary MDC-T supporters of the need for a resolute and decisive battle for democracy against the regime and capitalism.

The proposed [constitutional] referendum can be used as a launch pad for a bitter fight with the system of neoliberalism and tyranny which must clearly go beyond the constitutional-making process. Given the dominance of the COPAC Outreach program by ZANU-PF through manipulation and intimidation, it is likely that its positions on an all-powerful executive president and non-inclusion of socio-economic rights will prevail. In any case, both MDC formations are now calling for a negotiated constitution, which is likely to be based on the anti-working people Kariba Draft, which contains neoliberal anti-working class provisions. If the MDC-T was really sincere it would have called for contentious provisions to be put directly as questions for decision in the referendum. But it isn't and seeks to lie to the people that it will facilitate the writing of a new constitution on getting into power.

For the above reasons, now that we have exposed in practice the hypocrisy of the elites, we should  start preparing to reject the likely elitist, neoliberal and undemocratic constitution they are brewing. As we argued in our posters, with our interests not included we must mobilise for a "Vote No in the referendum" as part and parcel of building a general and united anti-dictatorship and anti-capitalist uprising in this country.

It is time we learn from our mistakes as ordinary people that our struggles were hijacked when the MDC was formed. This time we have to do away with the capitalist system and join hands with other fighting working peoples of the world, such as we see in France, Greece and South Africa, who are also revolting against the system today.

Viva Socialism!

Download the latest edition of Socialist Worker (PDF)  HERE or read it on screen below.

ISO Zimbabwe's Socialist Worker December 2010 issue