Zimbabwe socialists: Fight for fresh elections under a new people-driven constitution!

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February 6, 2009 -- The International Socialist Organisation Zimbabwe (ISOZ) has consistently argued for the last few years that the poor and working people would pay dearly if they naively followed the false calls for “change” championed by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its imperialist-supported civic society allies, and subordinated their organisations to the same.

We called for the urgent establishment of a radical and anti-neoliberal united front of working people's organisations, to spearhead the struggle even when the opposition leadership eventually sold out. We argued that the MDC was preparing for a sell-out deal with Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) as a junior partner and that Mugabe was now ready to accept this. Three years ago, we wrote:

The perspective of a government of national unity between the opposition and ZANU-PF is shared by the elites now dominant in the ruling party, in the two main opposition parties and local and international capitalists. Their main efforts, despite current disagreements are driven towards achieving such goal, as an instrument in pre-empting social revolution in an important periphery capitalist state sent into mortal crisis by the failure of neo-liberal capitalism…

And that for the MDC:

Its primary preoccupation is towards reaching a sell-out agreement with the ZANU-PF dictatorship that will not benefit the poor and working people …(that) 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 neo-colonial dependent capitalist class.

And for ZANU-PF that:

ZANU-PF elites now want the peace to grow and launder the wealth acquired in the last decade but cannot do so in the context of a crisis ridden state under siege from the West… (and that) despite his rhetoric, Mugabe is now ready to capitulate and enter into an elitist compromise deal with the MDC, the West and business. But only after the 2008 elections, which he hopes to use to legitimise his party’s claim to being the senior partner…

Our warnings have now come to pass with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC agreeing to finally join Mugabe in a so-called “all-inclusive government” and parliament, unanimously passing Constituional Amendment #19 and the massively neoliberal 2009 budget and monetary policy issued by the regime. Under the deal Tsvangirai becomes prime minister while Mugabe chairs the Council of Ministers, with the opposition having 16 to ZANU-PF's 15 ministers. The deal mandates a constitutional reform process that will lead to a referendum and new constitution in 18 months' time, overseen by a parliamentary select committee.

Understandably, many ordinary people out of desperation have welcomed the deal as possibly giving them some relief from their current suffering. But despite this there are many reasons why working people must oppose the government of national unity (GNU) and continue with the struggle against the ZANU-PF dictatorship. With time, as hardships accelerate under dollarisation and the neoliberal policies of the GNU, most people will come to oppose it.

Seven reasons to oppose a government of national unity, Constututional Amendment 19 and the draft constitution process

1. The losers of the March 2008 elections retain most of the power, with Mugabe remaining the head of state and government and Tsvangirai, leader of the victorious party, reduced to slightly above a ceremonial role.

2. Mugabe remains in the driving seat and the MDC the junior spanner boy -- which is why the Western countries are unhappy. Mugabe remains the head of state and government with authority to appoint ministers, chair cabinet, dissolve parliament, declare war, enter into international treaties, assent legislation, and appoint or dismiss key state officials like the service chiefs, judges, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, ambassadors and permanent secretaries. This is why he has already reappointed Gideon Gono as the governor of the Reserve Bank for another five years. All he is required to do is to consult the prime minister Tsvangiraibut not necessarily agree with him.

3. The deal leaves Mugabe in charge of the key security ministries and state agencies and leaves the generals in the Joint Operations Command in power, meaning the ZANU-PF regime can always throw out the deal if it no longer suits it.

4. Decisions in cabinet have to be made by consensus, thereby neutralising the opposition's numerical advantage.

5. The GNU creates an overbloated and expensive coalition government and parliament with more than 50 ministers and deputy ministers, and nearly 300 MPs and senators when the country is facing its worst economic crisis. So happy were MDC MPs with passing of amendment 19, they were shouting tapinda tapinda (``We too are now in'').

6. The GNU is based on a neoliberal, free-market economic policy that will bring untold suffering to the working people while giving huge luxuries to the rich and the capitalists. Adoption of such free-market policies is one of the fundamental preconditions demanded by the Western countries led by the USA and Britain to support the deal. Both parties support this and already the regime has unleashed an all-out neoliberal war on the poor and working people through its 2009 national budget and monetary statement.

7. The GNU is pushing an undemocratic, neoliberal and elitist constitution and constitutional process on Zimbabwe with a constitution written by politicians and the elites, with civic society and ordinary people reduced to a rubber-stamping role. The political parties will fast track their draft constitution onto the people. While massively protecting the interests of the rich and business, including the right to private property, it leaves out the labour, social economic rights of the ordinary people, such as the right to health, education, food, housing, and medicinal drugs and care for those affected with AIDS/HIV, and fair labour practices like the right to a living wage and the right to strike; the right for traders to earn a living, including state support and freedom from police harassment.

Way forward: reject the GNU and draft constitution process

Although the elites have come up with a temporary ceasefire deal, their GNU is shaky politically and economically. The ZANU-PF dictatorship is not interested in genuine powersharing, which is why it has reappointed its brutal economic czar, Reserve Bank governor Gono, for another five years, and retained so much power. Economically, given the reluctant Western imperialist support and a growing world recession, the prospects for economic recovery remain slim, thereby perpetuating social and political tensions.

The ordinary people have no choice but to fight back against the massive attacks on their living conditions arising from dollarisation and liberalisation. For these reasons, progressive social movements, trade unions, student unions and civic groups must not call for a ceasefire and must not have naïve illusions in the GNU deal or the constitution drafting process. Some elitist and pro-MDC NGOs are trying to persuade, bribe and bulldoze civic society to give a chance to the GNU and its politician-driven constitutional process, saying we can improve on this.

We must reject this. If the engine is defective, the car can never move. The whole deal and the constitutional process stink and are anti-people. They cannot be improved. Insist on the constitutional process laid out in the People's Charter, which calls for a completely new people-driven ``All Stakeholders Conference'', which will lay out the process for constitutional reform.

Now is not the time to patch up a bogus and anti-people deal, but to accelerate the struggles against the illegitimate regime and its neoliberal economic policies as is already being done by university students, teachers, lecturers and railway and water workers. United we can overcome the dictatorship and convene fresh elections under a new democratic and people-driven constitution, one that brings both political democracy and addresses bread and butter demands of life as we have seen in constitutions won in Venezuela and Bolivia. Such powerful reforms can set the foundations for the much more critical struggle against the very system of capitalism itself, which breeds poverty and dictatorship, and instead fight for true human emancipation, socialism.

But to ensure progress it is imperative that there is urgent regroupment in a united front of the radical, anti-neoliberal and left forces, including organised labour. To avoid the treachery we experienced in the popular frontist People's Convention, which was dominated by the imperialist-funded and -controlled groups, it is essential that there be a serious shake out and split between the militant, serious and pro-working people anti-neoliberal movements opposing the elitist constitution-drafting process and the opportunistic, cowardly and imperialist-funded and -controlled ones who want to hijack civic society movements to support the elitist and neoliberal GNU and draft constitution processes.

[This article is the lead story in the February 2009 issue of Socialist Worker, the ISOZ's quarterly newspaper.]

Read or download the entire issue of Socialist Worker (Zimbabwe) February 2009