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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 April 2007

Zimbabwe: Economic meltdown pushes masses to the edge

State thugs crackdown on protests

AN ACUTE political, economic and social crisis is gripping Zimbabwe. With mass unemployment, hyper-inflation and crumbling services, Zimbabwe's trade union movement (ZCTU) has been taking industrial action, including a patchy two-day work stayaway on 3-4 April.

But these actions have incurred the wrath of president Robert Mugabe's regime which has unleashed the state security forces in an attempt to intimidate any political opposition.

WEIZMANN HAMILTON of the Democratic Socialist Movement (the Socialist Party's counterpart in South Africa) reports from Johannesburg on developments in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

LAST MONTH hundreds of activists attended a prayer meeting called by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition of civic, church and youth organisations to protest against the terrible conditions in the country. Both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), split since October 2005, participated.

Armed with tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition, "riot police surrounded the venue and many were arrested. Gift Tandere, a young National Constitutional Assembly and MDC activist was shot dead by police." (www.sokwanele.com, 23 March 2007)

Over 100 were arrested. In addition to leader Morgan Tsvangirai, other MDC leaders Nelson Chamisa, Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland were severely injured in beatings and prevented from leaving for South Africa for medical treatment. Police blockaded the airport runway to stop their ambulance.

Security forces descended on the home of Gift Tandere, ordered mourners to lie down, beat them severely, firing random shots into the air. To add insult to injury the Central Intelligence Organisation then stole his corpse, buried it at a site of their own choosing and forced his father to the grave at gunpoint. A second person, 30-year-old Itai Manyeruki, has since died from injuries sustained on 11 March.

Economic catastrophe

ZIMBABWE'S ECONOMIC meltdown began in 2005 following a decade of serious decline. By 2005 gross domestic product (GDP) had already plunged 30% over the three previous years.

The United Nations (UN) had classified Zimbabwe the world's fastest shrinking economy, ranking it 90 out of 94 of the world's poorest countries. Over 80% of the population was living in poverty. Only one in ten had a formal sector job.

Today the economy is shrinking faster than any other outside a war zone. Inflation has hit 1,700%, the highest in the world. "Widespread food shortages are pushing prices through the roof forcing Zimbabweans to go shopping in Musina (South Africa) where the price of cooking oil is 100 times lower.

On 21 March the price of milk increased from Z$10,000 (21) to Z$17,000 (36) in one day!

"A breakdown in water treatment has set off a new round of cholera in the capital Harare. All public services were cut off in Marondera, a regional capital of 50,000 in Eastern Zimbabwe, after money to fix broken equipment ran out." (Sunday Times, [South Africa] 11 February 2007).

The government cannot even pay, clothe or adequately equip police and soldiers leading to an increase in rates of desertion. In January civil servants' pay was raised 300%. However this only brought teachers' pay to less than 30 a month. Police and teachers are demanding increases of 1,000% and 9,000% respectively. The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a family of five now needs Z$686,115 (326) for a basket of basic commodities up from Z$458,986 (218) less than a month ago.

In a tragi-comic attempt to control run-away price increases, the Central Bank declared inflation illegal! "From March 1 to June 30 anyone who raised prices or increased wages would be arrested announced Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono ... The speech was broadcast nationally. In downtown Harare, the last half of the speech was blacked out by a power failure." (Sunday Times, 11 February 2007).

Splits

THE CRISIS has split the ruling Zanu-PF into three factions. Mugabe and his cronies are being challenged by two factions; one headed by Joyce Mujuru, deputy president and wife of retired armed forces head (and now one of Zimbabwe's richest businessmen), the highly influential Solomon Mujuru.

The police assault on Morgan Tsvangirai has to some degree restored the MDC's credibility and partially overcame the damaging effects of the split in the MDC over its opposition to participating in the senate elections.

The failure of the MDC to provide any alternative for the majority of the population and the absence of any other mass political force able to step into the vacuum, meant that for some time mass struggle was off the agenda. The priority for the masses became the grim struggle to put food on the table.

The MDC factions in the meantime competed for the favours of the regional leaders and the West in a political beauty contest for the most suitable alternative to Mugabe.

But as the outcome of the Southern African Development Community leaders' meeting held in Tanzania on 29 March shows, none of the African leaders were prepared to force Mugabe out. Of far greater concern to this 'old boys club' of dubious democrats is the prevention of an uprising in Zimbabwe. The governing pro-capitalist African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, especially fears the possibility of a mass explosion amongst the Zimbabwean working class.

This is because the vicious factional struggle over the succession to the presidency of the country has caused serious divisions within the components of the Tripartite Alliance composed of the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Zuma, one of the main candidates for President of South Africa, has partially rested on the mass discontent amongst the black South African working class at the failure of the ANC government to deliver any changes to the growing poverty in the country. A radical mass uprising over the border in Zimbabwe would give the South African working class an example to follow and this is what all the ANC leaders, including Zuma fear most of all.

The MDC's support for tactics like holding prayer meetings, instead of organising a mass movement to overthrow the Mugabe regime, has pushed sections of youth into more desperate measures. There has been a rise in the incidence of bombing attacks, such as a train bombing and an armed attack on a police station.

General strike

DESPITE THE disastrous economic situation, workers in the public sector especially, have begun fighting back again. University students have been on strike. The economic crisis has forced the government to retrench 2,000 police reservists leading to discontent and desertion.

The two-day general strike on 3 and 4 April should have been a preparation for an indefinite general strike until Mugabe steps down. Committees should be established based on the townships and the cities, drawn from the youth, student, women, and trade union organisations and the ZCTU and coordinated on a national basis.

These committees should elect a national leadership which should approach the lower ranks of the soldiers and appeal to them not to allow themselves to be used to keep the elite in power, nor to support any one of its factions. Armed self-defence committees should be formed operating under the direction and discipline of the democratically-elected strike committees.

Workers' party

WHILST THE Tsvangirai MDC leadership has pledged to boycott any elections under the present constitution, it has indicated its willingness to enter talks with other factions in Zanu-PF.

The Arthur Mutumbara-led MDC faction has not offered any alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the Tsvangirai faction. All the factions in both Zanu-PF and the MDC want to preserve the present capitalist economic order. The working class should lead the masses in the formation of a mass workers' party on a socialist programme

The masses should demand the immediate resignation of Mugabe and his government and the convocation of a revolutionary constituent assembly to draw up plans for a new democratic and socialist Zimbabwe.

A sustainable revival of the economy and an end to mass unemployment is possible only on the basis of democratic plan of production. This will require the nationalisation of the big companies, the expropriation of all the commercial farms handed out to Mugabe's cronies, and their redistribution to the peasants on the one hand and the setting up of a system of democratic collective ownership to ensure food security.

The implosion of the Zimbabwean economy provides irrefutable proof of the bankruptcy of capitalism and its incapacity to provide for the needs of society.

The Zimbabwean masses should lead the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and, in solidarity with their class brothers and sisters in South Africa and the region, fight for the socialist transformation of society in Zimbabwe as a step towards a socialist Africa and a socialist world.



"We will not stop until we have freedom"

Yeukai Taruvinga is a political activist who had to flee Zimbabwe in 2001. She was taking part in the protest organised by the MDC outside the South African embassy in London on 21 March. She spoke to the socialist.

"We are protesting because of the violence taking place in Zimbabwe. We're fed up with Mugabe killing our people. Some of our people were arrested at the Zimbabwean embassy today. They wanted to speak to the ambassador but the embassy called the police and ten of them were arrested. We will keep on demonstrating, keep on raising our voice and will not stop until we have freedom.

"Today is human rights day in South Africa. We've come here to try to raise awareness. South Africa has the power to speak out but they have closed their doors. [the South African embassy was closed] They shouldn't forget that when they were in trouble we supported them. We applaud the work that COSATU [the South African trade union federation] is doing."

Related links:

Zimbabwe:

triangleZimbabwe: Mugabe gone - but his regime remains in power

triangleExiled Zimbabweans demand Brown acts

triangleMugabe clique tightens its grip on Zimbabwe

South Africa:

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: South Africa - 5 years after the Marikana massacre

triangleBristol South Socialist Party: What is happening in South Africa?

triangleChesterfield Socialist Party: South Africa

triangleCaerphilly and RCT Socialist Party: Class struggle erupts across South Africa

Mugabe:

triangleZimbabwe: Mugabe's militias crush his political opponents

Democratic Socialist Movement:

triangleThe Marikana report - a whitewash

Working class:

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

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