Mike Sambo of the Zimbabwe International Socialist Organisation spoke to Sacha Ismail
What is the latest with the election results?
We have not yet heard results for the presidential poll, but meanwhile ZANU PF requested for a recount of ballots for 23 constituencies and the exercise was done over the weekend. We are still waiting for the outcome of this recount.
How is the crisis developing?
The political and economic crisis has been deepening at an alarming rate each day ever since the government started its chicanery around the election results. The economic situation has deteriorated so far that it is very difficulty for ordinary people to survive. Prices for everything have gone up far beyond what people can afford. For example, a loaf of bread, which cost around $11 million Zimbabwe dollars before the elections, now costs around Z$60 million dollars. There have been massive hikes in transport costs too. Some commodities have disappeared from the shop shelves.
What do you think Mugabe will do?
Clearly Mugabe on his own has no lasting solutions to the crisis. He has only two ways of overcoming the crisis. The first is for him to expedite his expropriation of the big capitalists and and move towards full state capitalism. This is less likely because ZANU PF has always had a strong layer of business people, who are using the state as an instrument of accumulating wealth. These people surround Mugabe and act as limits on his radicalisation, vehemently opposing policies such as nationalisation and price controls.
The second option would be to seek a settlement with the MDC and bring the opposition into a government of national unity. We suspect this was always the game plan: the elections were merely to determined who would have the upper hand in such a government. Both MDC and ZANU PF could live with this.
If he tries to hold on, will the army back him?
Many have claimed, falsely, that the army and police are not behind Mugabe. The current situation in the country tells us otherwise. There is a virtual undeclared state of emergency. The army and the police are harrassing people across the country, and imposed a 6pm curfew in urban areas — particularly Harare. In rural areas where the MDC won parliamentary seats people are being tortured and even killed. There are reports that over three thousand people have been displaced and ten killed so far.
Elsewhere, the government has appointed military bodies to run government departments and ministries. All this confirms the army’s loyalty to Mugabe. Even if he dishonours the election results and tried to cling to power, there will be no mutiny in the armies ranks.
What is the MDC doing and saying?
Clearly the MDC is in a quandary. They seem confused: on one hand they claim to have won the elections by 53%, while on the other they are ready for a runoff, which means accepting there was no winner in the 29 March elections. They lost a golden opportunity to mobilize mass resistance to Mugabe immediately after the elections.
When it became clear that Mugabe wanted to hold on even if the MDC had won the elections, people were in a fighting mood, prepared to defend their vote by any means necessary. The MDC did not move quickly to take advantage of this mood in civic society. They did not even move to organise protests, claiming that Mugabe would use the opportunity to impose a state of emergency — which he has effectively done anyway, despite the lack of protests.
Rather than mobilising people on the ground, the MDC has been lobbying the international and regional community to put pressure on the government, tactics which have proved useless when dealing with an intransingent dictator like Mugabe.
Previously the MDC had agreed not to go to Mugabe’s courts to redress any elections Mugabe tried to steal, but sooner after the elections it unsuccessfully sought a High Court order for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce the results.
On 15 April, the MDC called for a stay away [strike] which was not successful for various reasons; from that point on they have focused on a possible rerun of the elections. This is a blunder. The same conditions which allowed Mugabe to play around with the results last time remain the same; there is no guarantee he will not do the same again in the run off. We have made the point to MDC activists repeatedly that any election without a new constitution which allows free and fair elections cannot be won by anyone other than Mugabe.
What are the unions doing and saying?
The trade unions and the rest of the civic society have not done anything useful since the elections. The 15 April stay away could have succeeded if the MDC had worked together with the unions. The unions and civic society groups did not play an active role in this mobilization; the reason is that both the trade union movement and civic society groups have chosen not to seen as entities independent from the MDC. They raise no criticism of the MDC.
What is the ISO doing and saying? Do you still think it is right to critically support the MDC in the elections?
The driving force behind our critical support to the MDC remains unchanged: run-away inflation, caused by the ever-declining economy, caused by Mugabe`s dictatorship — and affecting working people the worst. That alone necessitates all concerned organisations and political parties working working together to help fight the dictatorship.
What we are saying is that we can only remove Mugabe by mass mobilization — but if it all ends in a run off, as looks likely, let people come out in big numbers and vote for the MDC.
At the same time, we do not advise the MDC to participate in the run off. And we critically support the MDC, but without creating any illusions in the party.
South Africa dockers in Durban stopped Chinese arms reaching Mugabe. Do you have links with these workers?
What the South African dock workers have done is exactly the type of solidarity we require in Zimbabwe. The ISO has repeatedly argued to the MDC that we require working-class solidarity on an international scale — not lobbying of western imperialists like Bush and Brown. Mugabe has always taken advantage of the MDC’s alliance with the imperialists to present himself as a strong pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist champion.
Tsvangirai’s tactical bankruptcy is the result of his reliance on the western powers, ignoring the strength of working people both in Zimbabwe and internationally.
We do not currently have links with these South African workers, but are trying to get hold of them through our comrades in South Africa. We salute the SA workers and call for workers regionally and across the world to organise solidarity protests with Zimbabwe’s working people.