This is abridged from a statement by the International Socialist Organisation Zimbabwe written before MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the election, and followed by a postscript concerning the withdrawal. It is worth restating our opposition to the comrades' electoral support, however critical, for the MDC; we printed a critique in the last issue of Solidarity and hope they will reply when they are able to.
A member of the ISO will be speaking at Ideas for Freedom on Saturday 12 July (see page 12).
Reign of terror
The Mugabe regime has unleashed a reign of terror across the country. The levels of violence and political intimidation now far exceed those ahead of the 2000 elections. The economic collapse is severe and unprecedented. [Central Bank head Gideon] Gono’s floating of the dollar has led to its collapse to $1USA to ZW$6 billion and inflation now over 2 million percent with prices going up twice a week. The people are truly suffering.
Since 1 May there have been arbitrary arrests of civic leaders starting with the two weeks detention of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union president and secretary general. Fourteen WOZA leaders were detained for nearly a month for protesting the delay in releasing the election results. Also arrested and harassed are church, student and NGO leaders and teachers.
NGOs and movements have effectively been closed down by the regime, despite assertions to the contrary. Humanitarian NGOs providing food relief, drugs and support to AIDS/HIV patients have been particularly hit.
Several ISO members from Mbare, Sunningdale, Epworth and Chitungwiza have had their houses raided, forcing them to flee, whilst others have been brutally assaulted. Tec Bara, the ISO Harare gender co-ordinator and Zimbabwe Social Forum national deputy convenor for gender is currently hospitalized after being brutally assaulted at her home Friday night. Three of our Mutare comrades were also assaulted and brutalized. A hostel in Kambuzuma where the Women’s Coalition housed fleeing women and their children was raided and people were forced to flee.
The MDC is receiving the brunt of the attacks. Tsvangirai has been repeatedly arrested, his rallies banned and campaign busses and vehicles impounded. MDC is totally blacked-out from the state controlled daily newspapers, radio and TV whilst people are being forced to remove their satellite dishes. Detained MDC secretary general Tendai Biti faces treason charges, carrying the death penalty. This past week in Harare, the wife of the MDC Harare Mayor-Elect was abducted and killed, houses in townships fire-bombed with four people killed and twenty houses in the Chipinge rural village of NCA chairperson L Madhuku torched.
why do we see this?
There are three basic objectives behind the regime’s crack-down. The first is for Zanu PF to win the crucial presidential elections by any means necessary.
Increasingly over the last few weeks an election that MDC was clearly poised to win has turned and a Mugabe “victory” is now the most likely result as MDC structures are decimated and the rural population are bludgeoned and starved into submission. Peasants are correctly aware that the ward-based system of voting will make it easy for Zanu PF to identify villages that vote against them and exert revenge. Various reports indicate the game plan. Known MDC activists will be forced to plead illiteracy and be accompanied by senior Zanu PF village leaders, who will “assist” them in voting. The day after elections, all villagers have been ordered to assemble near counting stations and await results so that it can be confirmed that they have truly repented. The structures of war have now been resuscitated in the countryside. The crack-down is also designed to neutralize any resistance to a Mugabe “victory,” which this time will be quickly announced.
MDC and civic society are paying a heavy price for failing to heed warnings not to take the elections route as their principal strategy but instead to take mass action centred around a fighting united front of the opposition, civic society and labour demanding a new democratic constitution before any elections. At best elections should only have been used as a secondary tactic to mobilize people for the central strategy of mass action. Capitalist elites who used their money to commodify our struggles and worm up their way into leadership positions in the opposition and civic society stopped this, fostered illusions in the elections and marginalized the activists who built the party and are today sorely needed. Even if Zanu PF loses, Mugabe has declared that he will not hand over power to MDC but rather go to war. A radio report on Power FM quoted Mugabe declaring at a rally - “If you thought Hitler is gone, then you are mistaken, because Hitler is not only back but back here in Zimbabwe.”
The second objective is to recapture the parliamentary majority for Zanu PF by convicting MDC MPs-elect or forcing them to flee. It is likely that by the time Parliament convenes, enough opposition MPs will either be in detention or have fled to give Zanu PF the majority to elect both the Speaker of the House of Assembly and President of Senate, despite being the minority party.
The third objective is preparation for a Zanu PF dominated but neoliberal and pro-business Government of National Unity (GNU) with MDC after the elections. The crack-down is designed to force MDC into such a GNU and pre-empt any potential resistance from its radicals or civic society. Today many of the cowardly elites who have wormed their way to the top in the opposition, will, as we have been warning for over two years, gladly accept the GNU, with the support of business, Mbeki, SADC and most of the west, fearful of the further radicalization of the Zimbabwean crisis.
the way forward
The first and most important thing is to confront the veil of fear that threatens to suffocate us. The defiance of the closure of offices by several NGOs is correct. Even if the regime closes our offices we must not allow it to close down our movements - underground alternatives must be urgently built. But no one group can withstand this pressure alone. We need a united collective response. This is why for the last three years and at the Peoples Convention we were calling for the need to build a radical united front of civic groups, labour and the anti-capitalist movement, autonomous from MDC, if working with it. One based on a pro-working people and anti-neoliberal/capitalist ideology. At the Convention we unfortunately allowed our tactical differences on whether to support or boycott the March Elections, to divide us and stop us from the bigger project of building such a united front. Today we all pay a heavy price.
But it is not too late to regroup, re-organise and offer leadership in action along with MDC. Even under this crack-down we can regroup, initially on a defensive program of solidarity for those under attack and self-defence and counter-attacks where necessary. Most urgently we call for a Summit of Leaders of the Opposition and Civic Society to set up a united front of resistance.
We believe that such a united front must be totally rooted in and around the bread and butter concerns of working people including peasants and the unemployed as opposed to the wealthy capitalist elites. Any struggle against the regime that fails to do this will be outflanked on its left by the regime, which has shown, most powerfully around the land question, strong capacity to cynically manipulate the poor’s concerns to remain in power and demonise the opposition as a stooge of the west and the business class.
One of the united front’s first tasks is to convene a massive united front Rally for Democracy in the centre of Harare a few days before the elections or the week after.
The purpose of the Rally is first to fight the veil of fear and rebuild confidence in our movements. To send a message to the dictatorship that we will not be cowered; that we demand an immediate cessation of the reign of terror, compensation of all victims; immediate release of all political prisoners; and send a warning to the regime that the people will not accept its 27 June circus and that the struggle will only accelerate after June 27 including general strikes, stayaways, class boycotts and civil disobedience.
Our criticism of MDC is what we perceive as the increasing domination of the party leadership by capitalist and western elites and the marginalization of workers and radicals. This will lead to its likely pursing a neoliberal capitalist agenda if it assumes power, to the detriment of working people. And secondly its disastrous strategy of relying on the electoral route rather than mass action. But the Mugabe regime is driving us into hell and the people need some breathing space in order to re-organise and resume our battle for real democracy and against the capitalist and imperialist bloodsuckers.
The spirit to fight in civic society is still there. Indeed when an ISO delegation visited the imprisoned WOZA leaders this week, we were impressed by their high spirits despite very harsh conditions including being denied jerseys in this biting winter.
no coalition with zanu pf!
There can be no marriage with such a murderous regime - we must consign it to its true destiny - the dustbin of history. The GNU is a project for the dictatorship to perpetuate itself and for the capitalist and the imperialist elites, to ensure that the poverty that the capitalist Zanu PF government has promoted is buttressed by a working–people supported MDC. Its time we allow the ordinary people to take charge of the struggle that is rightfully theirs and ensure an outcome that achieves real democracy, economically and politically, for the majority and not just political and capitalist elites as we have so many times seen in recent history — in Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Eastern Europe.
Finally ISO wishes to express our utmost gratitude to all those who have send solidarity messages and donations to us and other organizations and still make a further urgent appeal for assistance. To send solidarity messages, receive updates or make a donation please mail us at email@example.com.
postscript: 23 june 2008
Following the publication of this update, Morgan Tsvangirai held a press conference where he issued a statement to the effect that MDC is pulling out of the run-off because conditions for a free and fair election do not exist given the massive violence against his party and civic society. The conference followed the dispruption of his final rally in Harare by Zanu PF vigilantes on Sunday 22 June.
We welcome the position taken by MDC and initial reports indicate that this position has been accepted by MDC and civic society activists and supporters. However, this decision needs to be followed by quick and concrete steps on the way forward, based on a united front and mass action strategy as indicated above. We are well that sections of the bourgeoisie, Rhodesian right–wing and imperialist west will not be happy with this, seeing it as premature surrender, and may even pressure MDC to rescind the decision.
The MDC must resist this. Its activists and supporters as well as civic society desperately need breathing space to retreat in order, re-organise and begin the fight-back.
Re-groupment of civic groups and establishing the united front of resistance of the opposition and civic society has therefore now assumed paramount importance. This is more so because of the massive likely pressure on MDC to now enter into negotiations for a government of GNU from Mbeki, SADC, UN and the capitalist and imperialist forces. This is no solution for working people and must be resolutely rejected as we will detail in our next update. But given MDC’s history of prevarications and the strong influence of capitalist elites within its leadership, it may not surprise if it ends up capitulating again.
A luta Continua! No to Dictatorship! No to an elitist settlement! No to GNU! Viva Socialism!