Tuesday, 1 January 2008
20 June 2008 Precarious security situation – Reign of Terror As the nation gears up for the presidential run off on June 27, 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. Gono’s floating of the dollar has led to its collapse to $1USA to ZW$6 billion and inflation is now over 2 million percent, with prices going up twice a week. The people are truly suffering. Since May 1 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. Two of their leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu remain detained at Chikurubi Prison. 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. Over the past week state agents have moved door to door in NGOs offices forcing them to close or confiscating computers and files, including the raid on offices of ZimRights, NCA, ZINASU, Padare, Bulawayo Agenda, Crisis Coalition, CHRA and ISO. Humanitarian NGOs providing food relief, drugs and support to AIDS/HIV patients have been particularly hit. Bases have been set up in townships where Movement for Demoocratic Change (MDC) and civic groups activists are being forced to attend night vigils and/or assaulted. Several of our 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 housing fleeing women and their children by the Women Coalition was raided and people forced to flee. Budiriro the national deputy of the war veterans, J. Chinotimba has turned an AIDS/HIV clinic into a war chamber. 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, radios and TV whilst under Operation Dzikisai Madhishi, 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. The Attorney General has said no bail will be granted to those facing political violence charges (virtually all from the opposition) whilst Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said he will be declaring a general amnesty for all petty criminals to create room for the political prisoners. Zanu PF has virtually closed off the rural areas from the opposition under Operation MakaVhoterapi (Operation Where Did You Vote). As presidential spokesman, G.Charamba put it in his latest Nathaniel Manheru column – “Fundamentally, MDC cannot win the runoff; will not win it…Unlike in March, rural Zimbabwe is now another country for MDC…and hey Tsvangirai will be lucky to find even election agents. In towns yes, but nowhere else. From end of 1976, l saw war and the making of structures that nourish it. There are many in Tsvangirai’s camp old enough to interpret the times for him. I am sure they have seen what is happening in the country side, watched and correctly read the furrowed foreheads of those who will take the necessary decisions should and when that becomes necessary. Enough hints have been dropped regarding what will wash and will not wash come the morning after June 27. A mere twiddle by a blunt pen cannot return this country to bondage ” Why do we see this? There are three basic objectives behind the regime’s crack-down. Firstly, for Zanu PF to win the crucial presidential elections by any means necessary. As we previously argued in September 2007 - “the chances of an opposition victory are slim… as in 2002 and 2005, the opposition is deluding itself. The playing field is so stacked against them and they have very little counter measures to these, as Zanu PF itself for instance had in 1980. The entire state machinery, including the media, is being mobilized to ensure a Zanu PF victory by hook or crook… war veterans and chiefs are being mobilized to make the rural areas a no-go area for the opposition…” Will Zanu PF’s strategy work? 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 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 people have truly repented. This is exactly what Charamba means, when he says the structures of war have now been resuscitated in the country-side. The crack-down is also designed to neutralize any potential centres of resistance to a Mugabe “victory,” which this time will be quickly announced following on Kibaki in Kenya. MDC and civic society are paying a heavy price for failing to heed warnings not to take the elections route as their principal strategy for achieving change but instead to take a central strategy of mass action centred around a fighting united front of the opposition, civic society and labour demanding a new democratic constitution before any elections. ZAPU was only able to withstand Gukurahundi because of such rooted structures based on a committed core of cadres and not protest voters. 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 and built false illusions around 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 - Hatingaregi nyika yakauya neropa ichitorwa ne penzura, tinoda kuona kuti chakasimba chii gidi kana penzura (we can not let go a country that we won through the barrel of a gun by a simple vote –we will see which is stronger – the gun or a pencil.) 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-Elect MPs or forcing them to flee. As Charamba says - “They are on the run, but will not run much longer. That may mean several by-elections which (Tsvangirai) knows he will not win.” Indeed 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 neo-liberal and pro-business Government of National Unity with MDC after the elections. In our September 2007 Perspective we stated that because of the imploding economic crisis and “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 legitimize his party’s claim to being the senior player in such alliance, deal with his party’s succession problem as well as protect his legacy, person and family besides his little burial plot at Heroes Acre.” Many of his top officials have indeed been quoted suggesting the GNU as an indispensable option to deal with the Zimbabwean crisis. The crack-down is designed to force MDC into such GNU and pre-empty any potential resistance from its radicals or civic society. This is worsened by power struggles we hear in the opposition ahead of congress next year. 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. Zanu PF tactics are thus working. Already MDC is now totally silent even in its urban township strongholds, as Zanu PF holds sway. As one comrade said – “ve MDC tapeta miswe.” (MDC has put its tail behind its legs.). Even civic groups that have not been raided are now stampeding to close down offices. Fear stalks the nation one week before the elections. Way forward : Mobilise for United Front Rally for Democracy and mass action 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 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, even if working with it. One capable of initiating united front based mass actions without necessarily being subordinated to MDC. And 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 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 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 in business, locally and internationally. Indeed the very origins of MDC (and similar movements in the Global South) lie in the massive protests of the late 1990s against poverty induced by the Mugabe regime’s neoliberal capitalist programme of ESAP. A new and powerful aspect of MDC’s campaign in the March elections was emphasis on such bread and butter issues of the ordinary people. Any struggle against the regime that fails to do this will be outflanked on its left by this crafty 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. Without such a united front and a pro-poor, pro-working people and anti-capitalist ideology we shall not prevail against this regime. The Peoples Charter of the Peoples Convention offers a powerful starting point. One of the first things to do being to convene a massive united front Rally for Democracy in the centre of Harare a few days before the elections or the week after to be convened by the opposition led by MDC, civic groups, trade unions and churches. If possible the unions must call for all workers in Harare not to go to work but to attend the Rally. The purpose of the Rally is first to fight the veil of fear and rebuild confidence in our movements. Secondly 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. Secondly on the elections, our preferred position as ISO has been to boycott any fake elections done without a new constitution and deny the regime’s elections any legitimacy. In the alternative for a regrouped united front of civic society and the opposition to launch a serious and determined programme of civil disobedience and mass action supported by regional and international solidarity from working peoples and progressive movements. Indeed over the next week the MDC leadership have a huge decision to make on whether to continue participating in a sham election designed to clothes legitimacy to a dictatorship or withdraw, regroup and lead a fight –back of mass action and civil disobedience. However, if MDC still decides to continue running. The ISO, in view of MDC’s massive performance in the March elections and desire of many to vote, has now modified its position to call for unconditional but fraternally critical support to Tsvangirai. Our criticism 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. We therefore urge all our members, supporters, allies and working people in general to defy the regime’ intimidation and go out and vote in the elections for Tsvangirai. However voting must only be seen as a tactic to keep the flames of the movement alive and to use the space to organize and mobilize for all out people’s mass action before and after June 27, and not as the central strategy for change. The defeat of Zanu PF in March shows how much the masses now want change. Even today in the midst of the onslaught, opposition activists at local levels have organized themselves and are fighting back in places like Epworth, Bikita, Zaka, Chimanimani. But these are isolated actions, easily crushed unless more central leadership is offered. 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 the very harsh conditions of their incase ration including being denied jerseys in this biting winter. Or the many maimed and displaced MDC activists who are vowing that despite all they are still going to vote against the regime come 27 June. At the same time under no circumstances must we agree to the GNU sell out idea. There can be no marriage with such a murderous regime MDC – 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 started with its ESAP is perpetuated forever but now buttressed by a working – people supported MDC. It’s 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 th emajority and not just political and capitalist elites as we have so many times seen in recent history in the region and internationally in Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Eastern Europe. As our brothers and sisters in Latin America are pushing we say no to capitalism and yes to international socialism as the way forward for humanity. 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 the address below. Shinga Murombo! Jambanja Ndizvo! Smash the Dictatorship! Viva Socialism! International Socialist Organisation – Zimbabwe : firstname.lastname@example.org Post-Script: 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. And the massive violence against his party and civic society. The conference followed the dispruption of his final star rally in Harare by Zanu PF vigilantes on Sunday 22nd June. He stated that MDC was still going to carry out further consultations and would announce the details of the way forward this coming Wednesday. 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 decision seeing it as premature surrender and may even put pressure on MDC to rescind the decision. Taking advantage of the USA presidency of the UN Security Council this month they might want to see a few more bodies in the streets ahead of the elections to justify their likely escalation of siege on the regime. But MDC must resist this. Its activists and supporters as well as those in civic society desperately need breathing space to retreat in order, re-organise and begin the fightback. To wait for a sure defeat come 27 June will make it that much more difficulty to mobilize the necessary programme of civil disobedience, mass action and de-legitimisation of the regime. Indeed the economic situation in the coming few weeks is going to see us descend to the parameters of hell as the west and business escalate pressure on the regime, economic and politically to force it into a neo-liberal power-sharing GNU deal with the opposition. The move has put the regime in a quagmire but it is likely to continue with its sham elections to gain legitimacy. Legally it may invoke provisions of the electoral laws which stipulate that withdrawal can only be before 21 days before the elections and that in any case standing in the run-off is by law for the top two contesting candidates. The key therefore is to launch an immediate political programme of de-legitimisation of the run-off, locally, regionally and internationally. Re-groupement of civic groups and establishing of the united front of resistance of the opposition and civic society has therefore now assumed paramount importance. This is moreso 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. The lessons from Kenya are that united, resolute and autonomous activities and mobilization by a united front of civic society can stop this and embolden the more radical sections of the opposition to fight rather than capitulate to the regime.