Strike shuts down Zimbabwe
By Ashley Fataar (Keep Left) and comrades in ISO Zimbabwe
The underlying causes of the 6th July stay-away strike that shut down Zimbabwe are the worsening living conditions of Zimbabwe’s masses.
Since 2008, poverty, unemployment and service delivery have reached levels unseen in Zimbabwe’s history. Unemployment is at 80%, state schools and hospitals are effectively not operating, workers’ wages are paid late and wages cannot meet basic needs. Zimbabwe literacy rates were once the envy of Africa but in 2012 only 18% of matric students passed their end of year exams.
Simultaneously workers have been watching as the elite get richer. Bosses of state owned companies earn hundreds of thousands of Rands per month. At the same time state run companies have seen billions of US dollars each go missing from their accounts with no prosecutions. The wealthiest CEOs of the largest private companies each have wealth of anything up to 9 billion Rand. By comparison, the workers’ wages on average are R 6,000. The poverty line for a standard family is R 9,000. So it is clear who is paying for the crisis in Zimbabwe.
This has all taken place either directly under, or with the complicit approval of, ZANU-PF.
Two important strikes
But workers did not take this lying down. Years of job losses did not dent their anger. Prior to the 6 July strike, two important strikes took place in the food and transport sectors. A strike in the food industry became the longest strike in Zimbabwe’s history – and they were supported by workers in the banking, telecommunications and energy industries and the ISO socialist organisation. This strike inspired a big strike on the railways.
The mood created by the strikes led to protests by vendors and taxidrivers. A council run by the opposition MDC was faced with a riot when it tried to implement unaffordable taxi and vendor licence fees. All these have led to government workers, the largest group of workers, deciding on strike action in the hospitals and schools.
Evan Mawarire, a church pastor, and other middle class and NGO elements all claimed leadership of the stay-away under the banner of This Flag and Tajamuka.
But it was the role played by public sector workers that was crucial. Independently, workers in teaching and nursing called for their own strikes prior to 6th July. They did so because of their material conditions – wages that keep them in poverty. These workers were joined by other working class activists.
The regime is hopelessly divided with Mugabe old and ailing. Crucially it has no solution to the imploding economy – a crisis ultimately deriving from the failure of neoliberalism and capitalism, locally and globally. In the next few months it will fail to pay even the police and soldiers it abuses today. From the current actions, the confidence of the masses grows.
The regime is divided
ZANU-PF has been imposing anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-poor brutal IMF austerity neoliberal policies, which were adopted from those started by the MDC during the 2008-2013 Government of National Unity – policies that have led to the worst attacks on workers. It is supported by capitalists who massacre jobs and wages or don’t pay workers for 15 months.
As socialists in Zimbabwe argue, the rebellion will most likely stagnate because it lacks revolutionary leadership. But the economic crisis will get even worse in the immediate period. Organization and leadership that is revolutionary and principled is crucial. Public sector workers must continue to strengthen their class unity across all sectors and unite with private sector workers in preparation of bigger fights ahead.
Only mass action works best when all sections of workers, vendors, youths, rural farmers and their unions and movements unite on class lines and across political lines. There is an urgent need to build united fronts of workers, communities, unions, socialists and anti capitalists to lead the struggles and not surrender them to politicians, NGOs, rich middle classes and other elites.
Build solidarity internationally especially the South African masses who so well supported the Beitbride Uprising. Then mobilise for an all-out General Strike to boot out the regime and the 1% of capitalists and bosses that it serves. Capitalism has failed. Socialism is the only answer for the world.