Zimbabwe Crisis after the Ouster of Mugabe
Part 2 of 2
The deterioration of the economy and closing up of democratic space by the Junta
Socialists in Zimbabwe had argued that the kind of austerity that is going to be pursued by the Mngagwa military Junta would be using an iron fist to crush any uprising and resistance tendencies just like in Egypt and Rwanda. The austerity measures being implemented are way too harsh and, in a bid, to fight back it is all being defeated. As we mentioned earlier, there is an elite convergence among the ruling elites, channels such as the judiciary, police, and army have also been captured and are used to thwart any form of resistance.
Henceforth we have seen the main opposition parties, civic groups, and unions calling strikes. The Junta has responded through confrontational and brutal attacks on these organizations, shown by the beatings, abductions, and arrests of those against state rule. We have seen state apparatus composed of the police and the judiciary working hand in hand, banning MDC demonstrations in Harare and Bulawayo on 16 and 19 August 2019 through police and high court.
This is Mnangagwa’s so-called new dispensation. It has all the hallmarks of the Mugabe era and worse in some cases. There are now several patrols and heavy police presence as people go towards the CBD – they are now searched and harassed if they don’t produce an identification card.
The economic situation is also on the brink of falling; characterized by power outages, shortages of fuel, bread, water, and cash –in fact most people now hardly lay their hands-on banknotes or coins. They have been forced to migrate to electronic transactions because of liquidity and cash problems. People are buying cash whenever they are faced with situations that need cash, such as commuting to and from work because local taxis do not accept electronic money. The currency problem has now come to define the current crisis. That is over and above problems which the ordinary people are struggling with daily – poor service delivery and the national rot.
The mess is so ubiquitous and suffocating that life has ceased to be normal, from the basics such as education, health, and utilities – school fees are going up like all other basic commodities which are chasing the rate of US dollars either on the black market or interbank rate. Most parents are likely going to fail to return their kids to boarding school when schools re-open for the third term because they now can’t afford fees. On the other hand, universities have resumed lectures this August and have hiked their fees as well. One of the universities here in the capital is charging 1800 dollars from 900 last semester, which is a 100% fee increase, but the parents of these kids are getting salary increments of around 60%, that is if they are lucky enough to be employed, whereas the salaries erosion which took place between October 2018 to July 2019 is around 800%.
The effects of drought in Zimbabwe is also now causing a humanitarian meltdown. A third of the population – up to five million –now faces starvation, they now are in urgent need of food with places like Chimanimani hit harshly by the cyclone Idai.
The Zimbabwean crisis is worsened by and prolonged by the involvement of right-wing organisations and opposition leaders who are seeking to hijack and channel these anti-austerity fights of the poor vendors, workers, youths and peasants into a so-called national dialogue and compromise with the junta regime that will seek to limit the demands of the ordinary working-class, forcing the government to social dialogue which will probably lead to another Government of National Unity. For the leaders of both ZANU PF and MDC, their way forward out of the current economic crisis is social dialogue which will lead to another marriage-like inclusive government. This marriage will lead to ‘convergence of the elites’ and they will be united to impose neo-liberal austerity measures as a united front – the MDC called it ‘eat what you kill’ during GNU and now ZANU PF calls it ‘austerity for prosperity’ against the working class and the poor. The right-wing organisations that are currently also pushing for social dialogue are fronts and funded by the imperialist countries that are seeking to limit working-class demands as happened in the late 90s when workers rose against the effects of Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP).
The GNU of 2009 to 2013 saw continued de-industrialization with Labour and Economic Development Research (LEDRIZ) highlighting that during the period June 2011 to May 2014 a total of 227 369 employees were retrenched. LEDRIZ pointed out that the area of concern was with respect to the promotion of labour market flexibility which was being pushed by MDC during the GNU. The 2012 national budget statement presented by the then-finance minister Tendai Biti proposed “… a comprehensive review of the labour legislation with a view of making it flexible and consistent with business realities”.
Workers must lead in these struggles against neo-liberalism. This is why socialists in Zimbabwe denounced the closing down of the democratic space to demonstrate by police which was also upheld by high-court of Zimbabwe, as this is also a direct attack on the future struggles of the working people in their fights against these austerity measures. As the workers say no to this new phase of neo-liberal austerity we should not let our struggles be hijacked again. This is not the time for social dialogue: ZANU PF has failed and is illegitimate, and it must be pushed out of power. Why should we allow workers and the poor peasants to pay for the crisis that the bosses and the ruling elites created?
Workers’ demands are still alive
There is no going back on the call by workers for a living wage-related to the interbank movement of rates against the green (US) dollar. If the government can find money to charter a plane for President Mnangagwa on all his foreign trips, why can’t the same government give its employees interbank-related, rated salaries which match the rising prices of basic commodities and services? Workers demand that the government stops dishing out thousands to MPs, luxury cars and diplomatic passports for the elite politicians while crushing the masses with these brutal austerity measures.
The government splashed out millions buying cars for three hundred members of parliament but the same government tells us that they don’t have enough money to buy drugs for our hospitals, they don’t have money to pay for electricity where load shedding in most high-density suburbs is going for 18 hours a day; they don’t have money to provide for clean water to the masses. So, the workers demand without compromise an end to load shedding, enough drugs in all hospitals and clinics which are affordable to all.
Workers demand that MDC councils must stop the harassment of street vendors who are trying to make a living to support their families. Instead, the government through parliament must accept this informal sector and formalize it as it is now the popular economic sector in the country, vendors must be arranged properly in the cities, and government must provide clean water and clean toilets for streets markets.
The price increases on fuel, school fees, and basic commodities must be stopped; the government must introduce price controls to protect the vulnerable workers and peasants. The 2% transaction tax must be scrapped with immediate effect.
Workers demand that privatization of government enterprises must be stopped as this is going to make service delivery unaffordable for many because the strategic companies will be under the control of the capitalist vultures who are bent on maximizing profits and nothing else. As well, selling these companies will benefit the ruling class who will buy the companies amongst themselves and their friends for a low price and create cartels.
Government must stop milking the poor and start taxing the billionaires like Strive Masiiwa, Thomas Moxon and other richest tycoons who are making super-profits out of the ordinary Zimbabweans, to solve the Zimbabwean crisis.
Workers demand that government must deal with corruption decisively and arrest all those politicians and non-politicians who are implicated in corrupt activities across the political divide without fear or favor. As workers, we demand that Mupfumira and her friends who looted NSSA money must return the money and that money must be given to the suffering pensioners who are earning less than $100 bond per month.
As history taught us, there is need to be vigilant against the high –jacking of these current struggles by establishing a broad radical united front of unions and workers in the private and public sector, vendors, pensioners, students, youth, socialists and radical anti-neoliberal organisations and movements and mobilize for resistance against this brutal regime. The working class must spearhead the united actions and organize by calling more stay-aways building towards a mother of all demonstration to push the junta out of power.
The bourgeois crocodile tears and lies by the middle class should not be tolerated. They claim that the demonstrations are violent, but the junta has unleashed terror and killed people during elections; during and after the January shutdown and they use terror on vendors to remove them from the streets. However, these are only reforms that can be removed, the only way forward is smashing the system of capitalism which breeds poverty, misery, and dictatorship in the first place, and fighting for socialism. To do so requires that we build a revolutionary socialist party. The world is at crossroads and this revolutionary socialist party must not only be built at the national level but at a regional level in Southern Africa, then internationally as the capitalist system has shown that it does not have way forward to the current crisis.
click on the link for the first part of the articlehttps://keepleft.org.za/2019/09/08/zimbabwe-crisis-after-the-ouster-of-mugabe/
Cde Bishop is a co-editor of Socialist Worker newspaper in Zimbabwe