Zimbabwe Crisis after the Ouster of Mugabe
Battle of ideas, battle of leadership
In Zanu PF there were two factions fighting between the nationalists led by Mugabe and the neoliberals led by Ed Mnangagwa, which resulted in Mugabe being toppled through a military coup paving way for the neoliberal faction led by Mnangagwa. The disputed 2018 elections which later followed were meant to give Mnangagwa legitimacy to the throne. The removal of Mugabe in 2017 did not solve the economic crisis that Zimbabwe has witnessed for the past two decades, which reflects the deepening crisis of capitalism in Zimbabwe and globally after the 2008 great recession and the failure of neoliberalism as an ideology.
There is an elite convergence around the ruling elites in Zimbabwe, with bosses and politicians agreeing on austerity as a way forward to solve the crisis. The situation has been made worse in Zimbabwe because of several issues which include corruption, misgovernance by our rulers, and refusal by ZANU PF to make meaningful political and security sector reforms which would open space for democracy, legitimacy issues and anti-people policies and the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economy Recovery Act (ZIDERA) sanctions siege. All these have led to de-industrialization and a deepening economic crisis. The country has not been spared from the effects of globalization and this has been worsened by Mnangagwa’s “open for business” policy, that is seeing the extraction of raw materials at low prices and imported back as finished products at high prices.
The neoliberal theft and devaluation of the currency
The ruling elites prompted by the IMF have agreed on a programme of eroding and lowering salaries across all sectors and they have done so through debasing and devaluation of the local currency. The Zimbabwean dollar has been devalued by more than 700% since the worsening of the economic crisis last October when the Minister of Finance announced his Transitional Stabilizing Program (TSP) as the new economic blueprint to guide the country under the strategy dubbed “Austerity for prosperity”. After the announcement of the country’s economic policy and the introduction of SI 42, the prices of most basic commodities have skyrocketed by more than 200%, Bosses and the ruling elites have benefitted massively. Those owning businesses have pegged their commodities rating using the interbank exchange while the salaries of the workers remain unchanged and calls for pegging these at interbank have been unfruitful. Workers have been forced to live the lowest standards of life.
The return of the Zimbabwean dollar has not helped the situation either: mixed pricing of basic commodities is continuing. The three-price tier system is still thriving in the market despite the banning of the use of US dollars – that is we still have prices for cash, Eco cash, and bank transfer. The shortage of cash by the government is also deliberate because they benefit by taking the 2% tax on every transaction when using electronic money. Again, in this situation, it is the ordinary workers and poor people who are being milked for every single penny.
It is against this background that the trade union federation, the ZCTU, called for a stay-away in January 2019 demanding that the government address the economic meltdown that has impacted negatively on the ordinary working class, calling for the removal of 2% tax imposed on all transactions by the finance minister, reversal of 150% fuel price increase announced by the president, and payment of salaries in US dollars and not the fake bond money which is being paid through bank transfers of Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS).
The state of trade unions
After the January stay-away called by the ZCTU turned out to be confrontational with the system, the regime panicked and made a brutal crackdown on union leaders and other opposition members. Trade union leaders chickened out and argued for a dialogue with the Mnangagwa Transitional Negotiating Forum (TNF), hoping that this would yield results, and shunned demonstrations. Some argued that the stay-away was a failure and it was now time to give a chance to dialogue, forgetting that it was because of this stay-away that the government introduced the subsidized Zupco buses to ferry people, which have turned out to be very helpful to the working class, and it is because the class action which brought results. Fast forward, the TNF turned out to be a toothless bulldog where issues raised by the Trade unions were ignored. Even in the parliament, the opposition did not put through the demands of the workers; rather they demanded luxury cars, diplomatic passports, and more benefits. The TNF document closed all doors for demonstrations and advocated for dialogues paving the way for the regime to control the labor bureaucrats. Henceforth the trade unions were forced to go back and call for action because of the pressure from their ranks which denounced the TNF. The rank and file workers were fundamental, raising questions such as, for how long people can we wait while the situation deteriorates without any real prospect for a turnaround anytime soon? Among other issues, trade union leaders were failing to unite and mobilize from the ground or even consult their membership.
Click link for Part 2-2 https://keepleft.org.za/2019/09/08/zimbabwe-crisis-after-the-ouster-of-mugabe-2/