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Despite a brutal crackdown in Zimbabwe:
"A fighting spirit is reviving"

March 30, 2007 | Page 6

AS ZIMBABWE'S economy collapses and protests mount, leading members of the ruling ZANU-PF party are maneuvering with Britain and the U.S. to try to oust Robert Mugabe, the 83-year-old autocratic president.

Meanwhile, protests and strikes are continuing despite a crackdown ordered by Mugabe--as Zimbabweans rebel against conditions that have seen inflation rise to 1,700 percent and life expectancy reduced to just 36.

Thousands of Mugabe opponents have been badly beaten--including the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Opposition activists Gift Tandare and Itai Manyeruki were killed in a March 11 police attack on a prayer meeting.

Now, according to the Guardian newspaper, U.S. and British officials are looking to Solomon Mujuru, a former army chief turned businessman, to try to take power. The aim is to sideline, if not depose, Mugabe, whose thugs are rampaging across the country.

Mujuru's wife Joice is vice president of Zimbabwe--and she recently met with a South African deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a sign that South Africa may finally join Britain and the U.S. in efforts to unseat Mugabe, who has postured as an anti-imperialist in his bid to remain in power.

What you can do

Zimbabwean opposition activists are asking for international solidarity for those arrested. To demand their release, call the Attorney General (011-263-4-781769, 011-263-4-774586-8); the High Court (011-263-4-263-4798634-9); and police headquarters (011-263-4-263-4-777777).

 

In the past, Britain, the former colonial ruler of Zimbabwe, had supported the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a party with roots in the trade unions, but whose leader Tsvangirai became increasingly identified with the West's free-market agenda. South Africa has refused to oppose Mugabe.

Britain and the U.S. are now reportedly seeking a deal in which Mujuru would join with another ZANU-PF faction, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, to oust Mugabe and create a "national unity" government that would include the MDC. In return, Mugabe and ZANU-PF leaders would get amnesty for perpetrating the terrible repression of recent years, as well as the killings of Mugabe's opponents in the 1980s.

In this special report to Socialist Worker, a Zimbabwean socialist discusses the struggle today.

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ZIMBABWE SLIDES deeper into crisis every day, with a desperate and worsening economic, social and political situation.

The poor have to fight daily for basic survival. The situation is likely to continue, with the government, through Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, taking a sharp turn toward free-market neoliberal policies such as an economic structural adjustment program (ESAP).

This move has led to an imposition of complete "cost recovery" for government services--that is, free-market charges and fees from state, para-state and local authorities. Over the past weeks, we have witnessed massive increases in water bills, electricity, local council taxes, school fees and drug costs--including the most needed anti-retroviral drugs for the country's huge HIV-positive population.

The cost of every basic commodity has risen since the government proposed this "social contract." Inflation is heading toward 1,750 percent, and the country's currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, continues to slide on the unofficial market, hitting 12,000 Zimbabwean dollars per U.S. dollar.

Workers are earning abysmal wages equivalent to about $17 per month--an amount insufficient for monthly transportation to work. The result is that workers have to walk unbelievably long distances to their jobs.

But not every Zimbabwean is suffering. Government chiefs, bosses and capitalists and some non-governmental (NGO) leaders are living luxuriously in mansions. They buy goods from very expensive shopping malls and import posh vehicles--including those rarely driven in even economically better-off African countries.

Capitalists are taking advantage of the uncontrollable, ever-spiraling inflation to make unprecedented levels of profits without giving a damn for the suffering of workers and ordinary people. Corruption is rampant, with senior government officials leading the way.

On the political side, Mugabe has made a sudden U-turn, indicating his preparedness to stand for yet another term of office should he be given the go-ahead by his party.

This brings a new dimension to the political field, as most of the opposition had relaxed waiting for Mugabe's retirement, which he indicated would be around 2010. Even within Mugabe's own ZANU-PF party, there have been serious internal fights over succession--a situation that has created splits the opposition could utilize.

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MEANWHILE, THE fighting spirit of the late 1990s seems to be reviving. Again, we see a growing wave of resistance from social movements, workers, students, HIV and AIDS activists, those in the informal cross-border trading, constitutional reform activists, and rank-and-file militants in opposition political parties.

As a result of this growing resistance, Mugabe has imposed a de facto state of emergency in the capital city of Harare. There is a heavy police presence on every corner, with officers harassing people and street vendors.

All political gatherings were banned recently, clearly indicating that the state is in a panicked mood as it begins to pick up signals from re-energized--and hungry--Zimbabweans.

Doctors in government hospitals won salary increases after a two-month strike beginning in January, igniting the fighting mood. Teachers followed suit and also won better salaries. Since then, every week, we have seen students from most higher learning institutions arrested for organizing college riots against meager payouts.

As I write, all state universities are closed, as lecturers are on strike for better salaries. The Zimbabwe national student union is planning solidarity action.

In February, more than 250 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise/Men of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested in Harare and Bulawayo for marching to publicize their Social Justice People's Charter--a distillation of the demands of rank-and-file Zimbabweans.

In response, police are arresting and beating constitutional reform activists for holding demonstrations. Barely three weeks after police had running battles with people in Harare's Highfields township, riot police again targeted the area, shooting and killing one MDC supporter and arresting the leaders of both MDC factions, along with several other civic leaders, for attempting to hold a rally.

These strikes inevitably have a political aspect as they challenge the Mugabe regime, which has responded with force. But that's not going to stop this rising resistance mood.

However, big challenges face all serious opposition forces now--how to generalize and link the different fights into broader and bigger campaigns, including the new ESAP.

This struggle should link up with regional and international movements against neoliberalism to ensure that the new resistance is not co-opted into the capitalists' agenda. That's what happened in the 1996-99 opposition movement, which ended up hijacked and confined to demands for a change of government, without necessarily touching on issues that would benefit ordinary people.

We require full political, economic and social transformation against both the dictators, and the big capitalists and their ESAP.

Such an opportunity is offered through the Zimbabwe Social Forum (ZSF). Revolutionaries and grassroots social movements have wrested control of the ZSF from the NGO elites, who had sought to restrict the forum to a mere talk shop. Today, the ZSF has brought together literally all the fighting people in the country under one clear banner of anti-capitalism and opposition to neoliberalism.

Another Zimbabwe looms! But let's fight! Shinga Mushandi--stand firm, worker!

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