ORGANISED LABOUR MUST LEAD THE STRUGGLE FOR ZIMBABWE’S LIBERATION
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) does not have confidence that the general elections in Zimbabwe will be free and fair.
Before even the elections begun, they are marred by voters’ roll debacle. The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) is accused of failing to produce the updated voter’s roll. In the past, election campaigns were marred by incidences of areas which were declared no-go areas for opponents of the ruling ZANU PF. Unionists and other activists were routinely beaten and arbitrarily arrested by the police. Opposition political parties denied free access to the media, opponents routinely detained by biased courts.
The biased detention of political opponents of ZANU PF government is continues, albeit intermittent. It happens during and outside election seasons. In 2020, there were media reports of political opposition members who were abducted by police, detained and tortured. Last year, there were several and separate counts of political opponents who were arrested. For instance, Job Sikhala, an opposition member of parliament was arrested 69 times but never convicted once.
Social media continue to show that these beatings and arrests are continuing even in the preparation for the upcoming elections.
The voter’s roll debacle has further exposed Zimbabwe’s kangaroo justice system. For instance, the high court dismissed the application by the Citizens Coalition for Change to have the ZEC avail the updated voters roll, arguing it was “not urgent”. How can an application brought before a court concerning the elections that are going to take place few days (on 23 August), be said to not have been urgent? It is ridiculous!
In a statement, the ZEC claimed that it had about 6.6 million people registered to vote by July 2023. However, if as the opposition claims, 1,8 million voters cannot match or identify their polling stations, how can an election that disenfranchises a third of voters be considered fair by any semblance of imagination? Clearly, another episode of ZANU PF thuggery is in the works.
In media reports, it is said that citizens living outside Zimbabwe will not be allowed to vote. Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency had estimated that there are only 1 million Zimbabweans living outside Zimbabwe. Given that all state institutions in that country had been repurposed to propagate for the ruling party, this is most definitely a gross under-calculation. In 2013, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) had roughly estimated that Zimbabweans living in Zimbabwe were between 500 000 and 4 million. The implication of this reality is that even if the elections in Zimbabwe were remotely free and fair, they would still disenfranchise a large segment of the voting population.
The mass exclusions of Zimbabweans living outside Zimbabwe from voting, means that a significant number of people will not cast their vote to decide the political fate of their country. Considering that majority of Zimbabweans who left their country, especially in an undocumented fashion, have left due to either socio-economic hardships or political persecution, it is this constituency that would likely vote against the ZANU PF regime. It is worth mentioning at this very point that the SADC governments have at their disposal, the means to provide the Zimbabweans living outside Zimbabwe facilities to cast votes for free, but are not rebuking the Zimbabwean government for this exclusion nor availing these resources.
Tomorrow, however, it would be the same governments, including the ANC government and its ministers lamenting the influx of Zimbabwean working class into South Africa, opportunistically scapegoating them for their failures in the provision of social services in a xenophobic fashion. The SADC governments, particularly the ANC government, must be called out and condemned for this, especially because they are the ones who cry about the so-called apathy of Zimbabweans and accusing Zimbabwean migrants of lack
of willingness to exercise their civic responsibilities to overthrow the ZANU PF regime. Such a cosmetic lamentation is hypocritical at best.
ZANU PF is not only looting elections
ZANU PF’s motive in rigging the elections is not only underpinned by its unadulterated pursuit of political power. Much more strongly, it is undergirded by its grapple hold on the Zimbabwe’s economy, its bountiful natural resources and ZANU regime’s unholy alliance with Chinese imperialist looters. ZANU PF’s current chokehold on Zimbabwe began 10 years after the historic Chimurenga victory of 1980 as it began to show its true colours. In 1990, the Mugabe led ZANU PF regime in exchange for quick loans, turned towards the IMF and the World Bank to mortgage the country’s future and selling out all hopes for economic liberation of the masses of Zimbabwe.
The ZANU PF regime’s relentless pursuit of neoliberal economic policies unleashed a brutal wave of austerity measures on social service provision, policies of economic liberalisation evaporated almost overnight what once was Africa’s second most industrialised country. By the 2000s the country’s industrial capacity no longer existed as many workers were pauperised through mass unemployment, setting the first economic scene for mass exodus of Zimbabwean unemployed workers to neighbouring countries.
The chaotic land reform process which was necessary but gave away to large swathes of land to ZANU PF cronies and ignored hundreds of thousands of the country’s farm workers, hammered the final nail into the coffin of the country’s industry and economy. Today, land remains a contentious issue in Zimbabwe not only because white settler farmers demand compensation from the bankrupt coffers of the Zimbabwean government instead of Britain, but because thousands of black Zimbabweans are facing eviction from their ancestral land by the regime. The ZANU PF regime is in full collaboration and support with Chinese capitalists in evicting thousands of peasants and farmers in order to make way for lithium mines and other resource exploitation.
Zimbabwe contains Africa’s largest reserves of lithium, and imperialist looters from both the West and the East are lining up as the race for the unJust Transition to a renewable energy is unfolding.
Recently, the much-publicised Gold Mafia documentary exposed the biblical levels of looting of the country’s gold resources with over 2 billion US dollars (R38 billion) worth of gold being siphoned out of the country annually to the benefit of the rotten ZANU PF elites. This class of cronies in Zimbabwe lives lifestyles on par with the richest people in the world, while the overwhelming majority of the population lives on crumbs and wallows in poverty.
This is why when South African celebrities like Sello Maake KaNcube and Pearl Thusi are shown only the rosy side of life and speak fondly of them, they hurl insults at millions of ordinary Zimbabweans. Like Orlando Pirates ploughing relations with the Israel football team was spitting on the wounds of the Palestinians, the so called celebrities dining with the Zimbabwean oligarch and political elite is an insult to Zimbabwean migrants who have fled their homes because of economic hardships, political persecution, and the sorry state of healthcare and public services.
The healthcare system in Zimbabwe has collapsed and sends newborn babies and their mothers from the maternity ward to the grave. Zimbabwe is known to have among the highest levels of infant mortality rate caused directly by socio-economic factors such as lack of basic medicines, healthcare, sanitation and even food. This explains why many Zimbabwean women risk their lives to cross the border at 7 and 8 months of pregnancy, hoping for a safer delivery in South Africa. This is due to the mismanagement of the Zimbabwe and its resources by the ZANU PF regime.
ZANU PF failures and oppression must be met with fierce working-class resistance.
SAFTU submits that the amendments to important laws such as the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill and Criminal Law Codification and Reform (CLCR) Amendment Bill have been directed towards wiping out the democratic space and liquidating what is left of civil rights and basic freedoms. It is of no surprise that this has all followed the ZCTU led general strike in 2019 which showed the regime that it could never govern legitimately without the working class in Zimbabwe. The working class in Zimbabwe, despite its relatively diminished size, retains its role as the ultimate main
economic and political opponent of the ZANU PF regime, especially when it is organised, mobilised and united.
Rigged elections or not, the organised labour movement in Zimbabwe must feel emboldened to step up and unite the masses of the youth, together in the informal sector and the rural areas to put forward a programme of action and of a genuine alternative to the ZANU PF regime. This is necessary especially because the CCC is just another liberal organisation, which will just hand over the country’s resources to other imperialist looters. Like their ZANU counterparts, they offer no economic alternative, except that they have a chance of reforming the political and legal system.
The Zimbabwean working class was always the most combative, from the 1948 Rhodesian general strike to the decisive battles of the neoliberal revolt in the 1990s. The abysmal track record of the ZANU PF government means there are many areas in which the masses can converge around, starting from the cost-of-living crisis that began in the early 2000s to the crisis of public services.
The Uselessness of SADC and OAU
Despite reports of human rights abuse and suppression of dissent, including the passing of the legislative amendments that have far reaching implications on freedoms, the regional and continental bodies have been useless. This is not surprising however, because they have virtually made no meaningful interventions to resolve conflicts across the continent and stop the human rights abuse. There is simply no evidence to suggest that they will act differently this time. If anything, the recent coups in the Sahel demonstrate the mass disillusionment with the African elites and their irreparable disconnect with the lived realities of the African masses.
It is inconceivable that the elections will be free and fair. Anyone who suggest otherwise can only be on the payroll of the ZANU PF regime or harbours the same ambitions and interests as that of the embattled regime in Harare, which brings into light the conspiratorial actions of the ANC government and its regional partners in SADC and the African Union.
SAFTU however, reminds the Zimbabwean masses that they are not alone. Just as the Zimbabwean masses’ struggle against the tyranny of the ZANU PF dictatorship rages on, here, too, we are engaged in the struggle against the bosses and their neoliberal capitalist regime which condemns many lives, hopes, and dreams into the abyss of poverty, unemployment and exploitation. It is that neoliberal austerity of the ANC government that has pitted the Zimbabwean migrant workers against their South African counterparts, as they compete for fewer jobs and deteriorating public services.
We should struggle for a socialist Southern Africa and Africa. We oppose all forms of imperialism, as their interest is plunder of real resources and profiteering, whilst bankrolling our political elite. The masses have nothing in common with imperialism and its political lieutenants.