ZIMBABWE: Selling out the Masses in the Name of Power Sharing
ZIMBABWE: Selling out the Masses in the Name of Power Sharing
By Kola Ibrahim
The majority MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai has been sworn in as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe by the 84-year old Robert Mugabe, the despotic president of the country, while minority MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara has also been appointed the Deputy Prime Minister of the country in a power sharing agreement brokered by Southern African Development Commission (SADC). So far this process has brought to some end the wrangling between different layers of the ruling class in Zimbabwe which came to head after the March 2008 presidential election. Then, the MDC leader and presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai who won the first round openly withdrew from the presidential run-off, citing brazen violence and state terror through unwarranted arrests and detention against his party members.
While his reason for withdrawing from the elections were genuine, Tsvangirai, rather than start building grass root movement among the working and poor people, including the million of unemployed and the poor peasants, he preferred to hobnob with imperialism and its African lapdogs like the Nigeria’s former civilian dictator, Olusegun Obasanjo. This gave Mugabe the excuse to further attack the rank and file opposition members by portraying them as imperialist agents that wanted to cripple the country, more so that Mugabe is seen by a section of the population as an independence hero.
The SADC the Southern African ruling class regional organization and its South African negotiator, Thabo Mbeki, have portrayed the power-sharing as a confirmation of their dubious policy of “quiet diplomacy” and “African solution to African problems”. The ruling western imperialist governments like US, UK and France and the capitalist multilateral agencies such as United Nations, while raising concerns about Mugabe’s sincerity, have commended the power sharing process as a step towards ‘democracy’. However, these various instruments of imperialism are only interested in their selfish capitalist interests, and cared much less about the poor people. Moreover, the power sharing, even if it is popular among some sections of the working people who have illusion in the agreement, cannot move the Zimbabwean society forward politically and economically, both in short and long terms.
The reality is that aside official perks and opportunity to serve as conduit pipe for imperialist plunder of the economy, the MDC cannot be said to have gained from the power sharing. Before the formalization of the power sharing, the two camps have agreed to five-point Global Political Agreement (GPA) which among others raised the demands for cutting the power of Mugabe and resolve human rights issues; but the power sharing has legitimized Mugabe’s terror and undemocratic power usurpation. In the power sharing agreement, Mugabe is still made the executive president which makes him not a figurehead as is being postulated by the MDC but a major decision maker in the country. Also, while the opposition has majority in the government’s cabinet, decision making is not by simple majority but through consensus which gives Mugabe veto over the process in the cabinet.
Though, some balance has been struck on the issue of security with the formation of National Security Council comprising the Mugabe and MDC representatives, the reality is that Mugabe still has the power over the security and coercive instruments the police and the army. It will be recalled that one of the major issues that had delayed the power sharing is the claim of the opposition to the control of the police, but through the back door, the opposition controlled by Morgan Tsvangirai has been made a junior partner in the security arrangement. Furthermore, while the MDC condemned the land “redistribution” of Mugabe, that claimed to give land to the black Zimbabweans but actually favoured some rich pro-ZANU-PF supporters, the opposition party actually agreed in the GPA that the Mugabe flawed land redistribution is not reversible. Both parties are not interested in genuine land redistribution; they only employ the highly emotive issue as political gimmick and self-serving interest. Socialists support redistribution of lands to peasants and nationalization of all big commercial farms including those that had been handed to Mugabe’s cronies. To develop a viable agricultural system that could guarantee food security and source of revenue for the country, the expropriated big farms have to be put under democratic planning and management of workers and peasants.
It can be argued that since Mugabe was forced to agree to power sharing in the first instance, this in itself shows that Mugabe has been curtailed. This will be a superficial analysis. In the first instance, Mugabe and the ZANU-PF ruling clique (and its military backbone) desperately need the power sharing or a faÃ§ade of it that will neutralize the growing opposition at home. It will be recalled that teachers, medical workers and civil servants are currently on strike in defence of their living standards. In the country, which last released inflation rate is more than 231 million percent, there is acute food scarcity while the currency has collapsed; the workers’ salaries could hardly take them to work let alone helping ensure survival. This has made workers to demand being paid in foreign currency especially US dollar and South African rand a demand that Mugabe has not met. Mugabe knows that these industrial struggles could develop into political struggles which could unseat him in a political uprising, and which could give the opposition to lay claim to the movement and take power.
Furthermore, the economic crisis that has seen tens of thousands fleeing the country coupled with growing health concerns especially the outbreak of cholera that has killed hundreds, can put pressures on pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist African rulers (many of whom get to and sustain themselves in power through brazen despotism or fraudulent electoral means) to isolate Mugabe. It is the summation of these points that has made the power sharing a lifeline for Mugabe rather than a curtailment. With the limited inclusion of MDC factions, Mugabe may hope to get economic and humanitarian supports from the international community and reduce tension. It may also afford Mugabe to neutralize political opposition. The power sharing rather than emboldening and building MDC’s strength, will give the Mugabe’s government and its ZANU-PF ruling clique, the opportunity to neutralize the opposition and ensure the continued existence in power of ZANU-PF ruling caste and its military backbone. This is the same way that Mugabe neutralized its former political adversary ZAPU when the latter joined force with Mugabe in a political alliance that led to the neutralization of ZAPU. With MDC commitment to neo-liberal capitalist policies of privatization, commercialization, retrenchment, etc, the MDC will be at some period isolated and lose its mass base. This is what Mugabe is looking and waiting for.
Imperialism’s hypocrisy is clearly manifested in the current issue of Zimbabwe. It is funny that the same imperialism, especially Gordon Brown’s Britain and other European ruling classes, are committed to the agreement and power sharing process. Previously they had condemned Mugabe and called for his removal for human rights violations and in fact placed embargos on Zimbabwe, which compounded the suffering of the Zimbabwean poor. In fact, US and European imperialism condemned South Africa and SADC for the so-called quiet diplomacy over Zimbabwe, but the same ruling classes were quick to accept the power sharing agreement. This clearly shows the nature of the so-called “international community”, it is a structure for the continuation of capitalist profit-system where the interests of the common people come last, if at all.
The Zimbabwe crisis also reflects the rottenness of African ruling classes. While many of African rulers claimed to be committed to “quiet diplomacy”, none of them could even clearly condemn Zimbabwe neither did they condemn western capitalist imperialisms’ role in the suffering of poor Zimbabweans. Even those who condemned Mugabe either did so on behalf of imperialism (like Botwana’s president) or are themselves not different from Mugabe (like Angola’s Dos Santos). In fact, African rulers through SADC actually helped Mugabe to stabilize, because the fear of a latent uprising in Zimbabwe that can inspire other African poor, is the beginning of wisdom for these corrupt, pro-imperialist rulers. This explains why most of African ruling classes are conduit pipes for imperialist plunder of the Africa, which despite having huge human and material wealth, constitute one of the world’s most poor.
The MDC’s involvement in the Mugabe’s government is a reflection of the fact that the poor people need an independent working class political alternative with a socialist orientation. Tsvangirai’s excuse that there is need for stability is unfounded and fraudulent. The same Tsvangirai fought for almost one year in order to secure most viable positions, especially finance ministry, in the cabinet. In actual fact, MDC and Tsvangirai’s interests, aside the crass struggle for power and official perks, only want to satisfy the interests of imperialism. This explains why it was ready to accept participation in the government immediately some ‘juicy’ positions like finance minister, which could allow it to implement the neo-liberal capitalist policies, that will again put the agricultural and natural resources of the country to multinational vampires and their local collaborators. According to the spokesperson of MDC and Deputy Information minister, Bright Matonga “We will respect property rights; we will respect the issue of declaration and repatriation of dividends,…So really we are inviting people in manufacturing, in tourism, in farming, in mining.” This is another euphemism for privatization, commercialization, liberalization, etc., which are being implemented by various African leaders but have led to more suffering and political instability.
Tsvangirai himself was quoted in a post-swearing rally to have committed himself to neo-liberalism. Though he promised to start paying workers US dollar salaries and called on them to resume, this is just a stop gap measure and has nothing to do with the real living standard of the poor. In the first instance, what caused the demand for dollar salary is the collapse of the economy engendered in the first instance by Mugabe’s implementation of WTO/World Bank-inspired neo-liberal policies, the same policies which Tsvangirai and both factions of MDC have committed themselves to. Tsvangirai also promised to seek for humanitarian support from multilateral agencies to resolve the health and food problems. While some minimal support may come the way of Zimbabwe in this direction, the reality is that adequate resolution of the health and food crises can only be resolved when the agricultural and natural resources of the country is put into public ownership and used for the interests of the poor people.
The Zimbabwe’s crisis has further exposed the limitation of the so-called progressive or leftist intellectuals in Africa, many of whom either support imperialism and MDC in the name of fighting for democracy or blindly support Mugabe’s despotic rule under the guise of fighting imperialism, without giving a working class political alternative that will defeat imperialism and despotism. They did not see how the MDC and Mugabe could come together at some critical point when their interests merged, as currently witnessed. All this points to one thing, the working people need their own mass party that will be democratically built from the grass roots to the national level. Such a party will link the immediate demands of the people vis-Å•-vis end to despotism and poverty with the ultimate need for a system change. This will mean a struggle for genuine land distribution for the millions of poor peasants, massive public works programmes that will provide jobs for millions of youth and unemployed, nationalization of the commanding height of the economy under the democratic control of the working poor themselves coupled with agro-inspired industrialization that will develop the country on an environmentally friendly and sustainable bases.