Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Economic meltdown pushes masses to the edge


Economic meltdown pushes masses to the edge

State thugs crackdown on protests

Weizmann Hamilton, Johannesburg, Democratic Socialist Movement (South African section of the Committee for a Workers’ International)

March 11 saw hundreds of activists attend a prayer meeting in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, called by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition of civic, church and youth organisations to protest against the terrible conditions in the country. Both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), split since October 2005, participated. Armed with tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition “riot police surrounded the venue and many were arrested. Gift Tandere, a young National Constitutional Assembly and MDC activist was shot dead by police.” ( 23 March 2007

Over 100 were arrested. In addition to leader Morgan Tsivangirai, other MDC leaders Nelson Chamisa, Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland were severely injured in beatings and prevented from leaving for South Africa for medical treatment. Police blockaded the airport runway to stop their ambulance.

Security forces descended on the home of Gift Tandari, ordered mourners to lie down, beat them severely, firing random shots into the air. To add insult to injury the Central Intelligence Organisation then stole his corpse, buried it at a site of their own choosing and forced his father to the grave at gunpoint. A second person, 30-year-old Itai Manyeruki, has since died from injuries sustained on 11th March.

Economic catastrophe

An economic meltdown began in 2005 following a decade of serious decline. By 2005 gross domestic product (GDP) had already plunged 30% over the 3 previous years. The UN had classified Zimbabwe the world’s fastest shrinking economy ranking it 90th out of 94 of the world’s poorest countries. Over 80% of the population was living in poverty. Only one in ten had a formal sector job.

Today the economy is shrinking faster than any other outside a war zone reports the Johannesburg daily, The Star (27 March 2007). Inflation hit 1 700%, the highest in the world. “Widespread food shortages are pushing prices through the roof forcing Zimbabweans to go shopping in Musina (South Africa) where the price of cooking oil is 100 times lower. On March 2l the price of milk increased from Z$10 000 (N5250; US$41) to Z$17 000 (N9,000; US$71) in one day!

“A breakdown in water treatment has set off a new round of cholera in the capital Harare. All public services were cut off in Marondera, a regional capital of 50 000 in Eastern Zimbabwe, after money to fix broken equipment ran out.” (Sunday Times, 11 February 2007).

The government cannot even pay, clothe or adequately equip police and soldiers leading to an increase in rates of desertion. In January civil servants pay was raised 300%. However this only brought teachers’ pay to less than N7,500 (US$59) a month. Police and teachers are demanding increases of 1000% and 9000% respectively. The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a family of five now needs Z$686,115 (N81,500; US$643) for a basket of basic commodities up from Z$458 986 (N54,500: US$430) less than a month ago.” (Sunday Times, 11 March 2007)

In a tragicomic attempt to control run-away price increases, the Central Bank declared inflation illegal! “From March 1 to June 30 anyone who raised prices or increased wages would be arrested announced Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono … The speech was broadcast nationally. In downtown Harare, the last half of the speech was blacked out by a power failure.” (Sunday Times, 11 February 2007).


The crisis has split the ruling Zanu-PF into 3 factions. Mugabe and his cronies are being challenged by two factions; one headed by Joyce Mujuru, deputy president and wife of retired armed force’ head and now one of Zimbabwe’s richest businessmen, the highly influential Solomon Mujuru.

The police assault on Morgan Tsivangirai has to some degree restored the MDC’s credibility and partially overcame the damaging effects of the split in the MDC over its opposition to participating in the senate elections. The failure of the MDC to provide any alternative for the majority of the population, and the absence of any other mass political force able to step into the vacuum, meant that for some time mass struggle was off the agenda. The priority for the masses became the grim struggle to put food on the table.

The MDC factions in the meantime competed for the favours of the regional leaders and the West in a political beauty contest for the most suitable alternative to Mugabe.

SADC and West will not aid Zimbabwean masses

But as the outcome of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders’ meeting held in March shows, none of the African leaders were prepared to force Mugabe out. Of far greater concern to this old boys club of dubious democrats, is the prevention of an uprising in Zimbabwe. The governing pro-capitalist African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa especially fears the possibility of a mass explosion amongst the Zimbabwean working class.

This is because the vicious factional struggle over the succession to the presidency of South Africa has caused serious divisions within the components of the Tripartite Alliance composed of the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Zuma, one of the main candidates for President, has partially rested on the mass discontent amongst the black South African working class at the failure of the ANC government to deliver any changes to the growing poverty in the country. A radical mass uprising over the border in Zimbabwe would give the South African working class an example to follow and this is what all the ANC leaders, including Zuma fear most of all.

In Zimbabwe the MDC’s support for tactics like holding prayer meetings, instead of organising a mass movement to overthrow the Mugabe regime, has pushed sections of youth into more desperate measures. There has been a rise in the incidence of bombing attacks, such as a train bombing and an armed attack on a police station.

Towards an indefinite general strike

Despite the disastrous economic situation, workers in the public sector especially, have begun fighting back again. University students have been on strike. The economic crisis has forced the government to retrench 2 000 police reservists leading to discontent and desertion.

The two-day general strike called for 3 and 4 April ought to have been used to prepare for an indefinite general strike until Mugabe steps down. In preparation, committees should have been established based in the townships and the cities, drawn from the youth, student, women’s and trade union organisations and the ZCTU, and coordinated on a national basis.

These committees then could have elected a national leadership which could approach the lower ranks of the soldiers and appeal to them not to allow themselves to be used to keep the elite in power, nor to support any one of its factions. Faced with the threat of physical attacks on strikers armed self-defence committees need to have been formed, operating under the direction and discipline of the democratically elected strike committees.

For a mass workers party on a socialist programme

Whilst the Tsivangirai MDC leadership has pledged to boycott any elections under the present constitution, he has indicated his willingness to enter talks with other factions in Zanu-PF. The Arthur Mutumbara-led MDC faction has not offered any alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the Tsivangirai faction. All the factions in both Zanu-PF and the MDC want to preserve the present capitalist economic order. The working class should lead the masses in the formation of a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme

The masses should demand the immediate resignation of Mugabe and his government and the convocation of a revolutionary constituent assembly to draw up plans for a new democratic and socialist Zimbabwe.

A sustainable revival of the economy and an end to mass unemployment is possible only on the basis of democratic plan of production. This will require the nationalisation of the big companies, the expropriation of all the commercial farms handed out to Mugabe’s cronies, and their redistribution to the peasants on the one hand and the setting up of a system of democratic collective ownership to ensure food security.

The implosion of the Zimbabwean economy provides irrefutable proof of the bankruptcy of capitalism and its incapacity to provide for the needs of society. The Zimbabwean masses should lead the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and, in solidarity with their class brothers and sisters in South Africa and the region, fight for the socialist transformation of society in Zimbabwe as a step towards a socialist Africa and a socialist world.