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Economic melt-down in Zimbabwe: Elites in civil war and cannibalism

Economic melt-down in Zimbabwe: Elites in civil war and cannibalism-

Workers and the poor unite and fight-back

By Munyaradzi Gwisai

Kakara kununa kudya kamwe. Events have moved fast since the start of the new year. Clearly the 31st July 2013 elections did not solve the great questions of the day. Amid exposed elite gluttony and a threatening economic meltdown, the masses are beginning to stir. Cannibalism and strange new alliances amongst elites.

Munyaradzi Gwisai
Munyaradzi Gwisai

It’s the law of the jungle:  in politics, business, churches,families. In Zanu PF, an aged and exhausted tyrant helpless in the face of a debilitating succession war; jailing of thieving parastatal bosses. MDC on the verge of another split as Biti, Mangoma, Bennet’s neoliberal elitist “Renewal” faction up against Tsvangirai, Mwonzora,  Chamisa’s “Kuna Save kune Huchi” faction.

In business Strive Masiyiwa swallows up Nyambirai’s TN Bank. Revealing divorces from Chombo to Chiyangwa. Millions of dollars at Bona Mugabe’s wedding as thousands starve at Tokwe-Mukorsi. Morale decadence, unfulfilled miracle promises and display of obscene wealth has exposed the charismatic pentacostal charlatans from Gumbura, Makandiwa, Angel to Magaya.

Strange alliances as Biti defends ex-RBZ Governor Gono whom he previously called worse than Bin Laden. The centre is no longer holding. It’s war and realignments amongst elites. The masses, hungrier and angrier, are stirring. A crucial moment for Zimbabwe?

Key factor is economic: crisis of capitalism

The fundamental underlying factor behind the above is the turmoil in the economy. Capitalism is facing an existential crisis.  The ruling classes have turned to economic barbarism, neoliberal austerity and authoritarianism to survive.

The result – savage attacks on education, health, farmers, and jobs. The 2009 world economic crisis, the worst since the 1930s, exposed their solutions as failures. And growing revolts of the poor from Tunisia, Egypt, Greece to Marikana. Ukraine shows the growing dangers of war.

In Zimbabwe, ISO argued last year, the main reason behind MDC’s crushing defeat to Zanu PF in the 31st July elections , as now admitted by its general secretary and former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, who ironically drafted its Manifesto, was the revolt by the masses against the GNU’s neoliberal policies. These policies were fronted by MDC, immortalized by Biti’s “we eat what we kill” policy.

Zanu PF and Mugabe endorsed them, but hid behind MDC. Not surprisingly it was MDC which paid the price at the elections. Much earlier, in the January 2001 Nyanga Document by ISO to the MDC National Council, we had warned the party that unless it moved leftward, assume a radical anti-neoliberal perspective, support land reform and place the working class at the centre as opposed to the rich, white farmers and imperialists, who were taking over leadership, the party would fail to defeat Zanu PF. For this we were expelled from MDC.

Post elections, Zanu PF continued with the same policies. But without MDC to blame, or an MDC skirt to hide under from western sanctions, Zanu PF is in trouble.  The world economy is faltering, including China, resulting in falling commodity prices for tobacco, diamonds and platinum. Dollarisation has become a stranglehold on the economy, which is getting informalised and bereft of liquidity.  700 companies have closed down. Companies and cities are failing to pay wages, taxes, pensions, medical aid. Government revenue has gone down.

ZIMRA suffered a major dip in taxes in 2013. Not only is government likely to fail to pay the agreed 26% wage increments in April, but soon is likely to fail to pay the actual wages. Re-introduction of the Zim dollar would be a temporary reprieve.

But Zanu PF fears this would resurrect the hyperinflation ghost of 2008, vindicating MDC.  Thus it sticks to dollarization. This is economic suicide. The state is bereft of effective monetary instruments; local industries are swarmed by cheap imports from South Africa and China and elites externalize the scarce US dollars.

Gluttony and Crisis of leadership amongst the elites

Despite the deteriorating economic situation, elites, continue to gouge themselves. Globally, Oxfam revealed that 85 elites have more wealth than over 2 billion people! Locally, whilst their workers went for months unpaid, Cashbert Dube of the PSMAS “earned” $500 000 a month, ZBC’s Happsyon Muchechetere, $40 000 and Tendai  Mahachi at Harare City Council, $37 000. Same at Air Zimbabwe.

At ZESA, a consultant Magara took $44 000 yet the bosses dismissed ZEWU president Angeline Chitambo for demanding payment of a PDL wage for the workers. MDC-run Harare City Council fires 2000 workers. MDC vice president Khupe led its MPs in demanding a trebling of their allowances.

Topping it Mugabe and wife, Grace, hold a multi-million dollar 90th birthday bash and wedding for their daughter as thousands starve at Tokwe, 2 500 nurses out of work because of a job freeze, 1 million children thrown out of school because BEAM is broke; ZIMSEC “O” and ‘A” Level examination subsidies removed and millions face starvation because Social Welfare got only 5% of its budget.

The deteriorating economy though has turned elites against one another, as their excesses are exposed. Elites are divided on the way forward. Whether a few more carrots to the masses as done by bourgeois nationalist populists like Mugabe, Julius Malema in South Africa, Thaksinists in Thailand, and the Chavistas in Venezuela.

Or a bigger stick, more austerity, and elite grand coalitions as in the UK, Germany and Tunisia. Where elite regroupement has failed, whether to resort to naked force as the Yellow Shirts of Thailand, the opposition in Venezuela, the military in Egypt or neo-fascists in Ukraine.

MDC elites, now so rudely cut off the GNU feeding trough, are inconsolably embittered and most blame Tsvangirai for their electoral white-wash. Supported by the west, they aim for a 2nd second GNU, but based on a new western supported post Mugabe – Tsvangirai grand coalition of elites.

This will reverse or modify Mugabe’s indeginisation and land reform programme and escalate neoliberalism like labour law reforms to pay slave wages and casualise labour. It would draw in elites mainly from the two big parties, around MDC’s Biti, Bennet, Mangoma and Zanu PF’s Mujuru – Gono faction. Tsvangirai, still with the mass base of the party, refuses to go quietly, and therefore MDC faces a likely split.

In Zanu PF the opposing faction stokes the corruption expose flames, bringing closer the growing imminent implosion of that party, which the aged Mugabe seems helpless to stop.

Cannibalism reigns. Mugabe looks helpless as the country goes auto-pilot. At 90 years, he is exhausted and at the end of his tether. Against all odds he fought the last great battle of his long life – and won. Give it to the old man… he has fought valiantly and won the great battles for his class, against the greatest of odds. His land reform programme laid the basis for a black national bourgeoisie.

Today this giant of the African nationalist bourgeoisie, a grandmaster of geo-political strategy and tactical maneuver, is leaving the stage but Lilliputian dwarfs deign to don his giant robes! Even presidential spokesman, G Charamba aka Nathaniel Manheru, now says he too is ready to go into politics! At PSMAS he was reckless and ate too much, and for all his poetic eloquence may now be condemned to the rafters like the chimuremwa remwa. Sorry George, the stage has no space for small boys anymore.

Masses beginning to stir: Elites grope towards a 2nd GNU and Zim Dollar

In the face of such excesses and with copying mechanisms in the informal sector now failing, the masses are starting to stir like we haven’t seen for over a decade. Thousands defend their houses from demolition in Chitungwiza; hundreds of taxi drivers protest at Town House over the murder of a taxi driver for failing to pay a $20 bribe; Hatzel High pupils march against a thieving headmaster; ZINASU leaders arrested for protesting fees hikes at Harare Poly. A militant teachers’ strike threatened. Even in sport, hungry players with the Mighty Warriors and Dynamos go on strike as did the cricket players. In music the “rebels” against Macheso.

Though now hesitant and segmented, the trajectory is clear. Echoes of 1995 and 1996. Naked class warfare is emerging, shorn of the suffocating MDC- Zanu PF political distortions of the last decade. As in 1997, the possibility of these small actions coalescing and erupting like the legendary Mt Vesuvius volcano, is real.

This is why leading ideologues of elites are trembling and calling for elites to close ranks, across parties, business, religion, media. In Zanu PF it is Moyo and more hesitantly Charamba. In MDC, even as they are at each other’s throats, the two key protagonists, Biti and Tsvangirai, share the same objective – ruling class regroupement and unity ahead of a possible social volcano arising from the economic tsunami.

The Zanu PF regime is divided, afraid and is back-peddling, groping for ways to preempt the stirring volcano. Thus: the corruption exposes; the 26% wages increment, even if government is broke; back-down on the indeginisation agenda, under banker F Nhema, with thieving Marange diamonds miners now refusing to pay the $10 million they promised to the communities.

The release of political prisoners like Maengahama, Musarurwa and Madzokere. Expect more corruption show trials, and even the jailing of a minister or two. The times have changed, so must ruling class strategy, now led by Moyo. Trying to protect the thieving oligarchs who supported and gave her the edge over rival Mnangagwa, vice president J Mujuru, tried to stop the corruption exposes, but was quickly beaten into the new line.

But the corruption show trials will not end the growing economic crisis. Which is why 23 young Zimbabweans met such a cruel death in the mines of South Africa. In introducing the Yuan, the Zanu PF elites played their last firefighting card. Given the slowing global and Chinese economy, and the isolation of Zimbabwe such measure will not resolve the underlying crisis. Too little too late.

The final solutions that seem open to the elites are: economically, the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar, escalation of austerity policies and abandonment of indigenization policies. Politically, to do a 2nd GNU, as called for by USA ambassador, B. Warthog. Only such a government can have the political authority to push through the savage austerity measures the embattled elites now seek.

Time is not on their side. The exposed corruption has left elites without morale leadership. Mugabe is on his way out. The Tsvangirai brand is being torn apart in the MDC civil war. They hope the swelling anger does not find coalescing agencies, as in 1997 around Tsvangirai and the unions. True for now, given the corrupt and weak union leaders; paralysis in MDC and its civic society; the moribund NCA party; and a socialist left which is tiny, weak, divided, and even compromised not learning from the degeneration in Venezuela. But for how long?

Way forward: Organise resistance – A call to action and regroupment for our class!

We are at a crucial moment in history similar to 1995 and 1996 which could easily become a 1997 or Tunisia 2010 moment. Elites have no solution, and left on their own, a descent into the inferno that we  potentially see in Ukraine, Thailand and Nigeria cannot be ruled out. Only the working classes, moving onto the centre stage of history as a powerful and conscious united force, offer an alternative for all.

To realize the possibilities of the day requires unity of our class. As protesting ZINASU leaders were told by a cynical police officer – Hauende kuhondo usina svinga. The most urgent task for serious leaders in the movements of the working class: unions, farmers, students, residents, informal sector, youths, women and socialists, is to spearhead the unity of the poor, on a clear class basis – varombo kuvarombo, vapfumi kuvapfumi – and an overall strategy of direct and united mass action – jambanja pa road! Divided our struggles will be weak, easily isolated, co-opted and defeated.

We should not allow justified differences of the past in our unions or movements, or our party differences, to stop us now pushing for unity of our class, just as elites are doing for theirs. The urgent tasks of the day require us to rise above our past differences. The way forward is to develop, link and generalize the emerging actions of workers, students, resident, informal sector, youths, women and farmers.

Despite the economic crisis, the leading role for this rests, as in 1996, with the biggest section of the working class, and which is still intact, i.e. the public sector workers, especially teachers and nurses. No better place to start than, the urgent holding of joint labour forums to report back to civil servants on the wages and PSMAS issues and to mobilize for action to force government to pay the 26% wages increment this March and for the jailing of thieving parastatal  bosses and Ministers.

Key also are the parastatal and local authority workers. Students are a potential force led by a revived ZINASU, whose political autonomy from MDC was the key legacy of the Pride Mkono leadership. The masses of urban poor assembled in our cities in the informal sector are seething with class anger and will join action.

The above backed by more, bigger, united boycotts, demonstrations and strikes supported by labour forums, student forums, vendors forums and residents forums on a non-party basis, demanding:   PDL wages; stopping the demolition of houses; full rights for the informal sector; right to education, health for all; a national health scheme to replace PSMAS; no to neoliberal reforms of labour laws.

But to win, our class needs to urgently build its own mass revolutionary and internationalist socialist party, as workers in NUMSA in South Africa are beginning to explore. All this towards social revolution, expropriation of the capitalists and for working people’s power- socialism!

             Varombo tamuka! Abayanga sesivhukile! Aluta Continua! Abasha Capitalism! Viva Socialism!

Munyaradzi Gwisai, International Socialist Organisation [IS Africa] 12-03-2014

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