Working-class people in Zimbabwe are rising against austerity measures and other anti-poor people policies of the bosses. Similar to the January 2012 uprising in Nigeria, the immediate trigger of the ongoing general strike and mass protests that has shutdown the country since yesterday (Monday 14 January) was the sharp increase of fuel prices with petrol rising from $1.24 a litre to $3.31 , and diesel from $1.36 a litre to $3.11.
The Socialist Worker of International Socialist Organisation (the sister organization of SWL in Zimbabwe) provides insight into the unfolding struggle and its perspective for workers’ leadership of the movement, hereunder:
Zimbabweans today heeded the call by Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to go on a 3-day stay-away strike against the austerity measures by Finance minister and 150% fuel hike announced by President Ed Mnangagwa on Saturday evening. The suffering Zimbabweans have gone further not to just stay-away but demonstrated in the townships and cities of Zimbabwe.
Early in the morning angry protestors started grouping, burning tyres, barricading roads by huge stones to block public and private transport from carrying passengers. Those who started marching into town were blocked by police thus starting running battles with police resulting in police cars being attacked, stoned, the same with both private and public cars that wanted to get into town especially in Harare and Bulawayo. The demonstrators went further and attacked police stations burning police cars and even private cars that kept moving were also burnt.
This comes after the doctors had embarked on a 40-day strike demanding better working conditions, for government to supply medication to hospitals and also to be paid in US$ and the march by Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ). This was followed by government workers, teachers, nurses coming together demanding to be paid in US$ rejecting the worthless Zimbabwean bond money and the 10% ($41) pay rise that government offered to its workers.
The Zimbabwean bond money has been devalued by 300% since the worsening of the economic crisis last October when Minister of Finance announced the austerity measures. After the announcement of the countrys economic policy which the minister dubbed austerity for prosperity prices of most basic commodities went up by more than 100% whilst the salaries of workers remain unchanged, eroding the working class income .
It is against this background that we welcome the ZCTU call for stay-away demanding the government to address the economic meltdown that has impacted negatively on the ordinary working class calling for the removal of 2% tax imposed on all transactions by Finance Minister, reversal of 150% fuel price increase announced by the President on Saturday evening, payment of salaries in US$ and not the fake Bond money through bank transfers of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS).
The removal of Mugabe in 2017 did not solve the economic crisis that Zimbabwe has witnessed for the past 2-decades.
This crisis reflects the deepening crisis of capitalism in Zimbabwe and globally after the 2008 great recession and the failure of austerity and neo-liberal policies effected by our rulers to resolves the crisis. A crisis made worse in Zimbabwe by Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) sanctions siege and the use the US$ as the main currency since the era of Government of National Unity (GNU).
All this has led to de-industrialisation and growing economic crisis. Thus no manufacturing is taking place in the country as the country has been reduced to a supermarket selling products produced in other countries. The country has not being spared from globalisation effects and this has been worsened by Mnangagwas open for business that is seeing the extraction of raw materials at low prices and imported back and high prices.
On its 1st day the stay-away strike has been successful and the junta government is already panicking with calls to block social media as it has become tool for continued mobilisation. However, the stay-away is not enough as it can be easily crushed by the state. This is worsened by the involvement of right wing organisations and opposition leaders who are seeking to hijack and channel these anti-austerity revolts of workers and the poor into a so-called national dialogue and compromise with the ED-Chiwenga junta that will seek to limit the demand of the ordinary working class forcing the government to social dialogue which will probably lead to another GNU.
For the leaders of both Zanu PF and MDC, their way forward out of the current economic crisis is to impose neo-liberal austerity measures against the working class and the poor. The right wing organisations that are currently also pushing for social dialogue are fronts and are funded by the imperialist countries that are seeking to limit working class demands as happened in the late 90s when workers rose against the effects of Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP).
As the workers say no to this new phase of neo-liberal austerity we should not let our struggles be hi-jacked again. It is not the time for social dialogue, why should we allow workers to pay for the crisis that the bosses and the capitalist created. The GNU of 2009-2013 saw continued de-industrialisation with Labour and Economic Development Research (LEDRIZ) highlighting that during the period June 2011 to May 2014 a total of 227,369 employees retrenched.
LEDRIZ highlighted that the area of concern was with respect to the promotion of labour flexibility pushed by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) during the GNU. The 2012 national budget statement presented by the then Finance Minister, Tendai Biti proposed “.. a comprehensive review of the labour legislation with a view of making it flexible and consistent with business realities.”
There is no going back on calls for payment of salaries and pensions in US dollars. The fact that the government can find money to charter a plane for President Mnangagwa and his team to fly across five countries in Europe and be part of Davos for the next 2 weeks selling the country to imperialist investors shows the money is there. If government can buy vehicles for more than 300 Members of Parliament the money is there. No going back on demand for a living wage for workers. Tobacco and cotton farmers should also be paid their money in hard currency; US dollars.
No harassment of street vendors who are trying to make a living to support their families. Fuel, school fees and basic commodities increase should be reversed immediately. No going back on the demand for immediate scrapping of the 2% tax against the poor. No to privatisation of government companies as this will only benefit the elite close to the government who will buy the companies at very minimum amounts. We demand the taxing of billionaires like Strive Masiyiwa and John Ralph Thomas Moxon who made super profits out of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
According to Forbes 2018 was not a good year for Africa’s billionaires in general as most saw their wealth shrink due to a widespread fall in stock markets and only four did not see a decline in their fortunes. Strive Masiyiwa had the biggest increase that saw his net worth rise to $2.3 billion from $1.6 billion. Not only Strive Masiwa, But also Banks have made super profits, benefiting from the ongoing crisis. It is time to tax these rich people to solve the Zimbabwean crisis.
As history teaches us, there is need to be vigilant against the hijacking of these current struggles by establishing a broad radical united front of unions in the private and public sectors, vendors, pensioners, students, youths, socialist and radical anti-neoliberal organisations and movements to expand the demonstrations. The working class must spearhead the united actions and organise by calling more stay-aways strikes and mother of All demonstrations.
The bourgeois crocodile tears and lies by the middle classes should not be tolerated. They claim that the demonstrations are violent, but the Junta has unleashed terror and killed people during elections, the Junta uses terror on vendors to remove them from the streets and it should reiterated that the Junta is no friends of the people.
However, these are only reforms that can be removed; the only way forward is smashing the system of capitalism which breeds poverty, misery and dictatorship in the first place and fighting for socialism. To do so requires that we build a revolutionary socialist party. The world is at crossroads and this revolutionary socialist party must not only be built at national level but at a regional level in Southern Africa, and internationally, as the capitalist system has shown that it does not have way forward to the current crisis.
Issued by the Socialist Worker department of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO Zim)