THE GREAT BETRAYAL AMENDMENT No.18 Working Peoples Convention now!
The International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe has consistently argued that, “Any strategy of fighting the dictatorship based on a movement dominated or controlled by the MDC will remain prisoner to the glaring ideological and strategic confusion it has shown since 2000 and is bound to fail… Its primary preoccupation is towards reaching a sell-out settlement with the Zanu-PF dictatorship that will not benefit the poor and working people…The possibility of an elite political settlement between the ruling party and opposition around a western supported full neo-liberal programme is real. This will be centred on the neo-liberal economic turnaround programme – Economic Structural Adjustment Programme #2 (ESAP 2) – that has been spearheaded by Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, since 2003. The drive towards a settlement is driven by several factors including the ruling classes’ fear of economic-social implosion because of the worsening economic crisis with unforeseeable political implications, and the fact that both parties are now dominated by elites who subscribe to neo-liberalism and are exhausted and fearful of the crisis of the last decade…ZANU-PF elites now want peace in which to grow and launder the wealth acquired in the last decade but they cannot do so in the context of a crisis ridden state under siege from the west. However, to ensure that the ZANU-PF elites do not relapse as they did in 1997, the forces of global neo-liberalism demand a political guarantee in the form of co-opting their trusted agents, the MDC, into the government of Zimbabwe and the exit of Mugabe. For the opposition is dominated by the petit-bourgeois elite, who long ago prostrated themselves before western neo-liberal, political and economic forces and are now eager to get into state power, even as junior partners, and accumulate property as a neo-colonial dependent capitalist class”.
It is this elite settlement, fashioned to pre-empt social-revolution, that the Mbeki Talks and constitutional amendment no. 18 were designed to achieve. The process is supported by Mbeki and the west, with, as Mukundu of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) aptly puts it – Tsvangirai likely to be “the unwilling … lamb; sacrificed on the altar of quiet diplomacy in the quest for power by those inside his ‘cabinet’”; the price for Mugabe to agree to retire – a price not only the opportunist elites in MDC are willing to pay but the west too. It has always seen Tsvangirai as naïve and dispensable. The West’s interests in Zimbabwe may be summarised simply – the re-launch of the free market dictatorship in Zimbabwe. This act would signal the West’s vindication: SAPs work under the IMF but they were mismanaged in Zimbabwe. In addition it would forever banish the “bad precedent” set by Mugabe on the land question. Mbeki wants to ensure that Tsvangirai does not set an example for COSATU/SACP to follow as Chiluba did in Zambia. Various western institutions will be prepared to ooze from all their financial tanks into the “New Zimbabwe” as soon as the new deal succeeds. SAPs have had a history of dismal failure in Africa and in Latin America they have been shoved out by resurgent anti-neo-liberal forces. It would only be wise to sanctify them with a Zimbabwe renewed and re-engaged. This explains why the International Crisis Group (ICG), the European Union (EU) and Don McKinnon of the Commonwealth now want dialogue with Mugabe.
Working People’s Convention and Jambanja now!
However, the elites in power and in the opposition may not have it all their way. Now that the talks have been lubricated by amendment no. 18 and vice versa, the driving seat seems to have been secured. But the major question remains the destination. Amendment 18 represents a political crisis and a coming storm. But it is veiled by Mugabe’s trajectory, momentarily shrouded in speculation. It remains to be seen how Mugabe will manage his political campaign for the coming elections. The economic crisis that has threatened Mugabe’s political power remains unresolved. Price hikes may be well on their way back to madness. And things are not calm in the MDC-Tsvangirai camp either. There are stirrings of serious opposition, with reports that the youth, women’s section, key provinces like Harare and Bulawayo, the Diaspora and other radicals are opposing the sell-out deal. Support has come mainly from self-seeking MPs. The week-end of 22 September, Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, had revealed the stirrings and predicted that whilst the MDC- Mutambara executive would easily support the deal, it was going to face stiff and insurmountable resistance in the Tsvangirai side, sending Biti into oblivion.
The above provides a historic opportunity for the progressives in labour, civic society, revolutionary socialists and MDC radicals to reclaim the initiative, smash this sell-out neo-liberal elitist deal and re-launch the struggle to smash the dictatorship and attempts to accelerate ESAP. These forces must urgently convene a second Working People’s Convention to discuss the treacherous Mbeki Talks, amendment 18 and the way forward. Central to this process will be the organisation of the harmonised elections later this year. However, these must only take place under a democratic, people driven and anti-ESAP constitution. If the regime rejects this, then the struggle must shifted to all out mass action – jambanja or civil disobedience – in which there is no co-operation whatsoever with the regime, just a determined struggle to throw it out as has happened elsewhere. The ZCTU has already started the ball rolling, but to succeed we need united action of labour and civic society. Like Smith in 1978, the regime is now cornered, that is why it is making concessions. History teaches us that success is possible. For instance the March 1961 Zhii-Zhanda strikes forced Nkomo to abandon the sell-out constitutional deal he had made with the British giving Blacks 15 out of 65 parliamentary seats. In 1978, after ZANU refused to accept the Internal Settlement deal, Nkomo also withdrew from any further deals with the Smith-Muzorewa regime and opted to continue with the struggle under the Patriotic Front. Similarly, in 2005 Tsvangirai gave in to pressure not to go into the Senate elections. The same can happen today if we are resolute!
By M. Gwisai & T. Gumede
For more information order Munyaradzi Gwisai’s pamphlet, Revolutionaries, Resistance and Crisis in Zimbabwe Second Edition 2007
The settlement agreed on 18 September 2007 was the outcome of secret talks, brokered by Thabo Mbeki, between the two MDCs and ZANU-PF. Led by Chinamasa and Goche for ZANU- PF and Tendai Biti and Welshmen Ncube for the two MDCs, the two main political parties agreed on constitutional amendments supposedly meant to resolve the crisis in the country. On 25 September, Amendment 18 to the Constitution of Zimbabwe was unanimously passed “amid thunderous applause from both ZANU-PF and MDC legislators.” The Bill harmonises the presidential, parliamentary and local authority elections next year, – they will now all take place on the same day – increases the number of MPs and makes a few other cosmetic changes.
111 MPs voted for the Bill, no one voted against. Speakers from ZANU-PF and MDC spoke vociferously, applauding the coming together of the decade-long enemies. ZANU-PF chief Whip, Joram Gumbo, had this to say, “We from this side of the House want to say the chickens have come home to roost. We realise now that we are Zimbabweans. We, as Zimbabweans, are able to come together and solve our issues.” Deputy-President of the MDC-Tsvangirai faction, Thoko Khupe, sought to reassure his followers declaring, “We supported the Bill because we do not want to see Zimbabwe burning. It does not mean we have abandoned our demand for a new people-driven Constitution. It is our understanding that this will be delivered in due course.” Welshman Ncube, of MDC-Mutambara was more forthright. “Zimbabweans are faced with a national crisis. We may differ, but we agree there is a crisis. Somewhere along the way we lost each other. This is our attempt to find each other.” Another leading opposition figure no doubt overwhelmed by the significance of the event pronounced the occasion as, “…the beginning of a historic moment in this house….We are in the process of making history and finding solutions to the crisis.”
Quite stunning, coming from viciously warring parties.
‘Treachery’. Varombo kuvarombo vapfumi kuvapfumi. A Shona expression used when leaders sell out, collaborating with the rich and abandoning the poor to their fate.
This deal is not for the poor and oppressed who have bravely withstood the hard times we have been going through and have been necessary fuel for the existence of MDC. Now the last decade of inspiring work by labour, civic society and social movements has been sacrificed by leaders only interested in getting into power and accumulating wealth. Indeed on the 18th, while ‘they’ took Zimbabwe through this ‘historic moment’, labour and students activists were in police cells over the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) stay-away. Yesterday showed us that “varombo kuvarombo, vafumi kuvafumi,” must now be the slogan of the day. The opposition leaders have accepted Mugabe’s invitation to the tractor feast along with his unambiguous declaration that: Nyaya yekudya inyaya yedu tose … kana toita politics tinenge taguta; (when it comes to issues of the stomach we must unite so that when we talk politics we will all be ok. The ideological mist that masked a false unity of purpose in the opposition forces has now been blown away.
Virtually all key civic society groups and the ZCTU have rightly denounced the settlement. Arnold Tsunga, chairman of Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition and director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said, “We think the MDC has sold out and it will be very difficult to work with them in future, taking into perspective the minor adjustment they and ZANU PF have agreed to.”
Lovemore Madhuku and the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) were even more blistering in their attack: We are disgusted by the MDC. I don’t see myself sitting under the same tent with both Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara discussing the future of this country. We are severing ties with the MDC over their going into bed with ZANU-PF… The MDC’s decision to abandon the principle of a people-driven Constitution and opting for a process driven by political parties in Parliament is an act of treachery.”
The NCA gave a number of reasons to reject the deal, including: (i) it allows Mugabe to appoint his own successor through Parliament, instead of elections; (ii) the size of parliament has been massively increased beyond the capacity of the country and economy, from 150 to 210 MPs, from 66 to 93 Senators – all these will be given brand new 4 x 4 double cabs! (iii) it does not provide Zimbabweans in the Diaspora with the right to vote as other SADC countries do; (iv) the appointment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission remains under the control of Mugabe, who also retains his massive executive presidency powers as well as control of the state, courts, security arms and media; (v) the Bill of Rights remains the same and guarantees neither the rights of workers, the poor and oppressed nor effective freedoms of movement, association and expression. There can surely be no free and fair elections under such conditions, yet the MDC did not even bother to consult its members and civic society before agreeing – discussing only with the British Ambassador!! (vi) all the elections have been reduced to one day, which is logistically impossible.
As some have already commented, this is a sick deal in which the MDC has got even less than Muzorewa got from Smith! Like Smith, Mugabe is today in a tight corner as the economy collapses, and instead of escalating resistance with other forces as the Patriotic Front did in 1978, the MDC is giving the Mugabe regime a life-boat!
Reasons behind the Betrayal
Progressive social movements, labour and civic society, must celebrate this deal as a refreshing moment which has vindicated a whole decade of ideological analysis about how to deal with the Mugabe dictatorship. Since at least 2001, we in the International Socialist Organisation, (ISO) have warned that the opposition MDC had been hijacked by elite capitalist forces and stressed the need to construct an autonomous alternative anti-neoliberal united front to carry on the struggle with the MDC, but independent of it if need be.