For the third election in succession, the Robert Mugabe-led Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) has thwarted the will of the people and retained power through rigged elections. This time it obtained a ’landslide’ – 78 out of the 120 seats contested.
With the 30 members of parliament apppointed by the president, Zanu-PF has 108 seats in the 150-member parliament – more than the two-thirds needed to change the constitution. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai fell to 41 seats from the 58 won in 2000.
Despite the much-spoken about decline in violence, claims of a peaceful election are a cynical exaggeration.
The Solidarity Peace Trust’s March 2005 report documented "some 1308 incidents of alleged violence. MDC members were alleged to have been shot, stoned, bludgeoned, or burned to death by Zanu-PF supporters-including two members of Morgan Tsvangirai’s campaign team who were burned alive at gunpoint by Zanu-PF agents and CIO [Central Intelligence Organisation] operative Joseph Male."
If the level of violence had declined (in the 2000 parliamentary and 2002 presidential elections over 200 were killed with over 1,000 violent incidents) this was because the main objects of the Zanu-PF strategy had already been achieved
Given that the opposition MDC displayed no appetite for mass action, offered no leadership and is reportedly also divided, the absence of organised mass resistance, combined with a catastrophic economic situation, had succeeded in cowing the population.
Having twice defeated Zanu-PF and Mugabe only for their votes to be disregarded, what the masses needed was leadership. Instead the MDC deepened the demoralisation and caused total confusion by at first announcing a boycott and then reversing their decision six weeks before the election.
As the chosen alternative for the role of local servant of international capital, the MDC demonstrated a distinct lack of appetite for mass action. Trapped between the expectations of the masses and the pressure of imperialism, the MDC made a last-minute decision to participate in the elections to prevent divisions in the party from breaking out into the open.
This was despite the fact that all 39 cases filed in connection with the elections in 2000 and 2002 (parliament and presidential respectively) had failed even where the courts had upheld charges of fraud. Eleven out of 17 judges were pressured into resigning, their replacements given land seized from the white commercial farmers.
The mass industrial action of the late 1990s moved on to the political plane, gave birth to the MDC in 2000 and defeated the government in the referendum on a new constitution in February of that year.
In response Mugabe tightened his hold on power by combining left-wing demagoguery through the so-called ’land reform’ programme, a campaign of terror and subversion of the judicial process, an amnesty for election-related violence and manipulating constituency boundaries to reduce seats in MDC-controlled urban areas and increasing them in rural areas.
Critically, the MDC was refused access to an electronic copy of the voters role.
In this situation the majority of voters had lost confidence in the electoral process and stayed at home. In the capital, Harare, a MDC stronghold, only 35% voted. As is well-known, the government also used the food shortages to intimidate voters threatening to deny food aid to anyone who voted MDC.
THE ZIMBABWEAN crisis has had an enormous impact in South Africa, deepening the divisions in the Tripartite Alliance of the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
A South African government observer delegation had embarrassed themselves by echoing President Mbeki’s claims that the elections would be free and fair even before their departure for Zimbabwe. It was forced to apologise to the MDC who threatened to boycott them.
The Zanu-PF regime’s expulsion of Cosatu’s fact finding mission was fully supported by the ANC government compelling Cosatu to step up its campaign in support of the Zimbabwean masses.
After the elections
The economic crisis and Mugabe’s desperate pretence at anti-corruption measures and selective purges have led to divisions inside Zanu-PF itself.
The MDC was unable to exploit these weaknesses in Zanu-PF nor maintain the morale of the masses in the face of Zanu-PF repression. This sense of powerlessness was worsened by the failure of the MDC to mount a serious campaign of mass action.
The MDC is reported to be divided between its trade union contingent on the one side and students and intellectuals on the other. The National Constitutional Assembly which played a critical role in defeating Mugabe’s referendum in 2000, favoured a boycott of the election. These divisions are likely to deepen.
Buoyed by these results, Mugabe has rejected any talk of incorporating the MDC into his government pledging to rule until he turns 100!
Despite the populist, quasi-leftist, anti-imperialist rhetoric – with slogans such "the anti-Blair election" – the government has gone back cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund to bail them out, promising to increase the repayment of foreign debt. Thus a neo-liberal economic programme – the very policies that ruined the Zimbabwean economy – is once again on the agenda.
Whilst the Democratic Socialist Movement fully supports the right of the Zimbabwean masses to vote for the party of their choice, we have an internationalist duty to point out that a MDC government would carry out the same economic polices as Zanu-PF did in 1991-95 with the same results.
At some stage, the demoralisation will give way to a renewed determination to resist. The call by Bulawayo Bishop, Pius Ncube, for a peaceful uprising probably reflects conclusions being drawn on the ground. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions should mobilise for a mass action campaign to bring down Mugabe.
The most effective way to carry forward the struggle will be through the building of a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme.
Only on the basis of a genuine socialist programme combining the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy and all the commercial farms under workers’ control and management, and the distribution of land to the landless with proper state support in terms of seeds, feed, agricultural implements and training, can the working class offer the farm workers and poor peasants a basis for unity.
Capitalist policies, whether implemented by a Zanu-PF government, or in coalition with the MDC, will only bring more misery to the masses. A socialist programme would lay the basis for an appeal by Zimbabwean workers to their class bothers and sisters in southern Africa especially the South African working class – potentially the most powerful on the African continent.
A socialist revolution offers the only possibility for the permanent eradication of starvation, poverty, disease and war and lasting prosperity for all.
Masses face economic catastrophe
"Zimbabwe … experienced a drop in Gross Domestic Product of 30% in the past three years, has been classified by the United Nations as having the fastest shrinking economy in the world.
It is now ranked 90th on the list of the world’s 94 poorest countries. Only one person in ten still has a formal sector job, half the figure of 1980." (South African Institute of International Affairs).
The official exchange rate has become a laughing stock and a parallel rate has spiraled to 11,000 Zimbabwean dollars to the US$ – four times the official rate. Hyper-inflation has slowed to 381% in 2004 from a peak of 600% in 2003. Medicines, vehicle repairs and agricultural prices have risen by over 600% while the state-owned telephone and postal services have hiked fees by 1,000%.
Agricultural production is expected to be at least 30% down on 2002/03 as only 44% of land seized from white farmers was being utilized.
With 80% of the population living in poverty and mass unemployment, there is an escalating shortage of food and fuel and an HIV/Aids pandemic that has infected nearly a quarter of 15- to 49-year olds – the most productive members of society.
"A sample study by an independent group recently indicated that of 5.6 million registered voters, 800,000 are dead, 300,000 are listed more than once and more than 900,000 do not live at their recorded addresses" (The Star 23/03/05).
With a total population of about 12 million, 25% (3.5 million) of whom have left the country, (1.2 million in South Africa, 1.1 million in Britain, 100,000 in Australia and the rest scattered throughout Southern Africa and elsewhere) an electorate of 5.6 million is an impossibility.
To be absolutely certain of the right result, Mugabe barred postal votes except for military and diplomatic personnel – disenfranchising a quarter of the population living abroad.
The following extracts are from a letter a Zimbabwe socialist sent to Weizmann.
"The election can be called the greatest fraud of 2005. Many people are really disgusted by claims of fairness. You won’t believe how much anger is here over the results… This has been made even worse by the utterances from the South African observer mission that the elections were fair and free.
… Many voters were turned away only to find that their names have been ticked as having voted. The electoral supervisory commission made a mistake by first announcing the number of voters before announcing the results which later showed Zanu-PF alone getting more votes than the number of people who actually voted. In some places the discrepancies were as large as 16,000 votes.
… Everyone here dreads of what worse is to come now that Zanu can change the constitution at will.
We are waiting to see what moves the masses and the opposition will make. They have hinted of mass protests which everyone doubts can occur due to the heavy police presence. Many people have adopted a defeatist attitude and just waiting for whatever is to come from this tyrant regime. Many people are tired of the current regime but MDC is failing to be a good option."
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales