Thursday, 17 January 2008

Zimbabwe 2005 Parliamentary Elections

Zimbabwe 2005 Parliamentary Elections: Questions working people are asking

by Munyaradzi Gwisai

In the 2000 parliamentary elections MDC won 57 seats compared to Zanu PF's 62. In the recent 2005 elections the MDC has dropped to 41 and Zanu PF increased to 78. What went wrong and what is the way forward. Socialist Worker looks at some of these questions.

A. Was there rigging of the elections?

MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai, says they reject the result because they have been massive rigging and that their own calculations showed that the MDC won 94 seats. How true is this? Socialist Worker rejects the arguments of rigging for the following reasons:

i) If rigging was so obvious MDC polling agents reports will easily prove this before the Electoral Court, which the MDC fought for and won, and whose first decision has in fact been in favour of the MDC in the Bennet - Chimanimani case. In any case why didn't Zanu PF rig in Harare and Tsholotsho were Mugabe so desperately wanted seats.

ii)The sixteen seats lost by the MDC were around the rural areas. This was not surprising and had been predicted by various polls. Examples include the 2004 Afro-Barometer study, jointly done by pro MDC organisations, namely the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Centre for Democratic Development of Ghana and Michigan State University of the United States showed Mugabe's approval rate up from 20 percent to 46 percent compared Tsvangirai's 18 percent down from 40 plus in 1999. For the elections, surveys by different groups including the Mass Opinion Institute. Dr. Kurebwa of UZ, the Sunday Mirror all showed MDC losing its one third constitutional threshold. Last year's by-elections and the Zanu PF primaries all showed the growing strength of Zanu PF in the rural areas compared to the MDC. This is why MDC deputy general secretary, Gift Chimanikire went for Mbare at all costs, abandoning Guruve.

iii) The numbers turned away were less than 10% and affecting less than five constituencies materially. In any case many young MDC voters did not register because of the MDC boycott. It is also likely that ZEC officials were extra strict because of the accusations of ghost voters.

B. Why then did MDC lose in the rural areas and win the towns?

i. Of course there was some intimidation of rural voters especially around food aid after the expulsion of the traditional pro MDC western NGOs like CARE and World Vision. There was also questionable fixing of urban and rural seats to give Zanu PF an advantage as in Harare South and Gwanda but this was in a few seats. But the point remains that these were the most peaceful elections since 1980, in which the opposition enjoyed the highest ever access to rural areas and the public media plus coverage from the imperialist sponsored radios like SW Africa and VOP. If in 2000 the NCA could win the Referendum and a nine month old MDC win 57 seats under such violent conditions, the MDC should have done much better in 2005.Â

ii. The truer picture is pointed out by Richard Dowden of The Independent (UK), who wrote: ' the voters' roll and the results were almost certainly fixed. But that cannot explain all' Some may also have been afraid, even though those elections were far less violent than 2000. Many might have feared that that if they did not vote Zanu PF, they would not get food aid. But the opinion polls showed that outside Zimbabwe's towns, Mugabe's popularity had gone up in the past year. Singing the liberation struggle battle hymns against whites and the British and handing out seized land and food aid worked. As Jack Straw and others pick over the wreckage of British policy they will be forced to admit ruefully that it contributed to Mugabe's success'. British support for the opposition candidate and regime change also boosted Mugabe making Morgan Tsvangirai look like a British puppet. The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was another gift proving that Britain still acted in an imperial way.' This sounds like the Zanu PF election jingle, 'Siyoyo Mai' which says 'MDC ine ka simero ke Iraq, ine ka simero ke utengisi.' Not surprising that the black middle classes of posh Harare East rightly severely punished Tendai Biti by giving him the lowest votes in Harare, for foolishly trying to deny what they saw and heard on TV about Blair and the MDC, or white farmers and the MDC.

iii. Poor leadership, ideological confusion and strategies by the MDC, with the half-hearted boycott leaving it with inadequate time to campaign in the rural areas.

iv. In 2001 we in the ISO loudly told the party that unless they immediately changed their strategy of opposing the land reform programme and hanging on the aprons of white farmers, local capitalists, the west and IMF and instead adopt an anti-boss, anti-neoliberal anti-imperialist stance they would be buried in future elections even without violence, because underlying the emergence of the MDC was an anti-ESAP anti-neoliberal mood amongst the masses, which Mugabe was trying to relate to, with growing success in the rural areas, where the majority of the population lives. Mugabe on the other hand revered a number of the ESAP policies in the rural areas including redistributing land, subsidised seeds, fertiliser and food aid, rural electrification programme, GMB depots and rural roads. This won Zanu PF across rural areas, including former MDC strongholds like Manicaland and Matebeleland.

v. In towns on the other hand without taking over the factories, mines, banks, or supermarkets Zanu PF could not make any meaningful reversal of the ESAP policies. If anything the so-called Economic Turn-Around Programme, spearheaded by Reserve Bank Governor Gono with an Advisory Team of some of the most powerful capitalist forces locally, including Eric Bloch involved a partial re-introduction of ESAP. Thus whilst inflation went down on the books, the living costs of the masses continued to deteriorate and they have not surprisingly again rejected Zanu PF, despite the dismal performance of MDC MPs and councillors. Â

C. So are you saying the elections were 'free, fair and democratic'?

i. At one level yes, and at another level no. Firstly measured by standards in other capitalist countries the elections were 'free and fair.' You can't compare them to the 1980, 1985, 1990 or 2000 elections or the bloody elections in Nigeria, Iraq, or dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Eygpt or Uganda which are accepted by the west. In the USA, the so-called home of bourgeois democracy, Bush won the 2000 and 2004 elections by a combination of direct fraud and his brother disenfranchising blacks and Hispanics in Florida supported by a Supreme Court packed by his party's supporters.Â

ii. But fundamentally elections under capitalism are never truly 'free, fair and democratic.' Elections can only be won by those with enough money to bribe voters, to put up adverts, to print posters, to buy beer, i.e. the rich or those they support. Further parliament under capitalism does not express full democracy as other important state officials like the Reserve Bank Governor, Police Commissioner or judges are not elected. Neither does parliament determine the price of basic goods and services used by the ordinary people or whether workers are retrenched or paid a living wage. These are seen as the capitalists' private property and the capitalists will violently resist any government that threatens their property with economic sabotage, sanctions or even war, as has happened to Mugabe for seizing the white farms and Chavex in Venezeuala. So long as only a tiny minority, the capitalists, control the wealth of society, there will be no democratic elections. Only under socialism when the majority of people own and control these things can we talk of true democracy.Â

D. What are the implications of the defeat on the MDC on Tsvangirai & 3rd Force?

i. Because the MDC has won so resoundingly in the urban areas it is unlikely that any 3rd Force as called by Trevor Ncube, will succeed. The only threat to the MDCÂ would be a movement that arises on its left centred on the trade union movement and with an anti-imperialist, anti-boss, anti-capitalist and pro-peasant agenda. But the conditions for the emergence of this are not yet sufficient for it to emerge as a dominant force in the next three or so years, unless there is an economic meltdown which the MDC completely fails to relate to.

ii. Tsvangirai's leadership of the MDC is not under threat. This is for two reasons. Firstly he remains by far the most popular leader in the opposition movement. Secondly because for the first time the formation of the MDC, their leadership ran a united campaign uniting the class and tribal differences that could have undermined his leadership. Thus the trade union leaders around Tsvangirai - Sibanda worked hand in hand with the petite bourgeois intellectual leaders like Ncube, Biti, Coltart and Misihiraibwi - Mushonga. The MDC has emerged with unified leadership which will likely take the defeat as a collective responsibility.

iii. However, the defeat is disastrous for the MDC's long term interests, especially the 2008 presidential elections as it is likely to feed into the feeling of disillusionment, powerlessness and aparthy amongst its urban supporters whist reinvigorating Zanu PF. Already significant aparthy has been seen in this election in most urban areas. A Zanu PF victory in the 2008 presidential election is now highly likely.

E. Will the MDC call for mass action like in Ukraine or go into Parliament?

i. The MDC is likely to take up its 41 seats and not call any serious mass action. Since calling off the November 2000 mass action, the fundamental strategy of the MDC leaders has been of peaceful-co-habitation with Zanu PF. They calculate that a combination of parliamentary and legal pressure together with a deteriorating economic situation due to the sanctions by their western friends will get them peacefully into power. In the meanwhile they enjoy the privileges and money from Parliament and donors. Now they will make a few radical noises about taking action or even call a half-hearted stayaway to quiten and keep in control their more radical members and civic society allies like Pius Ncube, NCA, ZVAKWANA and ZCTU. But Mugabe now fully understands this, mocking them on Saturday - 'They are not serious. They are saying it to placate their members to restore their confidence.'

ii. In any case objectively the Mugabe regime, with its party cadreship and the state has the capacity to easily crush any attempted mass uprising. The MDC middle class leadership demobilised its radical base, denouncing the jambanja route, as was dramatically revealed in the failed 2003 'Final Push.' The commodification of resistance through NGO civic society has also neutralised civic society. This includes the trade unions which are further suffering from a corrupt unaccountable leaders, disillusioning the membership.

iii. Tsvangirai confirmed as much in an interview with The Washington Post, were he   parroted an earlier interview by David Coltart: - 'Yet Tsvangirai rejected calls from some of his supporters for demonstrations, saying that not enough protestors were willing to take to the streets to force Mugabe from power. 'Those who did come to demonstrate, he said, would be arrested, hurting the long-term prospects for growing the party'. 'I'm not afraid to go to jail myself, said Tsvangirai looking relaxed in his well-groomed suburban home in Harare. 'But its one thing to be courageous and another thing to make wreckless decisions in a way that won't be sustainable' Zimbabwe is not Ukraine - We have to be realistic.' Journalist, Timbery, disgusted by the dishonesty of the MDC leader, then lays out their real strategy in bare terms: - 'Yet having ruled out both demonstrations and a legal challenge against the election results, Tsvangirai in the interview was unable to describe a scenario in which his party took power unless Mugabe chose to negotiate with an opposition he has repeatedly called 'traitors' and tools of colonialist western powers.'

iv. Trevor Ncube first raised this in his famous 31st January 2003 Publishers' Memo in The Independent when he argued that the MDC leadership's lack of will, strategic vision and personal courage to successfully spearhead a people's power revolution, growing economic crisis and a radicalising Zanu PF could lead to social revolution that would wipe out the capitalists. For him the only way out was a social contract uniting Zimbabwe's elites, represented in Zanu PF and MDC, but with the later as a junior partner. He repeated this a week before elections, arguing only Mugabe could save Zimbabwe and was backed by founding Daily News editor, Geoff Nyarota.Â

F. Is Mugabe serious about working with MDC -Why is the West refusing to recognise him?

i. To understand politics, the state and law, or the superstructure in general, we have to understand the dynamics in the economic base. In other words who owns and controls the businesses, how well the businesses are operating, who eats what has been produced and what is the balance of the struggles between the workers who produce this wealth, and the bosses who eat most of it. Using such analysis it is clear that Mugabe has no choice but to work with MDC and the capitalists.

ii.  Despite his resounding electoral victory, Mugabe is likely to be forced to accommodate MDC for the following reasons: (1) despite Gono's fire-fighting measures the economy is again threatening to implode as a result of the sanctions by the west. There is massive shortage of foreign currency leading to the collapse of the local currency to 1 to 15 000 to the USA$; the RBZ auction only realises $11million when demand is above $150 million; unlike before companies can't access a semi-legal black market because Gono closed off this; there is a drought and the land reform programme is yet to revive the agriculture sector. The above is likely to result in growing economic crisis including business closures, retrenchments, starvation wages, shortages of basic goods, massive price increases of basic goods and economic sabotage, in short back to 2003! Without immediate western financial support such economic crisis could lead to a complete economic melt-down and implosion. (2 ) Yet Mugabe's capacity to deal with these economic problems is very limited because his government does not own or control the most important businesses, unlike people like Chavez in Venezula or Castro in Cuba. (3) Because the workers and urban poor are still clearly opposed to the government and now after the results also likely to be completely disillusioned with the parliamentary route, an economic implosion will provide fertile grounds for the kind of imperialist - inspired 'people's power revolutions' that we have seen in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and recently Lebanon and Kyrgystan. If the MDC leadership is too cowardly to lead these, they could easily be replaced by a movement anchored by the more radical but pro-west petite bourgeois groupings like Madhuku' NCA, Jane William's WOZA and the shadowy ZWAKWANA - SOKWANELE, with Archbishop Pious Ncube the spiritual Godfather liker like Sistan in Iraq. No Mr. Coltart and Mr. Tsvangirai, you are wrong. Zimbabwe can easily become Ukraine... (4) On the other hand the capacity of Mugabe to resist the above is weak because - his advanced age; he has demobilised the radical section of his party including war vets, the youths militia, radical ideologues like Moyo and Chinamasa whilst siding with pro-west moderates like the Mujurus, Nkomo, Msika, Shamuyarira etc. And the personal cost of failure is too high as shown by Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.Â

iii. The west is refusing to recognise the elections even if they probably privately acknowledge that Zanu PF won, to keep the pressure on Mugabe to compromise, as argued by UZ political scientist Eldred Masunungure: 'Some of the EU countries and indeed America will consider stiffening and broadening the sanctions unless there's a fundamental policy shift by the government. There has to be a serious paradim shift and Mugabe must make a serious conscious decision to change his domestic and foreign policies if he is to expect a reprieve from the international community.'  The changes Mugabe is expected to make are those that are adequate to reverse the 'bad' precedent he set - namely that a regime faced by popular revolts against its neo-liberal programmes can survive if it reverses such policies in favour of nationalist ones and attacking the private property of the capitalists. The key changes Zanu PF has to make include: work together well with the west's trusted lap dogs in Zimbabwe, that is MDC and its supporting NGOs including possibly giving them some cabinet and Senate seats and a firm commitment of his own retirement. Economically to regularise the land question by giving title deeds, constitutional guarantees protecting private property and allowing some of the white farmers back and compensating others and giving Gono a free reign to implement a full-bloodied ESAP programme, incorporating MDC's RESTART/BRIDGE programme, under the supervision of the IMF/World Bank. .Â

iv. A number of indicators show that Mugabe is already bowing to such pressure:

a. his reconciliation speech on Saturday was modelled on his 1980 one, inviting not only the MDC but even Blair, to work together!

b. He has already given assurances that he will not use his 2/3 majority to create a new constitution but only amend it in consultation with MDC in Parliament; or to appoint his own successor. His proposed amendments are agreeable to MDC and the capitalists such as a Senate; simaltenous parliamentary and presidential elections; increasing parliament to 200 members; removing the 30 appointed members. Nowhere is he threatening to use it empower workers or peasants or even expropriate companies sabotaging the economy.

c. he did not impose his candidates on the ZEC, with MDC making two nominees and did not sign the NGO Bill into law allowing it to lapse.

d. he has given Gono unprecedented power with which he has initiated the beginnings of an ESAP programme, such as devaluation and repayment of IMF debts. Yet Gono has become buddies with the USA ambassador, is not on the sanctions list and got glowing reports from the IMF. John Nkomo is sanitising the land reform programme including turning a blind eye to blacks leasing back their new farms to former white farmers.Â

e. the state media is awash with reconciliation talk, with even Sunday Mail's Lowani Ndlovu, now saying 'the quickest way of ending the suffering of Zimbabweans is Zanu PF and MDC working together, and Zanu PF not imposing its two thirds majority'

Whilst the above entails some risk for Mugabe, it is much better than the alternative of continuing a losing battle against the capitalist forces. With a relative stabilisation of the economy, Zanu PF stands a good chance of retaining the presidency in 2008, even if by then it will be no different from MDC.

G. So what is the way forward for working people?

When elephants make love, it is the grass that suffers. Zanu PF and MDC are about to start making love, the povo beware! This means a number of things:

i. the most urgent thing to do is to build the fight back against the attacks coming from the working together of Zanu PF and MDC with their capitalist paymasters. The only way to defend our jobs, get better wages, free and/or subsidised health, education, farming inputs, stands or price controls on basics is by action or jambanja like we did in 1996 - 1998 and not the courts or parliament. This includes strikes, occupations, demonstrations, riots and boycotts. The urban struggles must be linked to the struggles of peasants for land, subsidised seeds, fertiliser, food, tillage, roads, dams and electrification.

ii. but to do this requires us to build strong, self-reliant and democratic organisations, residents associations, AIDS/HIV networks, student unions etc that support each other in our different struggles and not divided by superficial divisions like MDC or Zanu PF. Trade unions must play the leading role in such struggles as they did in 1996 - 98. But they can only do this if the current corrupt, cowardly leaderships in most unions is overthrown and replaced by younger, militant and democratic leaderships. Reject 'leaders' trying to destroy ZCTU by turning it into a puppet of the Zanu PF government. Whilst these are the most immediate danger to labour and must be fought , we must not be hoodwinked by the other leaders who have reduced our unions to spineless puppets of MDC, accept imperialist CIA sponsored awards and are feted by blood-suckers like the USA ambassador or Gono. Serious trade unionists must regroup into a separate pressure group to save the ZCTU and only support leaders who support the call for a general strike for a national minimum tax 'free living wage equivalent to the PDL; free health and education; audited accounts of the ZCTU and not being puppets of imperialists & MDC.   Â

iii. Politically fight for a new people driven constitution, guaranteeing bread and butter interests and full democracy.Â

iv. To gain legitimacy, Mugabe is likely to continue with the relaxation of the political space that started during elections. We must fully utilise this space to do labour forums, residents, AIS/HIV meetings and strengthen our organisations and struggles.

v. Lets use the above struggles as our dress-rehersals and universities for building new leaders and new cadres for a new political movement of working people the way our strikes, demonstrations and riots of 1995 - 99 did, and made us build the most powerful party to yet challenge the Zanu PF dictatorship. The mistake we made was not in forming a political party - no! Our mistakes were in: - (1) the working people surrendering leadership of the party to the neo-liberal (pro ESAP) middle classes, bosses and imperialists and allowing them into the party in the first place; (2) agreeing to abandon our jambanja and following the route of parliament, the courts or the west; (3) and our allowing our movement to be split between the urban and the rural.

vi. But to successfully fight the coming attacks and lay the foundations of a new working people's movement, the most advanced workers, students, peasants, war veterans and activists for democracy must make a decisive and clean break from the two main parties of the bosses in Zimbabwe, Zanu PF and the MDC. The fundamental task lying ahead of us is the construction of a new movement but one radically different from both parties, one with an agenda of the destruction of capitalism, locally and internationally and building another world, in which the wealth of the world is used for the needs of human society and not the profits of the few, in other words a movement for socialism!Â

An edited version of this article is published in Alternatives vol. 3, no. 14, 2005

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