Inciting people to rise against the government and reporting falsehoods about people being killed
Here is the front page, above-the-fold story from the current issue of the Industrial Worker, on troubling news from Zimbabwe, a rich and fertile country immiserated and stripped by a century of kleptocratic armed factions — first the land-grabbing colonialists, and then an independent white apartheid government, and now a violent
revolutionary government, which has intoned populist slogans in order to justify government patronage to its political supporters, while assaulting all popular movements independent of the government — especially workers’ unions — on the grounds that any movement independent of, or opposed to, the
anti-imperial government must therefore be a tool of white imperialism. The government that claims the right to rule Zimbabwe has, through this and other means, made itself into one of the most violently anti-worker governments in the world today.
Zimbabwe [sic] arrests unionists, opposition
Zimbabwe’s ruling party and paramilitaries are conducting a terror campaign of arrests and captive meetings of opposition supporters before the presidential run-off election on June 27.
Police arrested the union president Lovemore Motombo and general secretary Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on May 8. Police charged them withinciting people to rise against the government and reporting falsehoods about people being killedduring a May Day rally.
The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe has said that 40,000 farm workers areaffected by the current terror campaignthat has led to violence and eviction from their workplaces.
Teachers in rural classrooms are among those being targetted as MDC supporters. Two have been killed to date, with a third abducted by Zanu-PF paramilitaries. The teachers’ union has received reports that the Zanu-PF are chasing teachers out of schools, beating them, and demandingrepentancefines in the form of cash, goats, and cattle, according to IRIN, a United Nations news service report.The situation in the schools resembles war zones, and there is no way teachers can report for work to face those death squads,Raymond Majongwe, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, told IRIN.
Our fear is that more could be under torture, or have been killed,said Majongwe.
The MDC has placed the death toll since the March 29 election at 43 people, with hundreds beaten and more than 5,000 people fleeing to the mountains and elsewhere to escape Zanu-PF militias.
People who have tried to file complaints to the police are, in turn, detained and interrogated, said the MDC, which means few people are coming forward.
On April 25, armed police raided the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) headquarters in Harare and arrested more than 300 men, women and children who had taken refuge there from political violence.
National and international unions have condemned the Zanu-PF for the violence against union members and party activists.
Dockworkers affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions in South Africa and dockworkers in Mozambique refused to unload a ship loaded with AK-47 machine gun bullets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades sold by China to Zimbabwe. The ship returned to China without unloading its cargo.
In a speech to the Zanu-PF’s Central Committee on May 16, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabwean democracy was stronger than ever and blamed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for inciting rural violence to benefit Western political and corporate interests.
Such violence is needless and must stop forthwith. Our fist is against white imperialism; it is a fist for the people of Zimbabwe, never a fist against them.
The same day, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai delayed his return to Zimbabwe, saying that his party alleged that the military planned to kill him and at least 36 other opposition leaders.
Tsvangirai had been lobbying neighbouring countries and the United Nations to pressure Mugabe to release and accept the election results.
While the MDC refers to Tsvangirai as thePresidenton its web site, it has agreed to contest the presidential run-off in a bid to avoid violence such as that seen in Kenya after its election.
Despite the violence, MDC activists are gearing up for the presidential election campaign. The MDC said that 20,000 activists attended a rally in Harare.
The people are very clear on what they want. They want change. The dictatorship is dead and on 27 June we must attend its burial,said MDC parliamentarian Nelson Chamisa.
— The Industrial Worker 105.04 (June 2008): Zimbabwe arrests unionists, opposition
It’s hard to know what to do in the face of this kind of violence, especially when it is so far away. There may not be much that American workers really can do other than bear witness and hope. But I do want to call special attention to the vital importance of actions like those of the dockworkers in South Africa and Mozambique — an inspiring example both of direct action on the shop floor, and also international labor solidarity. In the end, the actions of workers both in Zimbabwe and in international solidarity campaigns will matter far more than even the fairest, most transparent, most open elections ever will or ever could. What is needed is more — not just inspiring examples, but a coordinated campaign of industrial action against the entire coercive apparatus of Zanu-PF and the Zimbabwean state, to choke off their capacity to attack and terrorize workers.
What Mugabe and his apparatchiks are doing to workers in Zimbabwe is abominable, but we must never forget that the workers have more power standing with our hands in our pockets than all the combined wealth and weapons of the bosses — whether economic, social, or political.