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  Issue No 50 Official Organ of LaborNet 14 April 2000  




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Towards Liberation

By Peter Murphy

Zimbabwe trade unions are at the centre of the democratic struggle going on within the African Nation

Morgan Tsvangirai, the President of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe, only recently stepped down from his position as General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Likewise Gibson Sibanda, MDC Vice-President, was President of the ZCTU. Tsvangirai has a background in the mining industry, Sibanda is still a train driver working on the Bulawayo - Harare run.

Both Tsvangirai and Sibanda are hugely popular, and now represent the best chance for Zimbabwe to change from a corrupt, poverty-stricken, autocratic shambles toward the liberation that the people thought they had won 20 years ago.

MDC was launched last September and had its founding Congress at the end of January this year. It already has over 1.1 million members, in a country of about 12 million people. By contrast, the ruling party of Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF, claimed 2.2 million members in the past, but this has been rapidly falling since the democratic movement got underway in 1998, at a National Working People's Convention.

The people's rejection of President Mugabe's new constitution at a referendum on February 12-13 stung Mugabe. This was his first-ever political defeat. He immediately launched the occupation of white-owned commercial farms by ZANU-PF members and local criminal gangs, claiming to be liberation war veterans.

Mugabe has been promising land to the veterans for 20 years, without delivering. But in March this year it was revealed in parliament by independent MP Margaret Dongo that senior ZANU-PF figures had received the bulk of lands distributed so far.

MDC completely rejects Mugabe's fascist politics of picking on the white minority, and despite the heavy atmosphere of intimidation and threats of violence, opinion polls indicate a growing majority want Mugabe to go.

Election monitors

MDC insists on political change through democratic processes; Mugabe's standard tactic is to create havoc and use violence to suppress any opposition. In the last two months, MDC has stuck to peaceful methods and now Mugabe's strategy, at least the phase around attacking white farmers, is unravelling.

Under the old constitution, still in force, there are 120 elected MPs and a further 30 appointed by the President. MDC is confident that they can win over 75 if the process is fair.

MDC has called on the international community to come to Zimbabwe to monitor the electoral process to ensure that it is fair and credible. There are 5,000 voting places, and so 10,000 - 15,000 monitors are required. Many are being mobilised in Zimbabwe by the grassroots-based National Constitutional Assembly. Elections could take place in May or June, but must be held by August.

Australian support

An MDC Executive member, Mrs Sekai Holland, led the solidarity work for the liberation of Zimbabwe in Australia in the late 1960s and 1970s. She returned last year to call for a new solidarity movement. She was able to meet a wide range of trade union, women's movement, student, left and ALP organisations and individuals. As a result, the Zimbabwe Information Centre Inc was set up last July.

On April 3, ZIC called on the Australian Government and the UN to make a high priority of the Zimbabwean elections, and to start mobilising the monitoring effort now. ZIC reminded both of the UN failure to take action prior to the Rwanda genocide in 1994, and warned of the danger of a bloodbath in Zimbabwe.

I represented ZIC at the MDC Congress in January, where the 6,700 delegates came from every part of the country and from all social classes and tribal groups, including whites. The majority was young. About half were women.

The statistics about Zimbabwe today are terrifying, and more than enough reason for the passionate desire to wipe away the government: unemployment - 50%; interest rates - 60%; inflation - 70%; deaths - 90% Aids-related; agricultural wages - $A60 per month; factory wages - $A80 per month; public service wages - $A160 per month.

Power charges have been escalating 20% per quarter. Due to lack of foreign exchange, diesel and petrol supplies are being drastically rationed, and Harare public bus services have been cut by 50%.

In particular, the MDC promised towithdraw the 11,000 armed forces from the Congo; distribute unused agricultural lands to subsistence farmers; declare a National Emergency over AIDS; and to create jobs.

In concluding the Congress, Morgan Tsvangirai said: "We are showing that frustration and anger can turn into constructive action. We can have peaceful change through a democratic process. Those who deny peaceful change will make violence inevitable.

"We must expand the basic organisations of the MDC through information and action. Don't forget where we come from. Our base is the workers, peasants and the poor - 75% of the people of Zimbabwe."

Peter Murphy; Zimbabwe Information Centre Inc


*    Contact Peter Murphy

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 50 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: The Gospel According To ...
Green Bans legend Jack Mundey looks back on his days in the BLF and the lessons that can be drawn from that experience today,
*  Unions: Spinning at the Casino
In the lead-up to this weekend's historic strike, active LHMU members at Sydney’s Star City Casino have been making their own news.
*  East Timor: Rebuilding From the Nightmare
NSW Attorney General Jeff Shaw travelled to Dili to get a first-hand perspective on the reconstruction work required.
*  History: Internal Democracy and the BLF
How the rank and file team that took over the BLF in the early sixties attempted to devolve power to the grassroots.
*  International: Towards Liberation
Zimbabwe trade unions are at the centre of the democratic struggle going on within the African Nation
*  Republic: The Referendum We Had To Have
Paul Norton finds some hope in last year's resounding defeat of the republic proposition.
*  Work/Time/Life: @work in the e-century
Marian Baird takes stock of how far we’ve come, or not come, in terms of our working life.
*  Review: Rocking the Foundations
Pat Fiske's wonderful documentary on the BLF should be compulsory viewing for anyone in the union movement talking about shifting to an Organising Model.

»  Sock Nazis Spark Casino Strike
»  Grave Fears Over Carr's Funeral Agenda
»  Packer, Pratt to Profit at Unions' Expense
»  Telstra Discrimination: 'Round one' to the Workers
»  Timor Fundraiser a Blast
»  Water workers flood CBD head office
»  Libs Plead for Help on IR
»  Employment National Workers Win CES Conditions
»  Teachers Deal Still Undone
»  Pressure Builds for Compo Pull-Out
»  Pacific Unions Increase Regional Ties
»  Ellis to Give May Day Toast
»  Special Comp: Just Who Are Our Friends?

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