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Zimbabwe: Mugabe's militias crush his political opponents
WITH ONLY days remaining before Zimbabwe's re-run presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has announced he is pulling out of the contest, citing the use of widespread violence against his supporters by Zanu-PF militias allied to the incumbent president, Robert Mugabe.
Describing the election as "a violent, illegitimate sham," Tsvangirai says that 70 MDC supporters have been murdered by state-sponsored militias, making it "impossible to organise a free and fair election". Fearing for his own life, Tsvangirai has now sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in the capital, Harare.
Over 25,000 MDC supporters have been driven from their homes. The existence of torture camps on the outskirts of Harare have also been identified by foreign media sources. Leading trade unionists continue to languish in jail on trumped up charges.
Mugabe's spokesmen have derided Tsvangirai's claims of intimidation, instead arguing that he has withdrawn because he was facing a humiliating defeat in the 29 June election. However, this argument doesn't hold water as in the first round on 29 March Tsvangirai beat Mugabe, narrowly failing to secure an absolute majority and prompting a re-run ballot. And secondly, the MDC won a parliamentary majority in the same elections.
Moreover, this result was deeply flawed. Zimbabwe's Election Commission (hand-picked by the ruling Zanu-PF party) delayed announcing the result for several weeks, suggesting a manipulation of the votes. This was in addition to the use of inflated electoral rolls and allegations of state officials stuffing ballot boxes to boost Mugabe's vote. There was also intimidation of MDC supporters by Mugabe's 'war veterans' militia as well as the usual harassment of Mugabe's opponents by state forces.
In the latest election campaign Mugabe, speaking at a Zanu-PF rally, made it clear that his regime would never accept an MDC victory. He effectively declared a civil war against his opponents.
Mugabe has a bloody record of crushing his opponents. Between 1982-1984 he dispatched the notorious North Korean-trained 'Fifth Brigade' to Matabeleland. Some 20,000 civilians were murdered in the repression that followed.
A similar fate could lay in store for workers in the townships to where many rural MDC supporters have fled. It's imperative that opposition workers and peasants democratically organise defence forces in the townships and villages to drive out Mugabe's militias.
But instead of preparing its members and supporters to fight Mugabe's counter-revolution the MDC leadership continues to rely on the 'international community' pressuring Mugabe into accepting political change.
So far, such 'pressure' has not loosened Mugabe's grip on Zimbabwe. In fact he has used, for propaganda purposes, the pro-capitalist MDCs leaders' cosy relationship with western governments to brand them as being 'imperialist stooges'. However, it was Mugabe who first applied western capitalist austerity measures in the 1990s (International Monetary Fund sponsored 'structural changes') that precipitated Zimbabwe's acute economic crises.
Moreover, foreign sanctions aimed at punishing Zimbabwe's élite have had little effect as Mugabe and his cronies continue to amass personal fortunes while the majority of Zimbabweans suffer the effects of hyperinflation, mass unemployment, poverty wages and even starvation.
Governments like the US and UK are seeking 'regime change' in Zimbabwe which would allow Western corporations to make profitable investments under a benign MDC-led government. Bush and Brown hypocritically condemn Mugabe's brutal regime while at the same time continuing to back 'friendly' dictatorships like Saudi Arabia's.
The US and UK governments are, however, unable to use direct military intervention for fear of creating a continent-wide and worldwide anti-imperialist backlash from workers and peasants. Instead they have sought to diplomatically pressure Zimbabwe's neighbours into isolating Mugabe's regime.
Until now this has been difficult as 'liberation struggle veterans', like South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki, have long been political allies of Mugabe. However, the political crisis in Zimbabwe has resulted in a mass migration of refugees to South Africa and neighbouring states, creating huge social problems.
Millions of displaced Zimbabweans have sought shelter and employment in South Africa and this has led to resentment amongst a layer of impoverished black South Africans, with a small minority violently attacking foreigners. (see The Socialist issue 535)
Mbeki, already facing domestic political pressure from South Africa's workers over his pro-capitalist government policies, is worried that his country's violent image will dissuade foreign investment and undermine the expected boom in tourism from staging the 2010 soccer world cup finals.
Mbeki's support for Mugabe has also been compromised by his attempt, earlier this year, to allow Chinese weapons to pass through the port of Durban and then overland to Zimbabwe to be used by Mugabe's state forces. Dockers and transport workers in South Africa and elsewhere refused to offload the weapons.
And now, election observers from SADC - the Southern African Development Community led by South Africa - have been forced to conclude that acts of violence have been carried out by Zanu-PF against the MDC.
Mugabe, after 27 years of uninterrupted rule, has organised a campaign of terror to crush the MDC. But the MDC leaders - hamstrung by their pro-capitalist political agenda - have not prepared a counter-offensive of workers and peasants.
Having endured Zanu-PF attacks in the hope of achieving fundamental political change in this election, MDC supporters must be distraught. However, a facile Mugabe election victory could unleash further terror against his opponents.
Only a revolutionary struggle of workers and youth with the objective of overthrowing Mugabe and his clique can end the suffering. But to mobilise such a force means adopting a socialist political programme to address the burning social issues of land ownership and widespread poverty and unemployment. Such a programme would also cut across Mugabe's false anti-imperialist rhetoric.
Only through the socialist nationalisation of land and industry and an international appeal for workers' solidarity can a workers' and peasants government bring about fundamental change in Zimbabwe.
In The Socialist 25 June 2008:
Socialist Party editorial
Unison Conference 2008
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Origins of the Labour Party
Socialist Party workplace news