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Unions call for Zimbabwe blockade

With Robert Mugabe self-elected as president of Zimbabwe once again, the workers and small farmers in the country face even greater terror and deprivation. Unemployment is already over 80% and hyper-inflation means that wages are meaningless. This is a country of pauper billionaires, where Zim$50-billion, the highest note, can only buy you tea and some fruit.

Millions have fled the country to neighbouring South Africa while those who remain depend on food aid to avoid starvation. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
has condemned the one-man election as neither free nor fair. Many of its members were beaten and tortured during the campaign by Zanu-PF thugs operating under Mugabe’s direction.

ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo and secretary-general Wellington Chibebe are facing trial for incitement on July 30. Congress leaders have also criticised the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tzvangirai, which the ZCTU helped found as a reformist, pro-union party. Now the ZCTU says the MDC has moved to the right, adopting pro-business, free market policies.

Mugabe likes to present himself as the true champion of national liberation whose country has been wrecked by imperialist plotting. The truth is somewhat different. Mugabe did indeed help lead the armed struggle against white minority rule, which culminated in independence in 1980. But so too did Joshua Nkomo, who led the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU).

In the mid-1980s, Mugabe – who had been backed by China – turned on Nkomo and launched a ferocious ethnic attack on the country’s Ndebele minority. The infamous North Korean-trained 5th brigade killed up to 20,000 people and Zimbabwe became a one-party state, owing more to Stalinist influences than socialist or national liberation outlooks.

The promised land reform never took place and mining corporations like Rio Tinto-Zinc were encouraged to continue their plunder of the country’s mineral resources. Mugabe himself was knighted by the Tory government in 1994 in recognition of his services to capitalism. Today, RTZ continues to mine while Anglo American, the major transnational corporation with close South African ties and headquarters in London, is about to make a $400 million investment in Zimbabwe. Barclay’s bank is in Zimbabwe and so too is China, which helps sustain Mugabe’s regime by buying the country’s chrome and supplying arms in exchange.

Mugabe’s so-called land grab against prosperous white farmers in recent years was carried out to appease Mugabe cronies who have since taken to exploiting black rural workers just as their predecessors did while failing to manage the farms. Foreign earnings from tobacco and other exports have collapsed. Meanwhile, the corruption of the Mugabe regime knows no bounds. Mugabe lives in luxury while his people starve and reports of foreign bank accounts are widespread.

This is a truly desperate situation for the people of Zimbabwe, made worse by the indifference of politicians like Tabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa. Mbeki, of course, has consolidated white South African capitalism at the expense of the living standards of millions of his countrymen and women. Tragically, some turned on Zimbabwean and other migrant workers recently in an expression of their own frustration.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which is now engaged in a series of struggles as the economic crisis hits projects like the 2010 World Cup, condemned Sunday’s “election” in advance, describing it as “a declaration of war against the people of Zimbabwe by the ruling party."

The trade union federation called on workers across the world to isolate Mugabe’s regime and pledged to work for a blockade on the border to protest against the violence and organise rallies in support of fellow workers in Zimbabwe. COSATU’s call should be supported and solidarity expressed with the workers of Zimbabwe against Mugabe’s murderous dictatorship. These actions will help separate opponents of the regime from the crocodile tears of the so-called “international community” led by the British and American governments.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
1 July 2008

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