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By Mutumwa D. Mawere

THE nature and context of the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe has changed in a cynically predictable manner.

The contestation for power since independence has been principally between the labour-dominated opposition and custodians of the national democratic revolution.

The labour movement in its current formation is a direct consequence and creation of the post-colonial state.

In fact, President Robert Mugabe can rightly claim to be the father of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) because under the colonial settler regime, such consolidation of labour power was illegal.

If one accepts that the ascendancy to power of Zanu in 1980 was a triumph of the working class and the marginalised majority, then the focus of the post-colonial state necessarily had to be about the poor.

To the extent that the national democratic revolution was meant to restore sovereignty to the people, the expression of such power had to be through a government created by the citizens.

For the first seven years of Zimbabwe’s independence, the address of sovereignty was the Parliament of Zimbabwe. After the Unity Accord, the address changed to the State House and Mugabe became the Supreme Leader.

It is clear that there is no consensus as to the origins of the Zimbabwean crisis. Some argue that the crisis began at Lancaster House particularly in respect of how the land issue was to be handled and financed. They argue that the fact that there was a delay in tackling the problem should not detract from the core challenges of democratising an entrenched legacy of colonially engineered inequities.

Accordingly, the economic crisis in Zimbabwe is seen as predictable in that any attempt to convert the civil rights gains of the national democratic revolution into economic rights is bound to generate problems.

In prosecuting the national democratic revolution, it is argued that it would be unreasonable to expect the assistance of the bourgeoisie class particularly the white settler class. Naturally, one would expect that the labour movement, whose members were exploited historically in the creation of an artificially developed colonial state, to come to the assistance of the ruling elite.

In fact, the creation of a federation of the working class was meant to entrench an alliance of the oppressed and the ruling elite in the pursuit of a common objective to eradicate poverty. The role of the state was seen by both labour and the bureaucrats as central to the execution of the people’s mandate.

Notwithstanding the expectations, Mugabe’s experiment backfired on him and 27 years later he now finds himself head on with an unexpected alliance between the working class (his own creation), white settler class and the domestic and foreign capital class.

What is ironic is that there may not be any fundamental policy differences between the labour movement and Zanu PF in as much as the differences between ZANU and ZAPU were patched up to the benefit of the leadership of both parties.

It is not clear in terms of the tactics and strategies of the labour movement what kind of Zimbabwe they want i.e. a socialist construction with the state in control of the commanding heights of the economy or a capitalist system in which the market determines the allocation of resources.

If there is any lesson to be drawn from the just ended ANC Policy Conference and last week’s South African Communist Party (SACP) party congress, it is that the labour movement is determined to institutionalise the same policies that Mugabe is being criticised for by the labour movement in Zimbabwe.

If Mugabe were a South African, there is no doubt that he would have been elected unopposed as both the leader of the ANC and the SACP. However, COSATU and SACP appear to be opportunistically opposed to Mugabe’s policies.

On the question of asset ownership, Mugabe and the ANC alliance partners believe that the state should control and manage the assets. In fact, the SACP called for the nationalisation of petrochemical firm Sasol and Mittal Steel South Africa to ensure energy security.

The general secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande told a party congress on Thursday last week that it was absurd for resource-rich South Africa to be paying high prices for steel and oil produced in the country.

“Why do we have to pay not just import parity prices but as much as a 30% premium when compared to India and China for our own steel? About 40% of our oil comes from Sasol, but we are paying international prices," he said.

He urged delegates to pass a resolution calling on the state to take control of the two companies. It is clear that the difference between the SACP and Zanu PF’s position on asset ownership and pricing policies may be the same and yet the SACP advocates regime change in Zimbabwe.

It is not clear what SACP and COSATU know about the MDC in terms of policy, that would lead them to want Mugabe, their most vocal and eloquent spokesman for the Socialist International, to go and be replaced by a party that would on the face of it (if the solidarity with SACP and COSATU means anything) end up advocating the same policies that Mugabe has failed to implement over the last 27 years. Could the argument between MDC/ZCTU and Zanu PF be over the pace of nationalisation or are there fundamental policy differences?

On the issue of the benefits from the post-colonial state, Mugabe’s position is that the benefits are skewed in favour of criminals masquerading as businessmen and imperialist agents. The position is no different from the one articulated by COSATU secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi at the SACP congress.

Vavi said: “The main beneficiaries of economic transformation are white capitalists who remain the "induna” [chief] while the black middle class holds jobs in human resources. The SACP and COSATU are in the middle of one of the biggest struggles since the 1980s and 1990s and the patience of the working class is wearing thin They remain as oppressed by the white oligarchy as the working class. COSATU and SACP are demanding that the benefits of the sustained economic growth should be shared with the people who created the wealth. We can expect the attacks on all of us to intensify.”

Many have been surprised by Mugabe’s reaction to the Zimbabwean business sector in terms of price increases in the face of a hyper-inflationary environment. However, given that it is unclear what the policies of the labour dominated MDC in the post-Mugabe era are, Mugabe has decided to take-over the role of the opposition in Zimbabwe and no-one can doubt after the actions of last week that he is now opportunistically the undisputed leader of the downtrodden and leaderless opposition.

For the SACP and COSATU, they see in Mugabe a leader that warehoused and baby-seated capitalism for too long. They would want a new leadership in Zimbabwe that would accelerate the destruction of private property and introduce state planning in which they would think for the citizens in the name of national interest.

Given that the raw materials of any successful politician in Africa are the poor rural people and the working class, Mugabe has no choice but to reclaim the leadership of the national democratic revolution by stepping into the ideological vacuum created by the MDC with its alleged questionable alliance with capitalists and white settler farmers.

Under this construction, it is then argued that there can be no basis of a regime change being driven by the working class when there is no better leader for them than Mugabe and Zanu PF. If ZAPU came to the realisation that it was futile to oppose the national democratic revolution led by ZANU, then it is also argued that MDC will now come to its senses with the realisation that the state can force business to reduce prices by 50% with no visible and tangible opposition.

If Mugabe can bring lower prices to the suffering masses then surely why would any reasonable and patriotic Zimbabwean want him out? Only imperialist forces would want such a leader out of power and leave the vulnerable majority unprotected.

If Mugabe has transformed himself into the leader of the opposition, then what are we to make of Gideon Gono’s antics of leaking confidential papers to the media and trying to confuse the public from targeting him for his own misguided policies and programs?

By the way, who introduced externalisation as a criminal offence in the Zimbabwean vocabulary? Who controlled the exchange rate at artificial rates and then introduced Productive Sector Facilities? Who removed the three zeros from the currency and called them heroes? Who said that devaluation was out of the question? What is the difference between no devaluation and price control? Who introduced unconstitutional and illegal quasi-fiscal activities whose full extent remains shrouded in mystery? Why would Gono want to run away from his shadow? What ever happened to Herbert Murerwa who correctly predicted that the zeros would come back with a vengeance?

It is evident that Mugabe learned from Gono that the police can do a better job in managing political and economic behaviour than good policies. In the final analysis, Zimbabweans and Africans in general must decide what kind of government we want for ourselves.

Notwithstanding the demise of the traditional communist order, there are many who believe that socialism can be a better instrument for eradicating poverty in Africa. There are many who resign in comfort that Mugabe, like other like-minded leaders, is a victim of imperialist forces that are determined to keep Africans from controlling their destinies.

What is tragic is that bad leadership benefits from the ideological confusion that seems to characterise contemporary African opposition politics.

Mutumwa Mawere's weekly column appears on New every Monday. You can contact him at:

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