Zimbabwe: The Crocodile Bites

By Jeremy Dewar

When Zimbabwe’s unions called a three-day general strike, or “shutdown” on 14-16 January in protest at a 150 per cent fuel price hike, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed “The Crocodile” for his role in orchestrating massacres for Robert Mugabe, set the army onto peaceful protesters.

First Mnangagwa cut off the Internet, blocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp, the protesters’ main organising tools. Then he sent his troops into the capital Harare, the second city Bulawayo and elsewhere to terrorise whole communities, regardless of their activity in the shutdown.

Reports are trickling out that troops, many wearing ski masks to hide their identity, have used teargas, plastic bullets and live ammunition indiscriminately on unarmed civilians. In Bulawayo, teargas was lobbed randomly into homes in working class districts.

Children as young as 14 have been beaten and arrested, to be processed as adults. At least 650 in Harare and 500 in Bulawayo have been arrested and await trial in kangaroo courts. The government’s own Human Rights Commission has accused security forces of using “systematic torture”.

It is estimated that the number of civilians killed by security forces is already in double figures.

The Crocodile

However, fatal crackdowns are Mnangagwa’s stock in trade. In the 1980s, the Crocodile orchestrated the genocidal massacre of over 20,000 Ndebele people in Matabeleland, an act that sealed Mugabe’s brutal dictatorship.

More recently, in 2009, he was in charge of security when 400 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists were murdered. Last July, after he narrowly won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote, he again unleashed troops, resulting in six deaths and dozens of arrests.

The military coup which brought Mnangagwa to power in December 2017 has barely been sanitised. However, the Western powers and China will continue to back him because of his promise to make Zimbabwe “open for business”. They know that this is code for more privatisation, lower corporate taxes, the ruthless crushing of trade unions and popular opposition movements.

If Mnangagwa is president, profit is king.

Working class

The sudden 150 per cent rise in petrol and diesel prices was the last straw for working class communities. It will inevitably feed into rising costs in housing, food and transport. Inflation is already high and rising: 42 per cent, up from 2.9 per cent before last year’s election.

Wages are often unpaid and when they are, workers have to wait 45 days before they receive them. The ZCTU union federation is calling for a 50 per cent pay rise for everyone. So it is easy to see that the government’s 22 per cent pay rise, only conceded to try and head off the movement, will not provide relief for long.

The national shutdown is a welcome return to the militancy that characterised the Zimbabwean trade unions in the early years of the millennium. But trade unions are not well suited to combating military clampdowns. ZCTU President Peter Mutasa handed himself over to the police before the week of bloodshed was over, when the working class needed a leadership that could take the resistance forward.

Likewise, the opposition MDC, while it retains support in urban areas due to the lack of an alternative working class party, is tainted by years in coalition with the ruling Zanu-PF and promotes an even more cravenly neoliberal economic programme that will put profit before the people.

Only a revolutionary working class party can provide long suffering Zimbabweans with an underground network to deal with army provocations, defence guards to protect further mass actions and a programme to wrest control of the economy from the hands of the corrupt elite and their imperialist backers and place it in the hands of the workers.

International solidarity is vital. It is telling that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa praised Mnangagwa in front of the International Labour Organisation at the precise moment when he was unleashing his reign of terror on his people, while the newly formed South African Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party has sided with the resistance.

It is time for a new generation of southern African revolutionaries to seize the moment and finish the work started in the 1980s and ’90s.

Amandla! n

First Mnangagwa cut off the Internet, blocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp, the protesters’ main organising tools. Then he sent his troops into the capital Harare, the second city Bulawayo and elsewhere to terrorise whole communities, regardless of their activity in the shutdown.

Reports are trickling out that troops, many wearing ski masks to hide their identity, have used teargas, plastic bullets and live ammunition indiscriminately on unarmed civilians. In Bulawayo, teargas was lobbed randomly into homes in working class districts.

Children as young as 14 have been beaten and arrested, to be processed as adults. At least 650 in Harare and 500 in Bulawayo have been arrested and await trial in kangaroo courts. The government’s own Human Rights Commission has accused security forces of using “systematic torture”.

It is estimated that the number of civilians killed by security forces is already in double figures.

The Crocodile

However, fatal crackdowns are Mnangagwa’s stock in trade. In the 1980s, the Crocodile orchestrated the genocidal massacre of over 20,000 Ndebele people in Matabeleland, an act that sealed Mugabe’s brutal dictatorship.

More recently, in 2009, he was in charge of security when 400 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists were murdered. Last July, after he narrowly won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote, he again unleashed troops, resulting in six deaths and dozens of arrests.

The military coup which brought Mnangagwa to power in December 2017 has barely been sanitised. However, the Western powers and China will continue to back him because of his promise to make Zimbabwe “open for business”. They know that this is code for more privatisation, lower corporate taxes, the ruthless crushing of trade unions and popular opposition movements.

If Mnangagwa is president, profit is king.

Working class

The sudden 150 percent rise in petrol and diesel prices was the last straw for working class communities. It will inevitably feed into rising costs in housing, food and transport. Inflation is already high and rising: 42 percent, up from 2.9 percent before last year’s election.

Wages are often unpaid and when they are, workers have to wait 45 days before they receive them. The ZCTU union federation is calling for a 50 percent pay rise for everyone. So it is easy to see that the government’s 22 percent pay rise, only conceded to try and head off the movement, will not provide relief for long.

The national shutdown is a welcome return to the militancy that characterised the Zimbabwean trade unions in the early years of the millennium. But trade unions are not well suited to combating military clampdowns. ZCTU President Peter Mutasa handed himself over to the police before the week of bloodshed was over, when the working class needed a leadership that could take the resistance forward.

Likewise, the opposition MDC, while it retains support in urban areas due to the lack of an alternative working class party, is tainted by years in coalition with the ruling Zanu-PF and promotes an even more cravenly neoliberal economic programme that will put profit before the people.

Only a revolutionary working class party can provide long suffering Zimbabweans with an underground network to deal with army provocations, defence guards to protect further mass actions and a programme to wrest control of the economy from the hands of the corrupt elite and their imperialist backers and place it in the hands of the workers.

International solidarity is vital. It is telling that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa praised Mnangagwa in front of the International Labour Organisation at the precise moment when he was unleashing his reign of terror on his people, while the newly formed South African Socialist Revolutionary Party has sided with the resistance.

It is time for a new generation of southern African revolutionaries to seize the moment and finish the work started in the 1980s and ’90s.

Amandla!