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Treason charges against Munyaradzi Gwisai & others - Index of articles
Gwisai on Question Time: Part 2
Guma, SW Radio Africa
April 27, 2011
This is Part
2 of the interview between SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma
and Munyaradzi Gwisai, the radical leader of the International
Socialist Organization. The former MDC MP is one of 6 activists
treason charges, over a meeting where video footage of protests
in Egypt and Tunisia was screened.
questions sent in by listeners including his treason case, factionalism
in civil society, past problems in the ISO and the perennial question
of whether he will rejoin the MDC. Does he believe elections can
bring about change in Zimbabwe?
27 April 2011
Lance Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and
welcome to part two of our interview with Munyaradzi Gwisai, the
leader of the International Socialist Organization in Zimbabwe.
The former MDC MP is one of six activists facing treason charges
for addressing a meeting at which video footage of protests in Egypt
and Tunisia was screened.
the station sent in their questions via Facebook, Twitter, Skype,
email and text messages and this is part two as I said; last week
we looked at several issues including the meeting that was disrupted
by police at which this video footage of protests in Egypt and Tunisia
We asked Mr
Gwisai to narrate to us what he went through in terms of the torture
in police custody and we did pose several questions to do with that
particular case. This week we focus on other issues and this is
how the interview went.
Do you think
an election is going to deliver change in Zimbabwe because some
are basically making the argument that you have a de facto military
dictatorship in place and it is up to them whether they want to
let go of power or not?
Gwisai: Ah well it's similarly like there was a de
facto military regime in Egypt and you have the same thing in Libya.
I was just reading recently that Raul Castro in Cuba, they're
having their Congress now, even someone like Raul Castro is now
saying that we must have a two term limited presidency, including
for him, which also applies to us.
If Raul Castro,
well him and his brother have been in power for 50 years but he's
saying now there must be a two term limit that applies to him. There's
no reason why it shouldn't apply equally to states and the
governments like we have here and across many countries in Africa.
I think an election
is important. It's important in the sense that it expresses
what the will of the people is but I think the experience that we
had in March
2008 in this country and what we saw earlier on in Kenya in
2007 and subsequently what we saw in Ivory Coast is that regimes
that are entrenched and autocratic will not respect an election
for the mere fact that you have voted.
In fact senior
members of the security of this regime have made it very clear that
a ball-point costs five cents and they will not therefore lose power
over a five cent article. They've said it openly and clearly
but that does not mean that you remove or you throw out elections.
What it means is that you mobilise for elections but you must also
mobilise to defend the will of the people as expressed in the elections.
To be naïve
and to think that just because you have voted there will be change,
would be very naïve and tragic. What it means is that people
must be ready to come out and defend their vote. You see, society
is run by workers, society is run by our farmers in the rural areas,
it's run by our people who are trading in the streets and
if any regime that has lost legitimacy of people refuses to accept
the will of the people then they have the capacity to paralyse and
not make society move until their will has been respected.
I was reading
a story recently about ratepayers in Bindura or some place who are
saying we are not going to pay rates until our mayor has been restored.
That is the spirit. So it will be tragic if the opposition leaders
go about leading people to think that what you just have, you are
going to have elections that will come through and bring change.
Yes - elections, but you must also be able to exercise your
democratic right to defend the outcome of that election.
That will be
the key question for Zimbabwe but also I must hasten to say that
even that, for the workers of this country, the farmers of this
country, the youth of this country and this society, elections on
their own that bring about a new change of leaders without changing
the economic basis of our society, without changing the fact that
the wealth of our society, our factories, our banks, our farms are
owned and controlled by small elite, will not bring real change.
be part and parcel of a process that will ensure you have a revolution,
a revolution that ensures that the wealth of society, the businesses
of society are owned and controlled by the majority not a few individual
elites or capitalists. So we believe that real change will come
through a socialist revolution in which you have both political
democracy as well as economic democracy and that is what we fight
Now some have put forward the argument that movements like the MDC
have been weakened by losing radical elements like yourself. In
fact we have a question from Shingai Makombe, he writes to us from
Harare and he wants to know from you - any chance of you rejoining
Well we have heard that question before but I think our activity,
you know I'm the leader of the International Socialist Organisation,
we were expelled from the MDC in 2003 but we have remained part
and parcel of the democratic forces in this country and I think
that is what is important.
What is important
is not necessarily to rebuild another one party system in our society
but to accept that the process of change will require the united
action of different forces, different political parties, civic groups,
trade unions and so forth. We share a great deal with the MDC-T
in terms of our fighting against ZANU-PF autocracy and dictatorship
but we also have major differences.
outlined our vision of society; our vision is not just changing
from ZANU-PF to MDC, our vision is not just changing from Mugabe
to Tsvangirai. Our vision for society goes deeper than that. It
is a vision that says if we are going to ensure that every child
will be able to go to a decent school in this country, taught by
a teacher who earns a decent salary to be able to live and teach
properly, that every sick person can go to hospital, that every
family can have a decent house, that every farmer can have land
and can have support, inputs.
To do that means
that the billions of dollars of the platinum that we have in Ngezi,
the billions of dollars that we have in Chiadzwa, the millions of
dollars that are owned by Standard Bank, by Barclays Bank and so
forth and so on, those must be put under the ownership and control
of the people who work, who produce the majority of this country.
Now sadly, most
of the leadership in the MDC-T would not share that vision. They're
part of; they share the vision of those who believe that you can
still bring change in society whilst you leave the wealth in the
hands of the few.
Now 30 years
of rule of ZANU-PF, supervising and in charge of an economy that
is under the control of foreigners and elites has not brought real
change in this country. We have seen that happen in Zambia, in Malawi
and so forth where change has happened politically without economic
revolution and transformation.
change there will not be real change, so we in the ISO hold dearly
to that position and therefore are not part of the MDC-T because
MDC-T does not hold that belief but we believe that we can work
closely, we can work together with the MDC and other forces that
are fighting for democracy in this country to achieve this initial
So we remain
an autonomous organisation, working with various movements to fight
for greater democracy in our society and against and the removal
of dictatorship in our country.
Guma: We also
have a question related to the organisation that you lead, somebody's
just sent in an email asking about the problems that were seen in
ISO some three years ago I believe, people were just seeing emails
being traded about what was happening there so perhaps we could
get you to clarify what happened and what's the status quo
some of our comrades split from the ISO, I think about two years
ago. Yah they argued that there were leadership wrangles and so
forth but that was only the surface of it. The real issue I think
was the question of the direction of the ISO.
ISO must fundamentally compromise itself and become an ordinary
civic society that depends on western donor funding and manipulation
and control or whether the ISO must remain a true working class
who probably felt that that was the way to go and also because we
had lost many of our cadres due to death, due to the economic situation
in the country, the hyper-inflationary situation, so many of our
solid cadres had left so it allowed those comrades who wanted to
transform the ISO into an NGO to be able to.
Well we believe
that was the basis but we have gone over this and as this treason
trial shows, the ISO is rebuilding itself, it's a major player
in a constitutional alliance called the Democratic United Front
for a people driven constitution and we are indeed preparing very
solidly for a proper people driven constitution and if that does
not arise, to actually continue the fight for a democratic working
class based constitution.
So we are moving.
But we would also want to say that some of the colleagues who left
us and formed their own organisations came out supporting us in
this trial and we want to thank them because that's what true
democrats and revolutionaries do. So we got support and solidarity
from the group led by Mutero and also the group led by Tigwe; some
of them came to visit us in jail.
And they have
their own vision of how socialism should be built in this country
and in the world generally. We are ready to work with the comrades,
there's no reason why there should just be one socialist organisation
in Zimbabwe; we are not autocrats. So we are rebuilding, the ISO
is back and as you see, is in the trenches and will remain in the
trenches fighting against capitalism, against dictatorship and for
Final question for you Mr Gwisai - Zimbabwe has seen the emergence
of a lot of factions: ZINASU
- two factions; MDC - four factions; ZANU-PF has three
factions; the Anglican Church has two factions; we have I think
even the teachers unions have several unions representing them;
we understand the war vets have some three factions - this whole
thing of factions, factions, factions - what's the problem?
Gwisai: Yah I think there are various reasons;
at one level you have the problem that there's been too much
money into our society, so too much donor money and everyone now
fights to get their little piece of the cake and have their own
So the interests
of many elites in the Zimbabwean crisis has been that of self-aggrandisement
and self-promotion so they're not ready to accept things,
but I think it also reflects the reality that many of these organisations
have not reflected the democratic, have not fully taken through
the democratic practice that fully empowers their members, but that
cliques remain, cliques of elites remain at the top running things
and then they fight amongst themselves.
So the real
challenge for the mass based organisations is that if you are going
to successfully fight dictatorships you need to build mass organisations
that are internally democratic and not just internally democratic,
I think that the lesson for the working people is that they must
ensure that they seize control and ownership of their organisations.
you know moneyed, property elites as well as educated elites to
take over things will ultimately not deliver democratic change.
So I think that's one aspect of it but the other aspect of
it is obviously you've also had splits and factions engineered
by the dictatorship, by the regime.
They are obviously
active 24 hours seven days a week doing that kind of thing but as
long as an organisation is truly rooted in the masses, pursues a
democratic agenda and the working classed based agenda, those activities
of the regime, as we've seen in Tunisia, Egypt and so forth,
will not bring down the people.
But be that
as it may, our own position is that the democratic forces should
be prepared to work in a united front to be able to see the bigger
picture. I think you saw it in the election of the Speaker of Parliament
when the two opposition parties in parliament were able to see the
bigger picture and confront the regime.
Too many often
we've been worried about - oh this is Gwisai, or this is so-and-so,
oh Madhuku is causing this problem, eh Majongwe and so forth. You
know, the focus on personalities and so forth - that has to
come to an end if we're to move forward but the fundamental
challenge I think is a challenge on the working class, our trade
unions, the workers and other ordinary people to be able to have
confidence and assert their leadership of this struggle, but leadership
which is based on class consciousness, leadership that is based
on a working class ideology not just leadership that's based
on seeking to get positions.
If I may just add, if I may pick you on particularly a group like
ZINASU - is it possible for it to be self-sustaining without
any donor funding and also the fact that a crucial group or a critical
group like that in terms of the democratic struggle is paralysed
by factionalism. Has that not delayed change in Zimbabwe?
but I think it's a clear example where lack of a strong ideological
basis can lead you into trouble, so the sad thing about the student
movement in the last few years I think has been the serious decline
in its ideological consciousness autonomy and I think the substitution
by position and power politics which has seriously bred opportunism.
So I, once I
think the student movement became an appendage of the opposition
parties and some of the major civic groups because of dependence
on funding and also because of opportunistic ambitions for positions
so once you become the president, general secretary of ZINASU, you
then get a position in the MDC.
seen the examples of how previous ZINASU leaders starting with Learnmore
(Jongwe), Job Sikhala and today Nelson Chamisa and others have risen
up into senior MDC positions, so that has tended to encourage a
level of opportunism but I think if you go back to the ZINASU that
was led by Hopewell Gumbo and others, people like Briggs Bomba and
so forth, then you had Takura Zhangazha and others, you had a more
ideologically independent, pro-poor and pro-working class student
So I think the
challenge now is for conscious students to begin to rebuild that
kind of student movement. They will face serious challenges from
those who are playing opportunistic politics and who want to make
the student movement an appendage of the political parties but I
think in the long term though you need to build a student movement
that's not just built on coalition of SRC's but you also need
to build a student movement that is built on individual political
commitment to the student movement - what we saw happening
in South Africa during the anti-apartheid years.
So as long as
ZINASU is a coalition of leaders which is what it is now, its real
linkage with its student base remains very weak and as long as there's
an insufficient linkage with its mass base, you create a lot of
room for opportunism and factionalism.
But our message
is that we hope that the factionalism we saw in the last few years
is going to come to an end and students, as part of the youth, focus
towards the constitutional process, the referendum; if the elites,
and the politicians and the rich bring their own constitution then
we must be ready to go all out to reject that draft constitution
and demand a people driven constitution and go for a vote no.
in the impending elections, if the dictatorship tries to steal the
election again, our youth must be at the forefront of mobilising
to defend the people's will. So they have a serious challenge
and my word to them is that the demands of the day require that
they seriously forge a united front and forget about the small factions
that they've had and be part and parcel of the serious struggles
that we face today.
As a former
student leader, that is our hope.
Munyaradzi Gwisai, the leader of the International Socialist Organization
in Zimbabwe joining us on this edition of Question Time. Mr. Gwisai
thank you very much for joining us.
comrade Lance and its Aluta Continua - the struggle continues.
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