Back to Index
the headlines talks to Munyaradzi Gwisai
Guma, SW Radio Africa
May 24, 2005
This week on the programme my guest is former Highfields MP and
ISO leader Munyaradzi Gwisai. As our listeners will know, he left
the MDC under a cloud of controversy and on the programme today
we are going to be looking at various issues; why did he leave the
MDC, what really happened, what were their differences, what was
the bone of contention? He also comments on various other issues
affecting the political landscape in Zimbabwe.
Now, Comrade Gwisai, your departure from the MDC came as a shock
to many, especially those in the student and worker movements. Could
you in a few words, explain what the bone of contention was between
yourself and the MDC?
Well, it's at two levels. At the first level is that myself, as
a member of the International Socialist Organisation who had joined
the MDC because it was a party that had been formed out of the struggles
of working people after 1997, to fight for two main things. Firstly,
to fight against the ZANU PF and Mugabe dictatorship to ensure that
the goals of the liberation struggle of democracy would be achieved,
which obviously had not been done. And they are still not being
done by the current government. And then secondly, it was because
that same government was not only denying people their democratic
rights, but that same government had also now adopted economic programmes
that had bought massive poverty, suffering on ordinary people, I'm
talking about ESAP. So this is why we joined the party because it
was a party of working people. We then left, or, I was expelled
and the ISO was also asked to leave in 2002.
The main reason
being that we had started criticising openly what we felt were the
wrong strategies and tactics that were being used by the party leaders
to confront the regime and also to confront the issue of poverty.
In particular, we felt that the leaders of the MDC had, after December
2000 when they called for the mass action that had been demanded
by the people, and that were accepted by the leadership, but we
felt that the leaders were now afraid to take on the government.
That instead of mobilising the masses so that we could take on this
government in the streets, in the factories and in our colleges,
the leaders were now getting comfortable with their positions in
parliament and in city councils and were thinking that the way forward
was to use litigation. That is the courts, and to use Western pressure.
So we disagreed completely with that route, in particular after
2002 when the government again stole the elections. It rigged its
way and people were demanding action. Instead of leading the people,
the leaders of the MDC decided to go into dialogue or talks with
ZANU PF. So when that happened, we said 'enough is enough'.
and finally, we also took at issue the fact that the leadership
of the party was driving the party into an alliance or into a friendship
with the very people who were collaborating with Mugabe into making
life difficult for ordinary people. The party had now, in terms
of its leadership, was now being led by employers, the party had
become very close to Western governments like Britain, America,
the IMF, the World Bank. These were the very same people who had
worked with Mugabe to introduce ESAP.
But Comrade Gwisai, when you look at the MDC it is a combination
of various constituencies. You've got workers, you've got students
you've got business interests. Was it not better for you to fight
for workers rights within the MDC rather outside it? Where you know
outside the constituency looks a little bit diminished.
I don't know but when you say its a broad church, a broad thing
involving business and so forth, the problem is that there are some
people who are more equal than others in that movement. Their are
others who are now sitting at the head of the table and deciding
how much the others should eat in particular those who formed the
party. So it's not just a question that it involves everyone. Its
a question of whose interests are now being championed by the movement?
And our problem was that the interests that were now being championed
were not the interests of working people. And mind you, comrade,
the MDC was not formed as a broad movement for everyone. The MDC
was formed after the hosting of what was called a 'Working People's
Convention' on the 28th and the 29th of February 1999. So I want
you to be very clear about this.
The MDC was
formed as a result of a convention or gathering which was called
a 'Working People's Convention'. We didn't say 'People's Convention',
we said 'Working People'. Which means those people who work and
toil and suffer are the ones who formed the basis of this party.
And then secondly, it was the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions
that actually convened it. So right from its base, the MDC was marked
with the stamp of workers, the unemployed, the poor and the peasants.
And then, intellectuals like ourselves, who sympathise and fight
for the cause of these people were also part and parcel. The rich,
the white farmers, the business community, only came in after February
2000 if you take like the economic Eddie Cross and a whole lot of
other people who moved in.
They only came
in in February 2000, that is six months after the party had been
formed, because they saw that the MDC was offering a real chance
of unseating the government and bringing in a working peoples' government.
And they came in to ensure that they would try and hijack this programme.
So we remained in the party until 2002 when we were expelled precisely
because we wanted to fight from within. But it is clear to us that
after 2002 the party leadership had then been hijacked. And indeed,
we have been vindicated up to this day, in 2005 when you now have
elections in 2005 which again have been rigged, which have again
been done in a fraudulent manner and the MDC still insists on going
into that parliament and taking on this thing. As we speak today,
its the kind of thing that we were talking about. If the MDC had
been ready to mobilise its membership and the working people, the
urban people, by now, Mugabe would be history.
Whilst you were still in the MDC you made several statements in
support of the land reform exercise and people labelled you a political
chameleon. I remember even the Daily News had a cartoon of you wearing
Robert Mugabe's T Shirt. Take us through your reasoning on land
reform. Where you correctly labelled and do you think people misunderstood
you on that.
Well it's not a question the ordinary person, some people might
have. But, one of the tragedies was that the MDC leadership was
not prepared to accept the advice that myself and the International
Socialist Organisation, ISO, were giving them. In 2001, in January,
at a leadership meeting, a National Council Meeting in Nyanga, I
produced a special document, this was after the defeat in Bikita,
which was entitled 'MDC Go Back to the Working People'. In that
document I expressly stated that the Mugabe regime was no longer
popular and was left remaining on its last legs. And the only leg
that was left to it was the land question. And that the MDC as a
working people's party, had to support the movement of poor peasants,
war veterans and other people who were demanding land. Because you
must remember that the first land invasions in the 1990's were not
started by ZANU PF. They were started by poor peasants and war veterans
in places like Svosve and Nyamandlovu, in '97 right? So I made it
very clear that unless the MDC was going to be very clear and come
out in support of land, they were going to allow Mugabe to get back
into power through the back door. This was January 2001, and if
you look at the results of the elections in 2002 and even the latest
elections, it is clear that the only reason why Mugabe and ZANU
PF has survived is because they were able to divide the rural peasants
from the urban workers. Mugabe was then able to pretend to be a
champion of peasants.
Maybe it is important to note that the MDC have not objected to
land reform per se, but have qualms with the way it has been implemented
by Robert Mugabe's government.
Ah, but that's an excuse you see. What is open and clear, is that,
and this is the message I was putting across when I was in parliament
and in the MDC, is that if you look at the history of what is happened
in the world, what is clear is that when land is taken from people,
it is not taken through... it's not a tea party. Thousands of our
people were killed and massacred by the colonialists in order for
them to get land. Tens of thousands of people were murdered, were
robbed, were raped in the 1890's.
So that those
who today, by and large owned our land, before the land possession,
could have that land. And it is on the basis of that physical violence
dispossession, and also chibaro, where our ancestors were forced
to do forced labour on these farms, that this privilege was built.
Now to think that you can actually get that land back through the
courts or through negotiations, you are either an idiot, or you
are naive, or you are a liar. So for the MDC to tell us that they
disagreed with that method, and that the method they thought was
proper is the lawful method of negotiation, it's just daydreaming.
The country is currently in the midst of an economic crisis where
food, fuel, electricity and water shortages. Surprisingly there
has not been a single protest on the streets. Has Mugabe successfully
cowed us into submission?
Yes. No, but what I've been trying to argue is that over the last
five years once the MDC went into parliament and once they decided
to renounce the route of jambanga or mass action, they had then
persuaded and tried to convince their supporters that the way forward
to achieve liberation was to go through the parliamentary elections,
was to go through the courts, you know those petitions in the courts,
was to go through the West, you know where they went to their friends
in the West and together with their friends, imposed sanctions,
both targeted and financial and economic sanctions in the country
. And in the process, also demobilise some of the best activists
of the MDC who fought when it was hardest, were removed from the
structures after 2000. So for all those reasons, the MDC as the
biggest party by far in the urban areas, has helped in demobilising
of the movement, and I give you the example of the latest one now
where they have gone into parliament where they can do nothing,
absolutely nothing with their 41 seats, but they go in there so
that they can go and get pension for life, they can get new 4 by
4's and so forth and so on. But that creates disillusionment among
people, it creates feelings of powerlessness. It's the very reason
why when the economic situation is as hard as it is, when people
in fact could rise up in resistance, our leadership is lacking.
Most people who know you admire your courage and determination,
and even your intelligence, but never seem to understand why you
believe socialism is the way to go when all around, the world seems
to be shunning it?
ah well, as we speak today, today is the 5th May, there are elections
going on in Britain. One of the biggest issues today in Britain
is the war in Iraq, and it might have quite a large bearing on the
election. For the war in Iraq to have become such a big issue in
England was the result of massive demonstrations in Britain and
in other Western countries like America and Australia. In particular
on the 15th February, a year or two ago when over 2 million marched
in London . And the people who were critical in this, like the Stop
the War coalition involved Socialists in countries like Britain,
the Socialist Workers Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and other
As we speak
today, peasants in Bolivia, a president has almost resigned because
peasants and other ordinary people are demanding that the mineral
wealth of Bolivia be nationalised for the interests of ordinary
Bolivian people. And as we speak today, across the world we have
seen major demonstrations against the imposition of Structural Adjustment
Programmes in the Third World, the debt problem. What I'm trying
to argue is that socialism, by destination, is the movement of ordinary
working people against the poverty and against the suffering they
suffer as a result of the ownership and control of the factories,
the mines and the wealth of society by a small minority. The struggle
that we see today of ordinary working people across the world rising
up against poverty, unemployment, low wages, are the seeds for which
a global and international movement for socialism will be built.
Moving on to one final subject before we end the programme. I had
a discussion with Nelson Chamisa and Daniel Molakela last week on
the apparent death of student activism in Zimbabwe, where we pointed
out that Universities and Colleges have somehow stopped producing
notable activists. Why do you think this is happening?
Ah, one of the reasons that we are discussing now is that students
of the late 80's, that includes people like myself, Tendai Biti,
Mutambara, and others, were students who fought and led the movement
on a clear ideology. The clear ideology that was our pillar, was
the ideology of socialism.
that students can only move forward and can play a meaningful role
in society if they are on the side of ordinary working people, that
is workers and peasants, the unemployed and the poor. That was the
guiding compass through which the student movement was developed
in the late 80's and the early 90's. But obviously the collapse
of the Soviet Union after 1992, you have seen students in the last
six, seven, eight nine years, participate in politics as a confused
misdirected lot in terms of ideological positioning. Many students
in fact and many students unions, fell victim to the money of the
Western donors that descended into this country in the last five
years. So instead of struggle becoming a question of conviction
and ideology, struggle became a means of livelihood. The key challenge
that faces the student movement today is to rebuild itself on the
basis of an ideology and consciousness that identifies the real
enemy of democracy in Zimbabwe, democracy in the world. And that
enemy is capitalism run by local and international capitalists.
And finally comrade Gwisai, you on the other hand politically, seemed
to have decided to lay low. You are not much in the spotlight these
days. Any reasons for this or you are planning something?
No no, we are actually building the International Socialist Organisation.
Obviously with the dominance that the MDC had it had meant that
many activities were not coming out but now, people are beginning
to question. The ISO, of which I'm one of the leaders, were very
active in the rebuilding of the trade union movement working with
pressure groups and trades unions that are militant, so that a new
movement will be re-built in this country.
We are active
in the Student's Union and at the same time we are now also very
active participants in the Zimbabwe Social Forum process, a new
movement that has emerged in this country in the last two years
which is bringing together activists, militants, whether socialists,
students, workers or those who are fighting for trade justice. AIDS/HIV
activists. It's a new movement that is fighting both for democracy
and social justice so that ordinary people can have a life. And
indeed, in October this year from the 13th and 14th, we are going
to host the Southern Africa Social Forum here.
So, tiri kumushakura
saka Zimbabwe ichabuda munswisisa, but very soon we believe that
the conditions are right again for the emergence of a real movement
that will take on the Mugabe government and the dictatorship and
that will also take on the bosses and the capitalists of this country
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.