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vow to defy repression in Zimbabwe
Pearce, Green Left Weekly
March 23, 2007
Congress of Trade Unions has declared it will go ahead with
an April 3-4 "stay away" by workers despite the wave
of repression suffered by opponents of President Robert Mugabe's
regime and authorities' threats to crush the ZCTU strike.
Already ZCTU members have been arrested, their offices raided and
material relating to the stay away confiscated.
The ZCTU, which issued
the call for the protest in late January, is demanding a minimum
wage linked to the country's poverty datum line, ZimOnline
reported on March 23. ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe
told the news service that hunger was a bigger threat for workers
than the inevitable government repression they will face. Didymus
Mutasa, Mugabe's state security minister, has said the government
would crush the strike. ZimOnline reported on February 26 that Mutasa
said the ZCTU wants "to start a war and we are more than prepared
to deal with them".
The ZCTU has revealed
that its April protest will be supported by the Congress of South
African Trade Unions. However, the African National Congress-led
government in South Africa continues to back Mugabe (COSATU and
the ANC, along with the South African Communist Party, make up the
Tripartite Alliance). A March 18 COSATU statement declared the organisation
"is mobilising its members for a demonstration in Johannesburg
on 3 April, in a massive show of solidarity with the struggle for
democracy in Zimbabwe".
In September, ZCTU members
and officials were arrested and beaten after staging peaceful protests
over the hardship faced by the majority of Zimbabweans due to the
dire economic situation.
On March 2,
Council of Zimbabwe revealed that the monthly budget for low-income
urban families of six rose by 49.95% to Z$686,115.78 (A$3400) between
January and February. Inflation is currently running at around 1600%;
the International Monetary Fund predicts it will reach 4000% by
the end of the year.
is reportedly considering imposing a state of emergency to deal
with heightened opposition to his regime after the March 11 arrest
and torture of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai
and MDC supporters at a prayer rally. ZimOnline reported on March
18 that at a meeting three days earlier the president had pushed
for the immediate declaration of a state of emergency, allowing
the mass jailing of the government's opponents. However, Mugabe
was "dissuaded from taking that route by his security chiefs
who felt the action would be too drastic and would send the wrong
signals to the international community".
ministers "are said to have told Mugabe to use 'maximum
force without officially declaring a state of emergency'".
The article noted that the government fears "current opposition
protests could easily turn into full-fledged rebellion".
As of the afternoon
of March 15, there were still more than 120 opposition activists
detained after the March 11 protest, with fears they were being
tortured, according to the Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition (CIZC). On the morning of March 18, six
men attacked Nelson Chamisa with iron bars at the Harare International
Airport. Chamisa, an MDC spokesperson and MP, is feared to have
suffered serious skull fractures. He was still recovering from being
tortured while in police custody.
On March 22, MDC members
Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh were able to leave Zimbabwe to receive
medical attention in South Africa. Zimbabwe security forces had
stopped a March 17 attempt to evacuate the two, who had also been
arrested and tortured after the prayer meeting.
A March 20 Kooriweb.org
press release reported that Australian Aboriginal activists had
condemned the Mugabe regime's assault on Holland and other
opposition activists. The statement noted that "Many Aboriginal
Australians who were involved in the anti-apartheid movement in
the early 1970s have strong and fond memories of Sekai Holland.
She was a staunch supporter of the Aboriginal Land Rights movement
and the 1972 Aboriginal Embassy."
The release listed a
number of Indigenous Australians who opposed the Zimbabwean regime's
crackdown, including Naomi Mayer's of the Redfern Aboriginal
Medical Service, Jenny Munro, Lyall Munro, Gary Foley, Sol Bellear,
Gary Williams, NSW MP Linda Burney, novelist and historian Tony
Birch, Kaye Bellear (widow of Aboriginal District Court Judge Bob
Bellear), Alexis Wright (novelist and Miles Franklin Award nominee),
artists Richard Bell and Sam Wickman, Dulcie Flower, Lloyd McDermott,
Lowitja O'Donohue, Evelyn Scott, Faith Bandler, Hans Bandler,
Lester Bostock, Euphemia Bostock, Joyce Clague and Colin Clague.
There are rumours of
disquiet, and possible coup plots, within Mugabe's ruling
party, the Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front
(ZANU-PF), fuelled by the dire economic situation, the ongoing international
financial sanctions and Mugabe's desire to extend his reign
as president. Imperialist governments have made clear they would
be happy to deal with a post-Mugabe ZANU-PF regime as long as it
pursues policies acceptable to Western capital.
Within ZANU-PF, at least
two factions eager to lead a post-Mugabe government have developed
— one around former parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa
and another around former armed forces head General Solomon Mujuru
and his wife, Vice-President Joyce Mujuru.
reported on March 23 that a "senior Foreign Office official"
had said that "The economy and party [ZANU-PF] will be the
two main drivers of change" and that "If one faction
[in ZANU-PF] succeeded in easing [Mugabe] out and wished to re-engage
with the international community, we would look closely at what
that faction stood for".
The paper reported that
even if Mugabe was ousted by a "palace coup" and replaced
by someone from ZANU-PF "tainted by its corrupt and brutal
track record, Britain would be prepared to lift Zimbabwe's
isolation on condition that the new government showed a commitment
to reform, the official said".
A March 23 article
by Martin Fletcher in the London Times reported on a meeting the
journalist had with a "senior officer" in the Zimbabwean
police force. The officer claimed there was "growing disenchantment
within the ranks of Zimbabwe's police and suggested that many
of its members might stand aside if the people rose up against their
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