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future lies in voting, popular participation
Mathuthu , editor www.newzimbabwe.com
mire that is opposition activism in Zimbabwe, the concepts of protest
and mobilisation have been interpreted to mean the same thing. This is
the root of the apathy and the general numbness of our society in the
face of tyranny.
refers to preparing the people for struggle, protest is just a noisy statement
of disapproval or disagreement. It is easy to be an activist and to protest.
In fact any fool can protest and wear the jacket of an activist - more
so if there is financial reward. But to mislead an entire nation that
protest is mobilisation is a treasonous transgression.
In the past week,
we had the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions once again demonstrating
its total lack of foresight when it embarked on yet another of those futile
calls for a nationwide work boycott. In the past 12 months, several other
similar calls have either been ignored, or have not produced the intended
This particular stay-away
call was made on the internet and the international media. In the absence
of any evidence to argue otherwise, one draws the conclusion that this
was stage-managed for the international media.
The trade union leaders
led by Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibhebhe told workers that the
nationwide stay-away was intended to force the government to look into
mismanagement at the National Social Security Association (Nssa)!
Workers went to work
as usual. Why, many asked, had this little local difficulty of mismanagement
at a small office in Harare been elevated to a national crisis?
This is where the
struggle to unfetter the people of Zimbabwe has gone wrong. Many fools
and feckless protesters have taken over the space reserved for genuine
revolutionaries to claim leadership. They approach the struggle with errant
irresponsibility at a great cost to the genuine movement for change in
revolution and mobilisation thus: "The revolution pursues its course together
with its class. If the proletariat is weak, if it is backward, mobilisation
confines itself to the modest, patient and persevering work of the creation
of propaganda circles, of the preparation of cadres, supporting itself
upon the first cadres, it passes over to mass agitation, legal or illegal,
according to the circumstances. It always distinguishes its class from
the enemy class, and conducts only such a policy as corresponds to the
strength of its class and consolidates this strength."
Instead of pursuing
a policy that corresponds to the strength of its class, as Trotsky put
it, the Zctu leaders took an unpopular move far detached from the aspirations
of the nation. Such actions only serve to weaken the backbone of the struggle
to rescue Zimbabwe from Robert Mugabe's tyrannical regime.
The Zctu leaders and
their fellow protesters need to wisen up. In any revolution, the same
tactic will not work all the time. Surprise is what moves revolutions
forward, not outdated, revisionist protest that is as predictable as Robert
Mugabe leading his Zanu PF party into the next election.
The stay-aways served
their purpose in catapulting MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to national
political leadership. Fine. But to continue shoving the same tactics now
and again up the nation's workers won't stick.
The MDC lost the 2002
presidential elections largely because some eligible people did not vote,
or simply didn't find time to register. Following the announcement that
parliamentary elections will be held next March, the crisis facing the
nation is how to get the people to vote. There were at least 5,6 million
registered voters countrywide in 2002. Of that figure, 3,4 million are
in rural Zimbabwe and 2,2 million are in urban areas. When the votes were
finally counted, a total of 2,998,758 people had voted. Opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai was beaten to the count by just over 400 000 votes by
President Robert Mugabe. From the March 2002 count, over 2,6 million registered
voters stayed away. In a country of at least 13 million people, it is
a fair assumption that there are over 1,5 million more people who are
not registered even though they are eligible to vote.
Would the outcome
have been different had all these people voted? The lack of a definite
answer to that question defines the crisis that faces Zimbabwean society
today - apathy and lack of popular participation.
Essayist, editor and
critic George Jean Nathan once said that "bad officials are elected by
good citizens who do not vote". He was right. If the opposition does not
mobilise the masses and infuse the message that everyone should vote,
they will be surrendering the next election to Mugabe's party.
The "mass agitation"
Trotsky referred to is still lacking, partly fuelled by the actions of
men like the Zctu leaders. Progressive revolutionaries, not reactionary
populists and protesters, should have by now noticed that the biggest
enemy facing Zimbabwe is lack of popular participation.
There is no realistic
chance that Robert Mugabe and his government will be pushed out this year.
The next elections are only a year away, and instead of spending millions
of dollars in brainless street demonstrations and legal fees after they
get arrested, the Zctu leaders have a very lawful avenue through which
they could mobilise Zimbabwe's workers by emphasising that voting works,
because it does.
A campaign for the
hearts and minds is needed. Convincing Zimbabweans that nothing but voting
will get them out of their misery is the answer. A carefully planned and
managed campaign of ensuring people register is needed.
There is the issue
of Zimbabwe's rural areas which have for long been the stronghold of Zanu
PF. Trotsky has an answer to this: "If the proletariat is weak, if it
is backward, mobilisation confines itself to the modest, patient and persevering
work of the creation of propaganda circles, of the preparation of cadres,
supporting itself upon the first cadres, it passes over to mass agitation,
legal or illegal, according to the circumstances."
Zimbabweans need to
be mobilised into "mass agitation". There is hope, only if people register
and vote. That should be the message, that should be the catchword.
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