The only certainty about politics in Zimbabwe is that there is a stormy time ahead. Socialist Worker went to press before any voting figures had been announced for the presidential election. Whatever result is finally announced will be hotly contested by the losing side.
The election is not, as much of the media says, a simple case of 'evil' Mugabe's ZANU-PF against Morgan Tsvangirai's 'liberating' Movement for Democratic Change. It is true that Mugabe's government is an enemy of the working class and the main threat inside Zimbabwe at the moment to working class self organisation. Mugabe is fond of radical rhetoric. He presided over a brief period of reforms after the liberation movement had got rid of the white minority regime in 1980. But very quickly Mugabe acted entirely in the spirit of IMF/World Bank policies. Despite lurching towards left wing speeches since then, Mugabe has ruled in the interests of the rich.
A statement released by the Zimbabwean International Socialist Organisation (ISO) as voting began said, 'During the time it has ruled, Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF has shown itself time and again to be anti working class. 'It has imposed IMF and World Bank neo-liberal policies like cuts in education and health spending, and laws that make it easier to fire workers. While workers in townships and the country starve, the rich in the suburbs are eating. Weeks before this election ZANU-PF enacted its most vicious attack on freedom since before nationalist independence in 1980. Under the Public Order and Security Act workers' meetings and public meetings have been banned.'
Mugabe has used terror, torture and murder in an effort to break worker and peasant resistance to his rule. He has threatened to ban the main union federation, the ZCTU, immediately after the election in order to be able to sweep aside all barriers to his programme-which includes further privatisation.
But the opposition also stood on policies that included privatisation, a welcome for the multinationals, and cooperation with the IMF and World Bank. The ISO statement also says, 'The MDC promises further attacks on ordinary Zimbabweans through privatising everything. In a country with inflation at 120 percent and unemployment at over 80 percent among young people, this can only mean further massive poverty.'
The MDC draws support from trade unionists and bosses, from impoverished peasants and white landowners, from socialists and hard right conservatives. It has defended the white farmers, the most reactionary section of Zimbabwean society. These are the people who have grown enormously rich from the sweat of black workers and have consistently opposed all attempts to make land ownership more equal.
However, there is no doubt that a win for the MDC's Tsvangirai would unleash a new period of intense developments in Zimbabwe. These developments would open a new chapter of opportunities for working class activists to organise.
As the report from our eyewitness shows, there is great enthusiasm among large sections of workers at the prospect of dumping Mugabe. The protests that would follow a Mugabe victory announcement would be an opportunity for the left to organise. But if Mugabe declares he has won and gets away with it, most workers will feel crushed, intimidated and beaten.
If Mugabe goes (and that may well require at the very least mass demonstrations), many workers will feel it is their victory, even if the man they have elected has made wholesale concessions to international business and the white farmers.
There would then be a period when Tsvangirai would be expected to be better for ordinary people than Mugabe has been. If he presses ahead with privatisation, gives handouts to the rich and shores up the white farmers there is a chance of building a backlash from below. Socialist politics are needed, a total break from Mugabe's terror and the MDC's neo-liberalism. The ISO says, 'We do not believe that these elections will solve the poverty and unemployment that is facing workers every day.'
The real left in Zimbabwe needs to use the present crisis to build action and a movement which can deliver genuine change.
An eyewitness report from the streets of Harare
'IT IS time for the opposition. Mugabe must go,' said one Zimbabwean voter in the capital, Harare, after hours queuing to vote. This sentiment seemed to sum up the attitude of thousands of voters.
When Robert Mugabe turned up to cast his vote, the opposition supporters-many who had been queuing for hours-chanted 'Change, change, change'. Harare is the opposition's city. Posters for the Movement for Democratic Change cling to almost every lamp post and wall. Opposition graffiti is scrawled on pavements and the sides of buildings.
In the working class constituency of Highfield the MP is Munyaradzi Gwisai, a member of the International Socialist Organisation. When he arrived to vote he was cheered by those waiting, and his supporters insisted that he gave an impromptu rally. One man in the city, frustrated by the queues and wanting to vote for the opposition, left and returned 30 minutes later with crutches. He was allowed to vote as a 'disabled man', but leaving the station afterwards he immediately threw away his crutches and punched the air.
Such audacious shows of confidence were common. On Sunday crowds in Harare shouted opposition slogans at government helicopters flying overhead.
EYEWITNESS in Harare last weekend