EUROPEAN UNION (EU) leaders imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe this week and withdrew election observers. Nobody should believe the EU is a friend of democracy in Africa or anywhere else. The EU says it is outraged by President Mugabe's refusal to allow monitors in to watch over the presidential election scheduled for 9-10 March.
But the EU cares little about electoral fraud, so long as those who cheat follow Western interests. In the presidential election in neighbouring Zambia two months ago there were widespread reports of fraud.
Even the EU's monitors expressed reservations about the election, which saw Levy Mwanawasa elected with less than 30 percent of the vote. However, because Mwanawasa is a friend of the multinationals, the EU shut up and defended the result. There were no sanctions when Mwanawasa declared that anyone who protested faced the death penalty.
The EU is worried about Zimbabwe's white farmers and other capitalist interests in the region, not the black workers and peasants. In Madagascar (see report below) the US and EU care nothing for the ordinary people of the island.
They would be happy with whichever candidate could cheat his way to power so long as he stands up for business interests. Meanwhile in Zimbabwe repression continues unchecked as President Mugabe fights to hold on to power. Mugabe has recently rammed through brutal laws which make it virtually impossible to protest against him.
Despite this, on Friday of last week over 1,500 people demonstrated in the capital, Harare, around the slogan 'No to dictatorship. No to neo-liberal poverty'. The march called for opposition to privatisation, repeal of repressive laws, an end to political violence, and free and fair presidential elections. It was backed by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the National Constitutional Assembly, the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) and many others.
The protest had been banned but the marchers courageously assembled in defiance the ban. Seized There was a heavy police presence at the assembly points. Munyaradzi Gwisai, the ISO member who is an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was immediately arrested. Another 15 demonstrators were also seized. They were all beaten and many, including Munyaradzi, required hospital treatment. He was detained last weekend and appeared in court on Monday, when he was released on bail.
The hope for Zimbabwe is that there will be more, and bigger, protests, and that they will connect the issue of democracy to the resistance to neo-liberalism. It is therefore a very good sign that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is under pressure from worker activists to call a stayaway before the election. Such actions, not EU sanctions, show the way forward.
The Socialist Alliance has launched an appeal for funds for the ISO and other labour organisations in Zimbabwe. For details phone 020 7791 3138.