Socialist Worker

Protests sweep Zimbabwe

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2511

Tyres burning during the stay-away in Bulawayo

Tyres burning during the stay-away in Bulawayo

Protests, strikes and stay-aways have swept Zimbabwe in southern Africa as people revolt against food shortages, unpaid wages, corruption and repression.

Robert Mugabe, who has ruled for over 35 years, faces his greatest opposition on the streets for many years.

A socialist activist in Zimbabwe told Socialist Worker, “I do not know if the protests will be successful, but it is very significant that the fear is beginning to go and the hopelessness is beginning to go.

“People are desperate but they are also angry, and that is a strong mix”.

The economy is collapsing. Zimbabwe does not produce its own currency and instead uses the US dollar. It has now virtually run out of dollars and therefore cannot import vital goods such as maize and petrol.

Food shortages are growing.

Civil service workers, doctors, teachers, nurses and many other groups of public sector workers have not been paid for June and some have launched indefinite strikes.

Public sector workers were told they would not be paid in June

Public sector workers were told they would not be paid in June

The regime is so desperate that it even postponed payments to some army units and sent them on leave, although it has paid the most important groups on time.

On Friday of last week traders who move constantly between South Africa and Zimbabwe held protests when new restrictions and charges were imposed on imported goods in order to reduce currency outflows.

They set fire to a warehouse where their possessions had been impounded.

On Monday protesters gathered in the capital, Harare, in advance of the civil service strike. Police brutally attacked the demonstration and arrested 57 people.

But repression has not broken the resistance.

A mass “shut down” of the country on Wednesday was a success in many areas. Businesses closed in Harare and other cities and towns, with the streets deserted and informal traders staying home.

Barricades went up in some cities and towns, and activists burnt tyres and blocked roads.

Much of the fightback was coordinated on WhatsApp, despite government attempts to cut off coverage.

Another, possibly longer, shutdown is planned  for next week unless the government offers change.

The International Socialist Organisation issued a statement on the eve of this week's shut down headed, “Mugabe Out! IMF out! Don’t trust politicians. Build united fronts of workers and the poor!”

It went on, “United and in action the people have power. They have struck fear in the heart of the brutal and corrupt dictatorship. People power works. It brought down dictators in Burkina Faso, Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia. It can work here too.

“But these countries teach us that unless workers and the poor organize themselves, remain independent and place forward their class interests their struggles will be hijacked by elites in the opposition, turncoats from the regime, middle classes, business, NGOs, regional and imperialist centres to cobble up rotten and sell out neoliberal  compromises.”

It called for a general strike to bring down the regime, break from the control of the IMF, and fight for socialist policies.

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