NUMSA statement on Zimbabwe crisis

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa declares its solidarity with the thousands of workers in Zimbabwe who went on a general strike on Wednesday 16 July 2016, when shops and businesses shut down, public transport came to a halt and children were turned away from school. 
The union also supports the ongoing protests by traders and communities which began on Monday in protest against food shortages, and the teachers, doctors, nurses and civil servants who have been on strike since Tuesday in protest about not being paid in June.
The government has even delayed paying the June salaries of the army and security services by two weeks, a move which could backfire if they try to use these people to attack works and communities.
Numsa also condemns the violent attacks on strikers and demonstrators by police, in response to which protesters barricaded roads with burning tyres‚ rocks and rubble. Dozens of people have been arrested as riot police patrolled cities and suburbs and the military was out in force.
A report in the Daily Maverick describes workers holding signs saying “We say no to slave wages”, who were met by riot police with truncheons and tear gas; 57 people were arrested. There is video of unarmed protesters being beaten brutally by police.
At the heart of the protests is a massive economic crisis, the worst drought for 25 years and the severe shortages of money, in the form of US dollars, which the country has been using as currency since the collapse of the Zim dollar in 2009.
Zimbabwe is now running out of US dollars, without which it cannot pay civil servants, teachers and doctors on time and cannot keep importing products and   essentials like maize and petrol.
To try to resolve this, the government passed a law banning the import of certain goods from South Africa, to compel people to buy locally produced alternatives, even though they are either not available in Zimbabwe or are extremely expensive.
That led to the dispute reaching the South Africa border at Beit Bridge, where traders and truck and taxi drivers have been protesting against officials who were preventing the entry of SA goods.
The lack of US dollars also means that people cannot access their money in the bank, and so cannot buy goods with cash and are increasingly resorting to bartering.
Zimbabwe is suffering from the global economic recession, which is hitting especially hard former colonial and developing countries which have relied too much on the export of raw materials and food rather than manufacturing industry. In Zimbabwe this has been aggravated by sanctions and sabotage by Britain and global capitalist institutions like the International Monetary Fund.
But this crisis is made even worse by a corrupt, crony-capitalist dictatorship which has enriched a tiny elite at the expense of the poor majority and crushed all opposition by force.
This is a grim warning to South Africa and the continent of the danger of former liberation force leaders adopting capitalist policies, and making them even more destructive by creating a government and business elite which, while still using the rhetoric of national liberation, systematically and corruptly enriches itself by robbing the people and keeping them trapped in poverty.
Nothing could illustrate this better than the party to celebrate President Mugabe’s 92nd birthday which cost tax-payers $1 million (around R15 million) while thousands of Zimbabweans were starving.
The parallels with South Africa are obvious. The difference is only one of the extent to which this degeneration has gone. South Africa’s economy is also of the slide, with soaring levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and the same trend towards corrupt, crony-capitalism, side by side with the still dominant white monopoly capitalism.
In both countries the ruling elite mouth the slogans of liberation and transformation while betraying the true meaning of those slogans, and blame problems on nameless ‘forces’ which are trying to defeat the liberation struggle, while in reality they themselves are the main enemies of liberation and transformation by adopting extreme capitalist programmes designed to direct most of the benefits to themselves, their families and cronies.
The only forces which can actually turn this crisis around are the organised working class. Thousands of Zimbabwe workers are South Africa, many of them ruthlessly exploited as cheap labour. Thousands more are likely to follow in the wake of the current crisis. Our goal must be to draw them all into the struggle for strong militant unions, an independent, democratic federation and a workers’ socialist party.
The trade union movement in both Zimbabwe and South Africa have the duty to stand firm on the principle of workers’ unity against both world imperialism and local capitalist elites and their political leaders in ZANU-PF and the ANC.
Another parallel between the two countries is the splits within these two parties, as different factions fight for a bigger share of the spoils, and even murder party rivals.
The new workers’ party must adopt a programme to fight for the real and complete political and economic liberation of the people of Africa and finish the work which was done to overthrow colonialism and apartheid.
Patrick Craven
Acting Numsa Spokesperson
061 636 6057