By Daud Sibanda, Correspondent in Zimbabwe, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 23 April 2019, www.thecommunists.net
Zimbabwe is saddled with economic and political challenges that are a direct result of the repressive, undemocratic, corrupt and incompetent tendencies of the comprador ZANU PF regime, coupled with poor policies, illegal sanctions and the revitalised neoliberal onslaught on the poor by the so-called technocrats.
The journey of austerity begun with the Mugabe dictatorship regime, that had an insatiable appetite for corruption, disregard of sound social, economic and political policies and programs. This is not surprising though, given that the system of capitalism is known for inherent contradictions, crises and lots of economic and political challenges. This comprador regime embraced and admired the system of capitalism. This is evidenced by their rush to implement neoliberal policies imposed on them by the IMF and World Bank in the form of ESAP and other neoliberal economic policies that followed, after a period of 10 years of misrule.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. It is endowed with various natural resources. Minerals, gold and agriculture are the main foreign exports. The country has been in economic decline since the 1990s, experiencing several crashes and hyperinflation along the way. Large parts of Zimbabwe were once covered by forests with abundant wildlife.
Deforestation and poaching has reduced the amount of wildlife. Woodland degradation and deforestation, due to population growth, urban expansion and lack of fuel, are major concerns and have led to erosion and land degradation which diminish the amount of fertile soil. Local farmers have also been criticised by environmentalists for burning off vegetation to heat their tobacco barns.
Zimbabwe maintained positive economic growth throughout the 1980s (in average 5% GDP growth per year) and 1990s (in average 4.3% GDP growth per year). However, the economy declined from 2000 onwards: -5% in 2000, -8% in 2001, -12% in 2002 and -18% in 2003! Zimbabwe's involvement from 1998 to 2002 in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. From 1999–2009, Zimbabwe saw the lowest ever economic growth with an annual GDP decrease of 6.1%.This downward spiral of the economy has been attributed mainly to mismanagement and corruption by the government and the eviction of more than 4,000 white farmers in the controversial land confiscations of 2000. (Figures are taken from Wikipedia, accessed 14 April 2019)
The Zimbabwean government and its supporters attest that it was Western policies to avenge the expulsion of their kin that sabotaged the economy’. However reality says, it’s not only western policies, these only aggravated and accelerated an already existing economic decay, which was caused by so many years of misrule, bad state policies, incompetence and corrupt tendencies. At present the country is facing a sharp rise in inflation, prices are skyrocketing and, farmers are protesting because they are being robbed and deprived of their deserved foreign currency earnings.
Fuel is scarce and comes in trickles, like small drops in an ocean. The 2019 Budget, fiscal policy and the monetary policy have brought in austerity for the poor for prosperity for the rich, and it is worsening the economic crisis. We are experiencing a liquidity crunch, we have no currency as a nation, the industry is almost completely obliterated, we are more on the consuming side than production, foreign currency earnings are low and the little we earn is being abused and misused. And the monetary authorities are adamant that they are doing well and working towards improving the situation, they are asking the poor people to tighten their belts yet they are not, they are extravagant in budget spending through futile presidential trips and unnecessary frequent travelling.
Social services have declined to a very low, with residents of high density suburbs receiving water twice to thrice a week or once on critical days. This is attributed to lack of water treatment chemicals. This poses a health hazard and a risk of disease outbreak is looming. In fact, we have already seen the outbreak of Cholera already. Livestock disease are also on the rampage, natural disasters are bedevilling the country with the recent attack by Cyclone Idai which claimed lots of lives and left many homeless and hopeless and with no means of subsistence.
Lack of Democracy
The current state headed by the President Emmerson Dambudzo Munangagwa says they have ushered in democracy. But it’s actually pseudo and it is very hypocritical for them to say that, because we have seen brutal crackdowns on citizens through the state machinery due to protests against election fraud and fuel hikes and austerity measures that are hurting the ordinary citizens.
People are not allowed to be critical of the state without fear. There is minimal and controlled freedom of speech. The politics of Zimbabwe is polluted, hazardous and unhygienic. The state broadcaster is biased towards the ruling party the elite totalitarian comprador regime. The airwaves have not been democratically opened, they are controlled. We are yet to see independent players coming in to the broadcasting sphere.
Bourgeois Opposition Parties
The Zimbabwean opposition available at the moment is petty and weak and neoliberal. Nevertheless, it is very much supported by Zimbabweans because it is the only available alternative challenging the brutal Junta comprador regime. Many Zimbabweans see the MDC Alliance as their saviour from the devil ZANU PF.
There is competition to please the imperial master among the competing political parties in Zimbabwe. In fact, there is no difference between these parties as they all have a neoliberal agenda. We have seen both political parties in agreement recently on the issue of compensation of white farmers. Their economic and political blueprints speak of the same thing and have the same agenda. They are only differently worded and possibly have different methods of implementation.
Bankrupt Left and Labour Movement
What is compounding the political demise in Zimbabwe are the weaknesses of the so called left organisations and the ideologically bankrupt labour movements. These organisations are very polarised and are very partisan and lack clarity and unity. Individualism, competition, greed, heroism, deceit, malice, opportunism, identity politics and all the vices associated with capitalism afflict these organisations’ members. They do not have sound grassroots programs and political popular education. Their struggles are not defined and they have no objectives and thus lack direction. They resort to ritualistic activism which is not effective.
Nationalism and the system of global capitalism has managed to successfully capture and dominate the minds of Zimbabweans and the so called left has done nothing to change this. The dominant ideas of the ruling elite dominate the arena. The state has successfully implemented this through the media and all other social platforms, whereas the left has merely turned these to empty talk shows full of hot air, and these have become places to display mental antics, acrobatics and stamina. The situation seems to be hopeless, pathetic and pitiful.
However, there is a potential of mass uprising from the poor people from below as witnessed by the January uprising. The tensions are brewing and building, an eruption is imminent and when it happens there should be leadership and guidance ready to take up the role and steer the ship. However that space is a bit clouded in doubt and confusion, as the left is weak, polarised, clueless and poorly organised.
Hopefully when the uprising happens the left will have come to a realisation that they need to stop romanticising with capital puppets and step up to the field and take precise action. What is needed is a gradual and carefully thought and articulated solid Socialist agenda and popular grassroots education to raise the levels of consciousness of the masses, through socialisation and relating to the masses’ issues by being realistic and addressing the daily problems and issues affecting them.
It is important to learn the lessons of the failures in the past. It is high time to build a revolutionary party based on a socialist and internationalist program. Such a party should be part of a revolutionary international. Building such a party nationally and internationally is particularly urgent in the present conjuncture where we see revolutionary upheavals in Sudan, Algeria and other countries! Let us tackle this task energetically!