ZIMBABWE: Getting to know the real enemy

Issue 

BY DALE MCKINLEY

HARARE — Zimbabwe's worsening political and economic crisis is doing more than any Marxist text could ever do to turn ordinary Zimbabweans into potential revolutionaries.

A majority of politicians and "experts" (both in Zimbabwe and abroad) continue to offer up large doses of hypocritical hyperbole around land redistribution, "good governance" and "democratisation" to try and explain what has gone wrong and how best to "fix" it.

Increasing numbers of Zimbabweans are, however, offering a much simpler, more profound and honest view — it is the capitalist system and those that are getting rich off the people's suffering that are the culprits for the political and economic poverty that now grips their country.

Just ask Gladys Ndlovu, a 25-year-old trainee teacher in the eastern highlands town of Mutare, who caught a lift with me on her way back home to Bulawayo.

Displaying an analytical maturity that would put most Zimbabwean commentators to shame, she argued convincingly that ethnic tensions between Ndebele and Shona have always had more to do with the accumulative needs of a capitalist class, whether pre or post-independence.

She also explained that while most Zimbabweans know that the removal of the Mugabe regime is a pre-requisite for possible short-term improvements in their lives, they are beginning to recognise that longer-term change will not be forthcoming as long as capitalism remains the dominant system of economic and political life.

Ndlovu has enough political savvy to know that a Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change government would be just as committed to, and possibly more efficient in, privatising public education as part of a rejuvenated "structural adjustment program" that has nothing to do with the interests of the poor majority.

"This capitalist system is just bad ... and we Zimbabweans have got to be courageous enough to change it", says Ndlovu.

Phineas Chisombe is a middle-aged teacher at a rural primary school in Masvingo province. Like Ndlovu and so many other Zimbabweans I met, he was standing by the side of the road trying to hitch a ride. The exorbitant price of fuel has put what little public transportation there is out of the reach of ordinary Zimbabweans.

"Everything is too expensive", lamented Chisombe, "we cannot afford even the most basic things any more".

And, what did he think was the main cause of such economic suffering? "Our leaders have become greedy and they do not care about the rest of us ... My students don't have any paper or textbooks but I see many fancy cars from the city."

While Chisombe was reluctant to discuss openly his political preferences, understandable given the ongoing thuggery and intimidation in the rural areas, he made it clear that Zimbabweans like himself were losing their patience. "Things cannot continue as they are ... even if we have new leaders they might still only think of themselves and their shamwaris [friends] ... maybe we will need a new Chimurenga [war of liberation]".

Walter Mudzimu, a 50 year old living in one of Harare's over-populated townships, ekes out a living by travelling back and forth to Durban to sell flowers. I gave him a lift on his way back from his latest cross-border sojourn.

He used to have a job as a mechanic for the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare but was laid off years ago as part of the public sector "downsizing" that has become an integral part of capitalist structural adjustment programs the world over.

"I am a peaceful, religious man", said Mudzimu, a devout member of the Apostolic Church in Zimbabwe. "It is the policies of the government and the rich people who support them that are a sin ... they are the ones who are causing all this violence and turning people into beggars".

Madzimu, whose extended family lives in the rural areas, does not think that the issue of land redistribution can be dealt with as long as "those who have the money" are calling the shots.

"When I am in South Africa I can see that the same things are happening, all of us poor people are suffering and that cannot continue forever".

These are the voices of ordinary Zimbabweans, not those of the politicians and/or "experts" who are most often heard from when it comes to discussing the Zimbabwean "situation".

It does not take a title or degree to figure out that the ever-increasing numbers of poor Zimbabweans are becoming increasingly angry at what they see as a political and economic system that has utterly failed them.

President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party hacks might be the immediate target and the MDC might be the only political party alternative at present, but there seems to be a dawning realisation that the struggle for any sustained political freedom and meaningful economic justice in Zimbabwe will have to confront much more than replacing an individual tyrant.

It is precisely such a nascent anti-capitalism that really scares the likes of most Zimbabwean politicians and certainly all the members of that country's multiracial capitalist class.

The "manufactured consent" that lies at the heart of the health of the capitalist system is beginning to come under severe threat, both in Zimbabwe and many other places across southern Africa and the globe.

Gladys, Phineas and Walter, like many of their South African counterparts, might not be able to offer a political and economic blueprint for a "new" society but they have definitely embraced the first step towards its realisation.

[The names in this story have been changed to protect them against possible recrimination.]

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