ZIMBABWE: Socialists given a rousing welcome

May 15, 2002



HARARE — More 6000 workers gathered for the May 1 rally in the Gwanzura stadium here enthusiastically supported socialist MP Munyaradzi Gwisai's criticism of the participation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in talks with the ruling ZANU-PF. Gwisai is a leading member of the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe (ISOZ).

The ISOZ is successfully mobilising opposition to the MDC's conciliation with the government of President Robert Mugabe, both within and outside the MDC.

The talks, mediated by representatives of the governments of Nigeria and South Africa, resume on May 13.

An open letter from the ISOZ was sent to the MDC leadership on April 8. It demanded that the MDC abandon "unity" talks with the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and instead mobilise its supporters in a campaign of mass action to remove Mugabe. The letter received widespread media coverage.

In response, the MDC leadership on April 17 declared that the ISO is not a component of the MDC and demanded that Gwisai resign within seven days or be expelled. The ISOZ said it would remain in the MDC and attempt to convince working-class MDC members of the need for militant action to remove Mugabe. The MDC youth wing has joined the ISO in opposing a resumption of talks.

The ISOZ organised a convoy to the Harare May 1 rally that included students from the University of Zimbabwe, members of the National Constitutional Assembly and the Progressive Teachers Union. They gathered a kilometre from the stadium and 100 singing supporters marched through the township of Highfield into the stadium to rapturous applause. They occupied an entire section of the stadium with other ISOZ supporters who had already assembled in the stadium.

Throughout the rally, that section was the most militant and lively. When speakers from other organisations questioned the usefulness of continuing talks with ZANU-PF, they were massively cheered. A group of workers marched to the rally officials' platform and demanded that Gwisai be given a chance to speak.

Having seen that ISOZ's position on the talks was fully accepted by the May Day crowd, when Gwisai spoke he said that only mass action can remove the Mugabe regime.

He urged workers to organise mass demonstrations against Mugabe's impending anti-working class labour bill, which will come before parliament in May.

Gwisai's speech was continually greeted with cries of support and cheers. It was clear that the ISOZ is galvanising opposition to the talks within the MDC.

During Gwisai's speech, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai telephoned an MDC official who was in the stadium. When Tsvangirai was informed that Gwisai was making a speech, the MDC leader demanded that Gwisai be removed from the platform. But the MDC and trade union officials dared not try.

In Bulawayo, 5000 workers in the White City stadium gave a rousing welcome to Briggs Bomba, the ISO student leader, when he addressed the May 1 rally. An ISO banner was displayed with the message to fight on.

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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