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(en) Southern Africa, Anarchist journal Zabalaza #9 - INTERVIEW WITH TWO LIBERTARIAN SOCIALIST ACTIVISTS FROM ZIMBABWE

Date Wed, 10 Sep 2008 10:13:19 +0300



This year's phony elections in Zimbabwe showed yet again the lengths to which
dictator Robert Mugabe is prepared to go in his efforts to hold on to power. He
has faked votes, intimidated voters, and arrested, tortured and murdered
opponents. And while he denounces his imperialist enemies in Britain and the US,
he has eagerly sought the support of his imperialist friends in China.
In April, just after the first round of presidential and parliamentary
elections, it was exposed that a shipment of arms from China was destined to
travel through South Africa to Zanu-PF in Harare, arms we feared would be used
against the Zimbabwean people The ZACF played a small part in trying to mobilise
people in South Africa to prevent the shipment from reaching its destination.

Although certainly not as a result of our efforts, the South African Transport
and Allied Workers' Union refused to offload the shipment in Durban harbour, and
a court ruling caused the ship's captain to raise anchor and leave South African
waters before the interdict could be served. The weapons are believed to have
arrived in Harare after being unloaded and transported through another southern
African country. Despite the arms unfortunately reaching their destination, the
solidarity shown by South African workers is commendable, and the attention it
drew just might have made Mugabe think twice about using them at that time.
These are among the issues we raised with two Zimbabwean comrades visiting
Johannesburg, in an interview on 21st June 2008, the day before Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced his withdrawal from
the presidential run-offs on the grounds that it was unfair to expect his
supporters to suffer the violence being meted out against them in order to vote.
Since this interview took place, the presidential run-offs, `contested' by
only one man, have come and gone, leaving no change in regime. Hundreds of
opposition supporters have been victimised, arrested and murdered. Thousands
more have fled the country.
Despite South African President Thabo Mbeki's dismal attempts as
SADC-appointed mediator, the ruling Zanu-PF's Robert Mugabe and MDC's Morgan
Tsvangirai have since entered into power-sharing talks along with the leader of
the MDC's break-away faction Arthur Mutumbara. These talks, however, seemed to
have reached a stalemate over who would get executive power, and who would
have control of the police, prisons and armed forces. Arthur Mutumbara accepted
the conditions of power-sharing handed down by Mugabe, while Tsvangirai said he
needed "more time to think".

INTERVIEW WITH BIKO, ANARCHO-COMMUNIST FROM THE UHURU NETWORK AND FACILITATOR
FOR THE TOYI TOYI ARTZ KOLLEKTIVE; AND COMRADE FATSO AKA SAMM FARAI MONRO,
STRUGGLE POET, ARTISTIC FACILITATOR FOR MAGAMBA! THE CULTURAL ACTIVIST NETWORK,
ZIMBABWE. CONDUCTED IN JOHANNESBURG ON 21ST JUNE 2008 BY THE ZACF.

ZACF: Can you tell us something about
conditions on the ground in Zimbabwe,
the extent of repression etc?
Biko: The arrests of senior MDC leaders
comes in the wake of Zanu-PF's realisation
that this time around the MDC leadership is
prepared to call upon the masses of
Zimbabwe to rise up and defend their vote
using people's power. The specific incident
that gave rise to this awakening in terms of
Zanu-PF's realisation was Tendai Biti's
announcement of the parallel voter tabula-
tion result on 30th March. The arrests are
merely a signal that Zanu-PF is going to
incapacitate the higher MDC leadership
and later decimate the middle-layer MDC
leadership ­ community organisers ­ so
that there is no organised resistance in the
wake of Zanu-PF's rigging of elections. But
also, which is much widespread, there
have been very serious instances of Zanu-
PF militia in the rural areas mutilating the
bodies of murdered MDC activists. A case
in point is a very close friend of mine,
Comrade Tonderai Ndira, who was a com-
munity organiser in Mavuku but also ­ in
the wake of what is happening ­ was agi-
tating for the armed self-defence of the
oppressed communities, particularly in the
rural areas. He was murdered in the rural
area of Murewa by the Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) in the remote rural dis-
trict. His brother could only recognise him
by a wrist band that he wore. That is the
extent to which Zanu-PF is prepared to
deal with ordinary people. There are so
many numerous names of people that have
been murdered by Zanu-PF.
Fatso: What's going on on the ground is
the abduction, torture and murder of grass-
roots activists from across the board.
Mainly MDC activists are being targeted
but also those from Women of Zimbabwe
Arise (Woza), from the National
Constitutional Assembly. Four bodies of
MDC activists were found a few days ago.
They were from Chitungwiza, which is the
biggest township in Harare, and they had
been abducted, tortured, beaten and mur-
dered. And there are also political prison-
ers. Woza's leadership has been arrested
and is being held until after the elections.
What Zanu has now started is that dictato-
rial trend of taking political prisoners, which
it didn't necessarily do in the past. Those
are some of the things that are happening.
ZACF: And the economy: hyperinflation,
availability of food and other basic
necessities, unemployment are com-
mon knowledge. Perhaps you have
some comments on the origin of the
economic crisis.
Biko: The Zanu-PF regime came into
power masquerading as a socialist party. It
had as part of its ideological tradition the
Stalinist conception of revolution. By 1991
even workers rose up against the Zanu-PF
dictatorship but by then it had consolidated
its power. By 1990 Zanu-PF had ceased to
even act as a pseudo-leftist party and it
outrightly embraced the right wing policies
of the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF
and the World Bank, by adopting the eco-
nomic Structural Adjustment Programmes.
The revolution that is currently under way
in Zimbabwe is a revolution that has been
sparked by the people's reaction to the
adverse effects brought about by the eco-
nomic Structural Adjustment Programmes
of the 1990s. By 1999 we see the forma-
tion of the MDC, and the rest is history.
ZACF: What is the role of the MDC?
Have they handled things well or badly?
Again, historical comments on how
they've blundered in the past might be
helpful.
Biko: The MDC emerged in 1999 from the
initiatives of the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions as a workers' party, but by
the year 2001 it had been hijacked by mid-
dle class intellectuals and capitalists, and
therefore became a cocktail of ideologies.
There have been a big number of mistakes
that have been committed by the MDC.
The MDC has not aligned itself towards the
working people in terms of its economic
policies. The MDC continues to look out-
wards towards foreign direct investment
from imperialist nations and multi-national
corporations as the way forward for rebuild-
ing the decimated Zimbabwean economy.
But in terms of strategy and tactics I
believe that this time the MDC has learnt
from its mistakes of not agitating for peo-
ple's power, but what remains a very seri-
ous weakness at this particular point is the
inability to prepare the masses for an upris-
ing. Yes, it's good to have the leadership
calling for people to get into the streets, but
it's not good enough because you need to
have the people prepared through training,
through regular actions with regards to
bread and butter struggles that people are
going through, because only through action
can people attain confidence in using
action as means to liberate themselves,
which is the only way for Zimbabwe.
ZACF: Can you tell us a little about the
current state of resistance and
prospects for the future; whether resist-
ance is organised primarily or only by
MDC or whether there's other resist-
ance; the trade unions movement,
civics etc.?
Biko: The Zimbabwean pro-democracy
movement has been infected by a disease
that we call the `commodification of resist-
ance syndrome'. There are a lot of NGOs
getting a lot of money from imperialist
nations but they are not organising con-
cretely where the masses of the working
people are. The Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions remains a militant organisa-
tion but it has been weakened by the high
rate of unemployment. Our belief as the
Uhuru Network is that the key focal point is
organising in communities where the
majority of working people are, and here
we see the very significant role of the com-
bined Harare residents associations, but
we feel that the hierarchical structure of
most of these organisations organising in
the communities is an impediment to the
workers and poor people organising them-
selves in a manner that actually embodies
the new forms of organisation that we envi-
sion for a new Zimbabwe.
Fatso: I think there's various types of
resistance, MDC's is one form. Amongst
the civics I think the most powerful move-
ment is Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a very
powerful social movement made up of
women, which focuses on social justice
issues, takes to the streets where neces-
sary, believes in direct action and is a
national movement that has got sections all
over the country. And then there are other
forms of resistance. There are the civics,
and there's those like ourselves that use
arts and culture in the struggle. We've got
our network Magamba! The Cultural
Activist Network, and we put on different
resistance shows as ways of keeping peo-
ples inspiration high, giving people that
food for resistance. I think there are differ-
ent forms of resistance that happen and no,
its not at all exclusively the MDC.
ZACF: Please tell us a bit about the
regime's methods of repression. How
far does it depend on firearms; how
important is the Chinese connection in
terms of arms trade? Can you confirm
whether or not the infamous arms ship-
ment got through to Zimbabwe?
Biko: The shipment was actually con-
firmed to have been received by a minister
in the regimes cabinet, so the shipment is
in Zimbabwe now. It is also another thing
though that the fascist regime is prepared
to use all means of violence, firearms are
central to that to suppress any resistance.
So firearms are key. Zanu-PF years ago
trained youth militia under the National
Youth Service Training Programme. Those
militia are currently on standby and will be
unleashed after the elections for the
cleansing of activists. What they are using
are the youth structures of their party which
are, by and large, very active in all the var-
ious wards of the country. The police and
the army were the first to perpetrate
repression and violence and this we saw in
the pre-29th March period. Also of signifi-
cance is the large number of activists who
have been murdered, middle layer leaders
within the MDC, who were actually mur-
dered by members of the army during
Operation Command which is in charge of
running the country. The army, the police
and the CIO.
ZACF: What about the repressive forces
receiving training in Korea? Is there
something people in countries like
Korea could do against this?
Biko: It is very key because I'm in fact
aware of a number of (training centres),
particularly in Harare's Milton suburb that
are being used as training centres by not
only Korean but also Chinese military per-
sonnel to train Zanu-PF cadres in methods
of torture. This I can confirm because I've
witnessed it with my own eyes.
ZACF: How long is it actually going to
take to get rid of Mugabe, and what hap-
pens then? A government of national
unity or the MDC? What kind of policies
will such a government adopt? Is there
a danger of a return to neo-liberalism;
and what can be done to resist this?
Biko: Frankly, I am not a firm believer in
parliamentary politics as a tool for the liber-
ation of the working and poor people, so
I'm pretty much indifferent to what is going
to happen after Mugabe because what is
clear to me is that the working and poor
people in Zimbabwe are not ready to take
control of their lives because they have
been brainwashed by the ideology of the
ruling class. The MDC, if assumes in
power ­ which I would say will happen in
the next year or so if people's power and
the resistance is organised properly ­ will
pursue neo-liberal polices. The only posi-
tive thing that I can see about an MDC gov-
ernment is slightly broadened democratic
space, within which I think revolutionary
organisations, activists and movements
can operate much more flexibly to fight
neo-liberalism.
Fatso: One never knows how long it
will take to get rid of Mugabe, but I do
think it's the final days of Zanu-PF. I
don't think they can go on much longer. I
think a form of government of national
unity is what would come about, even
MDC have talked of this; that there is
such polarisation in Zimbabwe that the
MDC alone may not be able to take all the
people with it. So there is likelihood that if
the MDC was to form a government of
them bringing in certain elements of Zanu-
PF, more reformed so-called progressive
elements. There are progressive aspects
to what MDC wants to put in place; they
talk a lot about a people-based economy
and people-centred constitution, but it
needs to be seen in practice because one
problem with Zimbabwe is that there's a big
likelihood that, in a new, independent and
free Zimbabwe, that in order to get foreign
investment a lot of the country and its
resources will be sold off to foreign
investors and foreign corporations.... So I
think that's one think to look out for, and
another is getting into debt. We have a
huge illegitimate foreign debt that we
should not pay. Some of it was incurred by
Rhodesia and the rest was incurred by
Zanu-PF and none of that should be paid
back; its illegitimate. The policies that
should be put in place should be policies
that focus more on social and economic
justice, and I think that if those kind of poli-
cies don't start to be put in place then peo-
ple, because the democratic space would
technically be larger under the MDC one
would hope, people will still have that
knowledge and tradition of the basic strug-
gles for water, the basic struggles for food
that formed a lot of the core struggles dur-
ing our struggle for democracy today and
would hopefully be able to continue the
struggle for social and economic justice. I
don't think it ends with MDC being in
power, I think freedom is never fully
attained and a lot of the movements will
morph into new movements and new
movement will be born and the struggle for
peoples basic socio-economic rights will
continue.
ZACF: What about the role of other
regional and international powers,
such as South Africa, UK, US, and
China? Economic interests, inter-
imperialist rivalries, links to gov-
ernment and opposition?
Biko: Central to efforts by the inter-
national community to resolve the
Zimbabwean crisis has been South
Africa, particularly
Thabo Mbeki's role as the mediator of the
SADC-initiated dialog. Thabo Mbeki I think
is by and large motivated by the South
African state's sub-imperialist interest in
the economy of Zimbabwe. I think also key
to understanding his relationship to Zanu-
PF is the relationship between the ANC, as
a party, to Zanu-PF. We must also under-
stand that Comrade Mbeki, if I might call
him a comrade, was educated ­ or his
education was financed ­ by Zanu-PF, he
was staying in Harare at the hospitality of
Robert Mugabe, and when he goes to meet
Robert Mugabe he meets him as his supe-
rior in terms of the nationalists as a move-
ment. The role of the West and
the UK is motivated by the failure
of the Zanu-PF regime to resolve
the land issue in Zimbabwe and
also the question of ownership of
means of production, which is
central to the struggle. The UK,
as a state, harbors a hope that
they might be able to reverse the
loss of the estates and perhaps
companies or economic interests
in Zimbabwe as a result of
Mugabe's pseudo-leftist parties if
an MDC government comes to
power. The US is an imperialist nation
whose motives around "resolving" interna-
tional problems is purely economic. They
would want to open up the economy of
Zimbabwe to the multinational corporations
that come from that particular state. So
they do not have the interests of the
Zimbabwean people at heart. In terms of
the international community helping with
the resolution of the crisis, it can only be
people-to-people solidarity; poor and work-
ing people, revolutionaries and organisa-
tions ­ similar minded ­ in various coun-
tries all over the world rendering solidarity
to the Zimbabwe people with the interests
of the empowerment of poor and working
people in Zimbabwe.
ZACF: What can you say about Thabo
Mbeki, and do you think that Jacob
Zuma will be any better when he comes
to power?
Biko: The relationship with the
Zimbabwean state if Zanu-PF is in power
will clearly be acrimonious because Jacob
Zuma appears to be the new favourite pup-
pet of the West in light of his ability to hood-
wink the trade unions ­ Cosatu as a move-
ment ­ into supporting him. It has become
clear I think to most of the imperialists that
Jacob Zuma has the popular support of the
people, but he is clearly another puppet in
terms of his relations with companies, the
capitalists, and arms dealers, and he won't
have anything to offer the people of
Zimbabwe, the ordinary masses; but he will
be, after Mbeki, the imperialists' next
favourite puppet in terms of how their
strategies are implemented within the
Southern African region.
ZACF: In terms of international solidari-
ty, what can we do? Who is helping in
SA and elsewhere? For example stop-
ping the weapons shipment...
Biko: The transportation workers union I
think signaled the direction that workers
need to take, unlike what we have seen ­
even though Cosatu has been militant at
times ­ but we have seen a lot of talk-
shops around what's going on in
Zimbabwe. But I think concrete action
along the lines of what Satawu did in
stopping the shipment of arms is the
next direction.
Fatso: I think a lot of Zimbabwean people
were very empowered by the regional
solidarity that came about from the civics
especially in South Africa around the
arms issue, Cosatuaffiliated trade
unions refusing to offload, refusing to
transport the shipment. The South
African Litigations Centre taking the
boat to court. I think
that was very powerful civic solidarity; the
South African government had nothing to
do with it. That was showing how social
movements and civics can be a powerful
force for good within society. So I think
actions like that where social movements
take the forefront, don't wait for govern-
mental action, I think that's important.
ZACF: Any comments on the recent so-
called xenophobic pogroms in South
Africa? Anything about Zimbabweans
who fled the pogroms back across the
Limpopo? How significant is this from
a Zimbabwean point of view and what
does it say about the South African gov-
ernment and people?
Biko: Firstly I'd like to register my under-
standing of the fundamental causes of the
xenophobic attacks, which I think are pri-
marily rooted in the rate of unemployment
in South Africa, which is a direct result of
the capitalist economic structure that the
South African state is pursuing, and also
the artificial food shortages which are cre-
ated by the global capitalist complex in
order to initiate a hike in prices. I think
those particular causes resonate with the
situation obtaining in Zimbabwe and do
point to us having a common enemy, which
is capitalism. It is particularly disappoint-
ing, though, that the xenophobic attacks
also point towards and indicate to us the
lack of understanding of each other's
struggles that we as working people face,
which we have to overcome in order to be
able to overcome the system. The impact
of people fleeing the xenophobic attacks
and coming back to Zimbabwe has on one
hand the effect of bolstering the vote of the
MDC, because clearly those people are people who are
disaffected by the Zanu-PF regime.
But it has also tragi cally had the effect of
worsening their plight because the violence that did
obtain in that short period in South Africa is incompara-
ble to the violence being perpetrated by the Zanu-PF regime
back home, and these people are primary targets
because most of them did flee after some resistance
activities and it is like throwing these
activists back into the lion's den, and this is
the tragedy of our situation.
ZACF: There are rumours that MDC
agents could actually have acted as
provocateurs and brought about these
attacks in order to cause Zimbabweans
to flee back home and therefore bolster
their support during the elections. Do
you think this is a possibility, or do you
think it's the South African government
trying to divert responsibility?
Biko: While I cannot really comment with
confidence about what really happened in
South Africa as I was in Zimbabwe, I am
inclined to believe that third force con-
spiracies are really something to drive us
away from the responsibility that the
ANC government has towards the poor
and working people in South Africa which
is the fundamental cause. Like I said
before, the MDC is actually a cocktail of
ideologies and is a party that cuts across
class; most of the influential people in the
MDC are not really pro-working people so
it is actually possible that people whose
interests do not lie with the working people
might be able to have their buddies to influ-
ence this. But I would much rather focus
on the role that the polices pursued by the
ANC government have had on the xeno-
phobic attacks.
ZACF: What role do you think national-
ism might have played in these attacks?
Biko: Capital is globalised, the capitalist in
Joburg is able to send huge amounts of
money to Harare in seconds whereas the
people's movement is restricted by these
borders, and that people are forced to
recognise these ideological constructs lim-
ited to the ruling classes' propaganda with
these geographical zones. I think that has
been key to shaping the thoughts that we
have seen manifest in this very tragic way
during the xenophobic attacks. And I think
that our role as progressives and revolu-
tionaries is then to try to share the ideas
that we uphold of a world that has no bor-
ders, and I think that is the way forward in
addressing xenophobia across the world.
ZACF: Any messages to the internation-
al anarchist movement? Any appeals or
suggestions for how the international
anarchist movement can support the
struggle in Zimbabwe and help the
advancement of anarchist ideas there?
Biko: Firstly, ahoy comrades and we
appreciate the efforts that the movement
has been receiving so far. We as the
Uhuru Network have significantly benefited
from our relationship with the ZACF in
terms of the literature that we have man-
aged to get and also the experiences that
we share with com rades. Currently the
realisation that we need to remind each
other that the anarchist movement is a
very small movement within the
broader leftist movement but also within
the pro-democracy movement, and that
our true anarchist comrades are at
risk, especially when we have levels or
repression such as are obtaining in
Zimbabwe. We need to constantly
communicate, interact, share experi-
ences and also information about
actions happening because when shit hits
the fan it is only an anarchist that will be
able to give appropriate solidarity to a fel-
low anarchist comrade.
_________________________________________
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