Mike Sambo of the Zimbabwean International Socialist Organisation (ISO) spoke to Ken Olende about the current crisis in the country. Mike was visiting Britain for the Marxism 2008 festival.
How does the current inflation affect ordinary people?
The rate of inflation is now at five million percent. The minimum wage is around 100 billion dollars. That won’t pay for transport to work, let alone rent and food.
And you can forget about schools fees or medical bills.
The ISO is pushing for workers to be paid in the South African rand.
Some companies already do this for their managers, but it is workers who are really suffering.
What is the situation after the run-on election? [NB This interview took place before Zanu-PF and MDC went into official talks]
Even after claiming victory in the recent election President Robert Mugabe has no solution to the economic crisis and is desperate to cling to office.
He might turn to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to try and get Western sanctions lifted.
He has yet to form his cabinet and his tone has softened to the opposition.
He has released from jail the MDC’s secretary general Tendai Biti and the two remaining Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) leaders.
So he might be looking to negotiate, but he might also try to proceed as things were before. Or he might go for a military government.
During the election period he appointed military personnel to run all the government departments.
Though Mugabe doesn’t want to die in office, he is afraid to step down.
He fears the international courts might prosecute him for atrocities in the early 1980s in Matabeleland if someone he doesn’t trust replaces him.
His military leaders are people who he has worked with closely.
That is where his power lies, so he may choose to rely on them, though that would leave him otherwise very isolated.
While there have been calls in the West for sanctions against Zimbabwe, no one should support them. More sanctions will mean more poverty.
The West says it is targeting high cabinet officials, but it is the poor who are hit.
The government and the rich still go shopping in Dubai. In the capital Harare you still see very expensive cars driving around. Mugabe himself recently bought a new bulletproof limousine.
In Britain we hear a lot about calls for military intervention. What do people in Zimbabwe think about this?
After the disaster of Iraq, few on the left internationally think Western intervention would be a good idea. But worryingly there are some in Zimbabwe who disagree.
There is even a popular song among MDC supporters that goes, “Saddam is gone, Mugabe is next.” They think the same method that ousted Saddam Hussein will free us from Mugabe.
They hope for intervention because they are exhausted. They think invaders will only attack Zanu-PF.
But on the left we know that the people who welcomed the US troops as liberators in Somalia in 1993 soon came to hate them as they shot ordinary people.
So, What kind of resistance is needed?
Mugabe is a great pretender, who speaks left and acts right.
The truth is he only rediscovered his left voice when he was faced with the threat of the MDC in 2000.
Before that he hadn't talked left since the early 1980s. He was happy with the imperialists when he was imposing their structural adjustment programme and getting a knighthood.
To bring real change we need to regroup all the social movements in a united front with the MDC itself, so that we initiate a process of civil disobedience and a rejection of Mugabe’s presidency.
If the MDC comes to power the Western-imposed sanctions will be removed.
Also there will be a space for democratic organisations.
Groups like Woza bring together all the people who are fighting for their rights.
If they become united such forces can be a very great force in challenging Mugabe.
A People’s Convention in February brought many organisations together.
Unfortunately some of the leading people in it subordinated themselves to the MDC’s election strategy.
Now I think they will come back to work around the people’s charter, which was launched from the convention.
The ISO is intervening by putting demands on the leadership of the movement.
The two we plan to concentrate on are a new democratic people-driven constitution and a national minimum wage that is linked to inflation.
We know that if we get Mugabe out of office we will still have a real fight on our hands – the MDC’s neoliberal leadership are not friends of the workers.
The role of socialists and trade unionists in Britain is very important.
Whenever comrades in Zimbabwe are attacked or arrested, your messages have an effect.
I can’t tell you how important even small donations are to us.
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