Pressure is mounting on Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe after a coup by the army last Wednesday (15 November). After he held back from announcing his resignation in a speech on Sunday night, Mugabe was set to face impeachment proceedings on Monday.
The leadership of the ruling Zanu PF party on Sunday expelled Mugabe and his wife Grace, who he had hoped to succeed him. They replaced Mugabe as party leader with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
This ascendant faction within Zanu PF, backed by the military, now hopes to install Mnangagwa as president. Up to 30,000 people were out on the streets of the capital Harare last Saturday celebrating the possibility that Mugabe’s days were numbered.
The military backed the demonstration to put pressure on Mugabe, and some of the slogans reflected that. There were placards reading “Not coup but cool” and “Zimbabwe Army – voice of the people”.
But ordinary people had their own reasons to march. The working class has suffered under Robert Mugabe’s repressive regime, and Grace Mugabe is hated for the family’s lavish lifestyle while ordinary people languish in poverty.
The International Socialist Organisation (ISO) was on the demonstration. One ISO member told Socialist Worker, “The demonstration was attended by all ages though mainly the youth and all races in Zimbabwe. The masses were all united. When we left town there were street parties taking place, a sense of celebration even though Mugabe has not yet gone”.
They added, “The army generals are seeking to limit and control the radicalisation of the masses”.
This has to be an opportunity to topple the regime, not replace Mugabe with Mnangagwa and the military.
A spiralling economic crisis in Zimbabwe has come to a head in the last few weeks. Mnangagwa’s answer is to open up the economy to international capital and push through more free market reforms. He thinks Mugabe did not capitulate enough to neoliberalism.
Mnangagwa also wants to normalise relations with the West. That’s why former colonial power Britain is gloating at Mugabe’s misfortune – and it would happily work with a new military-backed regime.
The ISO described him as “the darling of the capitalists, white farmers, British and Chinese imperialists”.
“Mnangagwa is the Zanu PF hardman, the face of the Deep State – the junta that has ruled Zimbabwe for the last decade”, it said in a leaflet on the demonstration.
“As Mnangagwa himself admitted it was him and the generals who saved Zanu PF after their defeat by Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] in the March 2008 election. They organised a scorched earth policy in which hundreds of opposition fighter were killed.”
It added, “Mugabe has failed and he must go, but the working class must not be used by the elites to replace with a neoliberal monster alternative”.
Sections of the ruling class are now pushing for a “grand coalition” of the Mnangagwa’s faction, the military and the MDC. While founded by the trade unions to oppose Mugabe, the MDC now supports neoliberalism.
The Zimbabwean working class will have to assert independent demands to avoid this danger.
The ISO member said, “We’re discussing how we can further broaden the issues and include workers’ demands. And we’re putting forward the idea of calling for a general strike”.
The working class in Zimbabwe has previously shown its power. Wielding it again could topple Mugabe – and go much further and get rid of the whole rotten regime.
First published at www.SocialistWorker.co.uk