[Marxism] COSATU Ponders How Hard to Press Mugabe

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 11 12:07:58 MDT 2008

(It's unusual for the Wall Street Journal to speak so enthusiastically
about trade unions and about a Communist Party, but here is the WSJ
doing exactly that. Maybe Wall Street has changed and has now gotten
really serious and concerned about the Zimbabwean people today?) 

"Mugabe is a monster who kills his own people. The way [to deal with
him] is to strike the artery keeping his regime alive," says Blade
Nzimande, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party.
The party and Cosatu make up the left wing of the ANC.

Powerful South African Labor Group Ponders How Hard to Press Mugabe

By MARGARET COKER July 9, 2008; Page A8

BEITBRIDGE, South Africa -- As the United Nations Security Council
weighs sanctions against Zimbabwe, a powerful group already squeezing
President Robert Mugabe is divided on whether to unleash more of its
economic leverage against his regime.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, or Cosatu, a
1.8-million-member organization and a key political base within South
Africa's ruling African National Congress party, has for a decade
engaged in low-volume protests against Mr. Mugabe. This spring,
public opinion in South Africa swung further in Cosatu's direction
when port workers, members of one of the group's 21 affiliates,
blocked a Chinese ship laden with arms for landlocked Zimbabwe from
offloading the weapons in South Africa. Other African countries
quickly supported the action, forcing the ship back to China.

The action, along with the violence of this year's Zimbabwean
election campaign, pushed the ANC to take a public stand against
Zimbabwe's leader for the first time. That shift left South Africa's
President Thabo Mbeki alone in his support for his longtime friend.

Despite that victory, Cosatu is balking at a broader economic
embargo. Its radical wing has pushed for shutting down the border
crossing here in Beitbridge, a low-slung, muddy town on the Limpopo
River that is one of the busiest trade corridors in southern Africa.

South Africa is Zimbabwe's biggest trading partner, and Zimbabwe
receives approximately 65% of its imports through Beitbridge. Much of
Zimbabwe's exports -- platinum and gold -- heads toward world markets
through the crossing. Union leaders say a blockade here could deny
Zimbabwe its main source of much-needed foreign exchange. That could
cripple the government and bring about Mr. Mugabe's downfall.

But union leaders also worry that such an action could backfire. Some
of their union colleagues in Zimbabwe were rounded up and jailed
during the arms-shipment standoff. Retaliation by Mr. Mugabe against
Zimbabwe's workers and opposition supporters could be more severe if
any South Africa union action started to bite.

"We regard ourselves as a revolutionary trade union in regard to
social and trade issues. Zimbabwe, for us, is a moral issue," says
Randall Howard, the secretary general of South Africa's Transport
Workers Union. The group is the Cosatu affiliate whose workers led
the April port strike in Durban that stranded the Chinese ship. "But
blockades, sanctions?" Mr. Howard adds. That's "a complex situation."

South African domestic political considerations are also at play.
Jacob Zuma, whom Cosatu members helped elect as the new ANC president
late last year, has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Mugabe, in marked
contrast to Mr. Mbeki, whom Mr. Zuma beat in the party race.

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of a runoff
with Mr. Mugabe last month, citing violence and intimidation. His
party, the Movement for Democratic Change, says government supporters
killed 110 of its members. Mr. Mugabe blamed the opposition for the

After Mr. Mugabe declared victory, the African Union, a political
alliance of African states, called on him to share power with Mr.
Tsvangirai. The two have agreed to negotiate, but each wants to be
named the senior member of any unity accord.

Western diplomats, who say they will recognize only a government led
by Mr. Tsvangirai, are now scrambling for a way to force out Mr.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years. A draft Security Council
resolution under consideration would slap sanctions against him and
13 senior members of his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
Front party and the heads of his security forces. The measures would
bolster a three-year-old U.S. travel and economic ban against 120
ZANU-PF members.

But some persuasive voices inside South Africa are calling on the
country's trade unions to take matters into their own hands in order
to force Mr. Mugabe out of power.

"Mugabe is a monster who kills his own people. The way [to deal with
him] is to strike the artery keeping his regime alive," says Blade
Nzimande, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party.
The party and Cosatu make up the left wing of the ANC.

Mr. Craven says the union would adopt stronger actions toward
Zimbabwe if colleagues at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions asked
for their help. So far, the ZCTU has stayed silent on the issue of an
economic blockade, as has Mr. Tsvangirai, himself a former union

The ZCTU is holding a general meeting July 12 to discuss future
strategies, according to Lovemore Matombo, the umbrella group's
president. Meanwhile, Mr. Matombo awaits trial on sedition charges,
scheduled for July 30. He was arrested during the Chinese-arms

Although Zimbabweans didn't plan the embargo, they supported it.
Speaking in a telephone interview from Harare, Mr. Matombo said that
many of his members are too brutalized by Zimbabwean forces to
organize effectively. That is why he will push his group to support
stronger international intervention, despite the short-term pain that
a blockade or other action could cause to Zimbabwe's poor.

"We are beaten and defenseless. It's up to the international
community to help us," says Mr. Matombo. "It's very significant what
Cosatu is doing. I'd call on them not just to close [Beitbridge]
once, but keep it closed."

     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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