Monday, February 18, 2008
Zimbabwe People's Convention offers hope of grassroots resistance
by Munyaradzi Gwisai, International Socialist Organisation, Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwe People’s Convention met last week. It was attended by nearly 4,000 delegates from civic groups, trade unions, the Zimbabwe Social Forum and the left.
Hopefully this event will be compared to the 1999 Working People’s Convention, which led to the founding of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The MDC became the main opposition to Robert Mugabe’s regime, but it is increasingly conservative – accepting the West’s neoliberal agenda.
Up until September 2007 all opposition groups agreed that there could not be a fair election without a new constitution. Then in September, the two competing MDC groups that now exist reached an agreement with the ruling Zanu-PF party to accept a slight amendment to the constitution.
Civil society was chilled to the marrow. Many felt the MDC had abandoned them.
They demanded talks with MDC leaders. The People’s Convention was planned as a report back on this process, but the MDC refused to shift.
So the convention became dominated by debates on what to do next. This discussion was the basis for a People’s Charter.
The International Socialist Organisation was involved in drafting the section on the economy. The key element was to oppose the neoliberal agenda.
Mugabe has called elections for 29 March. The convention passed a resolution not to accept any election without a people-driven constitution.
However, wealthy NGOs and trade unions that support the MDC tried to get the convention to accept that even if the elections were illegitimate people should still vote as a protest. There was enormous pressure to support this.
Hundreds of delegates took over the hall in protest, singing and demanding mass action as the way forward.
A compromise was agreed. The convention decided not to issue advice on voting in illegitimate elections. Individual organisations will make their own decisions.
We agreed to organise a national demonstration before the March elections.
The People’s Convention sets the foundations for a people-driven alternative solution to the crisis of Zimbabwe. This is a huge opportunity.