Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi’s unhinged, incendiary attack on the judiciary, particularly Judge President George Chiweshe, a perceived securocrat stalwart thought to be allied to a Zanu PF faction loyal to vice president Constantino Chiwenga, reflects a qualitative change in the elite factional and tribal fights in the junta – increasingly approximating the levels of 2017.
Between on the one hand the tribalised Lacoste faction (around an emerging Midlands-centred Karanga elite aristocracy. Which is trying to lure into an alliance, as junior partners, other historically aggrieved sections of the anti-colonial nationalist movement, namely Karanga elites from Masvingo and sections of the ex-ZIPRA, ZAPU and Ndebele elites-the so-called South-South Alliance).
And on the other, a tribalised Chiwenga-led securocrat grouping supported by the hitherto dominant and entrenched Zezuru elite aristocracy that faces displacement by the Karanga elite aristocracy.
Ziyambi’s inflammatory statement discloses the Lacoste faction’s panic over a re-emerging cross-party elite alliance of the military- state-judicial and opposition elites backed by imperialist powers that were the framework that facilitated the November 2017 coup.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s crude drive for a tribalised and regionalised imperial life presidency in Constitutional Amendment No. 2, perceived brazen corruption of the First family, its cronies especially in the cartels and the now year-long unrelenting savage attacks on the MDC Alliance have created the basis for this emerging anti-Mnangagwa elite alliance, for now playing out in the judiciary, especially the High Court.
Underlying all this as in 2017, is an unresolved, deepening economic crisis and huge austerity attacks on workers, youths, the poor and lower-middle classes. For now, it remains an intra-ruling class, middle class inspired and driven conflict, which may potentially lead to another military intervention as in the November 2017 coup. Or fizzle out if the junta elites find one another.
And in which the opposition middle class elites will again be played to provide a popular face to save a regime in terminal crisis as in November 2017 or the 2009 Government of National Unity (GNU). And cry afterwards. But what may be different from November 2017 is the role of the working class and urban youths. In 2017 they were naive pawns used by the middle elites across the political divide.
But today, they have learnt from that bitter experience. And most importantly the unrelenting and unmitigated neoliberal austerity war on them under finance minister Mthuli Ncube, especially the U.S. dollar wage debauchery theft in a dollarised economy has radicalised the working classes and youths. And improved their potential unity.
As shown by the unprecedented walkout from the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) by disparate labour federations following their joint unions Wage Summit, including those historically sympathetic to the regime. The current deepening intra-elite fights can potentially develop into a wider inter-class social political conflict with revolutionary implications, if the working class and youth move in as a separate and independent force.
The present situation will dramatically change if the working classes and youths seize the moment and enter into the equation – adding their economic anti-austerity class demands to the democratic ones already at play around the retirement of Malaba and Amendment No. 2. No other class under capitalism possesses the same level of social weight and power and capacity to unite all oppressed classes against oppression and exploitation as the working class.
This is the lesson of Sudan 2019, Malawi 2020, Egypt, 2011 and Zimbabwe, January 2019 and December 1997. And of course, most important historically, the 1917 Revolutions in Russia. And the most critical demand that today motivates and inspires workers across federations, politics, unioinisation, gender or tribe is that of restoration of the September 2018 U.S. dollar salaries and pensions.
This supported by demands for the return of all kombis. And 100 percent U.S. dollar payments for all small tobacco, cotton, maize rural farmers and artisanal miners as the economy has dollarised. And an immediate moratorium on all school, college, university tuition and exam fees for the coming second term.
United action, including protests, boycotts, general strikes and national shutdowns, organised around these demands and led by a united front led by workers, can win widespread support and dramatically change the current situation. Forget 2023, the regime will not reform itself out of power as previously stated by one of its former ideologues. Peoples power is the solution.
But the pre-condition to avoid a repetition of November 2017 is the independent class action, organisation and leadership of the resistance by a united front led by the advanced workers supported by the radical youths.
Such united and immediate intervention by the working class and youths can decisively change and transform the current escalating intra-elite fights into a revolutionary inter-class economic and political struggle and correct the mistakes of November 2017. Are the advanced workers and youths ready to take up this historic challenge?
Munyaradzi Gwisai is a leading member of the International Socialist Organisation and a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Zimbabwe. Views expressed are personal.