The struggle for emancipation by the Zimbabwean workers has its roots in the happening of the late 19th Century. After obtaining the Rudd concession the whites did not stop but rushed to obtain the royal charter from the Queen of England. If one reads this colonial document together with the Rudd concession they would realise that it was these documents that stripped the Zimbabwean people of their right to own resources and turned them into labourers. The 1893 and 1896 rebellions were efforts by our ancestor to reject being reduced into second class citizens.
THE First Chimurenga was not only a fascinating protest and African struggle and rallying against colonialism but a rejection of the colonial socio-economic system. However due to superiority of fire power we lost and the whole nation was turn into a reserve of labourer for the emerging Rhodesian state.
The Africans were forced into tribal trust land while the whites not only took the best farming lands but also began to fashion out an industry, because of harsh economic conditions in the reserves blacks found no choice but to turn to the whites for wage labour. Gradually a new type of African man who depended on wage labour emerged. To keep the Africans coming the whites not only treated these workers as subhuman but offered them very low wages. As early as 1910 the Afrikans began to organise themselves to challenge not only the low wages but the whole ideas of having to be treated as subhuman yet they were the means by which the white economy grew. In 1914, the Matabele National Home Movement became vocal in denouncing plans to reduce the size of reserves which was a means to further impoverish the Afrikans so that they could provide cheap labour to the white.
In 1922, there was a referendum on whether to have ties with South Africa but only 60 out of the 900 000 African workers and their families were eligible to vote. In response, Abraham Twala, a Zulu Anglican teacher wrote: “Experience has taught us that our salvation does not lie in Downing Street.” Surprising that it’s now over 100 years and yet we the Afrikan workers are still yoked to the same forces that forced Twala to sound these words of protest. Experience should be teaching us that our salvation does not lie at the factory door but it lies in parliament. Experience should be teach us that our salvation does not lie at the tripartite negotiating table but lies in the August house that fashion the laws.
Our predecessors realised that and they began to rally behind the ideas of revolutionary men like Twala. Twala went on to form the Rhodesian Bantu Voters’ Association. The Federation of Bulawayo African Workers’ Union led by Jasper Savanhu and the African Workers’ Voice Association led by Benjamin Burombo and other nationalist movements continued to gather momentum. These Zimbabwean forerunners of the workers movement organised being pushed by the realisation that a cry for better wages was not the solution. Instead they realised that the solution was to take over the seat of power. Their quest though disguised as a struggle for the right to vote was aimed at taking over government so that they could place the plight of the Zimbabwean worker in the hands of the workers themselves.
Meanwhile the Zimbabwean society at the hands of the colonialist continued to evolve especially because of the post Land Apportionment Act dislodgments (post-1930); the Land Husbandry Act (1951); urbanisation; the developments of the Federal era where the politics of ‘racial partnership’ of the United Federal Party (UFP) regime increasingly wedged the gap between ‘modern’ Africans
(the ‘Master farmers’, the educated elites and other groups of middle-class Africans) and ‘traditional’, poor (mainly rural dwellers) Africans. An array of taxes including the hut tax, effected in 1894, dog tax, cattle tax, among others and forced labour on farms, forests and mines and other forms of slavery continued to inspired our worker ancestors to take the fight to parliament.
White colonial repression continued to mount while a disguise of racial harmony was advocated and dangled by the proponents of racial partnership.
The objective was to pacify the workers’ quest for self-determination and to emerge new African elites to bridge the racial divide but playing second fiddle to the white liberals. The idea was to divert and subvert the gains of the noble workers’ revolution while perpetuation white supremacy and entrenching the hold of capitalists on the political and political power. Experience surely should have taught us that agents of capital never allies of the workers’ revolution. Experience should have taught us that the war is not won by piecemeal concessions or negotiated settlements.
In 1945, the first major offensive by workers occurred Zimbabwean Railways workers downed tools bringing that sector to a standstill. The same year the African National Congress (ANC) was revived under the leadership of Reverend Thompson Samkange giving rise vibrant worker revolutionaries like Benjamin Burombo taking the colonialists head on. In 1951 the Native Land Husbandry Act which forced rural families to reduce their cattle herds and change land tenure practices was introduced to cow down the workers’ efforts.
In August 1955 the workers’ revolutionary crescendo took a pitch higher when four young workers, James Chikerema, George Nyandoro, Edson Sithole and Dunduza Chisiza formed the City Youth League which later changed to the African National Youth League (ANYL). This grouping later emerged as political and military leaders bend on and propelled by the desire to see the total emancipations of the Zimbabwean workers.
Feeling the heat, the settlers declared a State of Emergency in 1959. The ANC which had taken over was banned with 500 of its members getting arrested and 300 detained. The unrelenting worker formed the National Democratic Party (NDP) on January 1 1960 with an interim executive of Michael Mawena who was the president of the party, deputised by Morton Malianga. On July 19 1960, three members of the NDP were arrested and these were Mawema, Leopold Takawira and Samkange. They were sentenced to five years imprisonment or pay fines of 1 000 pounds each. In the backdrop of all this, the NDP was banned in December 1961, three days after the 1961 Constitution was put into effect.
On December 171961, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) was formed, 10 days after the banning of NDP. Joshua Nkomo was president while Samuel Parirenyatwa was the Vice President, Ndabaningi Sithole, chairman, Jason Moyo, was treasurer, Robert Mugabe was information and publicity secretary and Takawira was external secretary, at the request of Joseph Msika. The following year, ZAPU was banned but this time there was no stopping the popular movement. On August 8 1963 ZANU formed leading to the execution of the war which was eventually won by blacks.
From this time on things began to change. The whites realised how determined the workers were especially with the liberation of Malawi and Zambia. They entrenched their hold on Zimbabwe declaring UDI in 1965. The majority of the leaders of the workers’ revolution were put behind bars. It also became clear to the workers that they had to take up arms. In 1966 our forerunners sought arms and began a protracted war which lasted until 1980. This war threatened the whole capitalist fabric which the whites had created. Our detractors became wiser. The capitalists slowly began to sneak into our struggle their agents. Men and women who had been groomed to take over and subvert the revolution. The top leadership of our political and military wing were then captured by agents of imperialism and capital who were given top government posts at independence.
Instead of giving up they devised ways to subvert the struggle. Using their handler, Anglo American Corporation they began to penetrate our struggle and persuaded us to the negotiating table. In 1979 during the famous Lancaster House conference they tricked us into thinking that we had won. In 1980 they sent a Lord Sormes to come and preside over a paper independence. We rejoiced thinking we had won only to realise later that the real core of production was still in their hands and we remained the same. Workers! Experience should have taught us that independence is no independence without owning all aspects of the production system.
We, the workers (students, farmers, traders, citizens in diaspora and citizens of the Republic of Zimbabwe) realise that Zimbabwe is our land and here by commit to take charge of the social, economic, environmental and political processes that enable this country to go forward. Unfortunately, because of naivety, greed and corruption we created divisions among our ranks and let our erstwhile enemies creep back in and subvert the revolution.
As a result all arms of government remain captured by agents of capital and neo-colonialism and they have through the years systematically undermined the people’s government. For them perpetuate control they continue to lead an onslaught on wage labour reducing all workers and citizens into destitution.
The case of the Zimbabwean worker today is a sad story which has seen over 80% of the working class living below the living wage. The remainder of Zimbabwean workers were forced to seek economic refugee in foreign lands where they not only sell their labour cheaply but work under conditions which can be referred to as modern day slavery. These gallant sons and daughters of the Zimbabwean soil are riling under xenophobic attacks in countries like South Afrika and Botswana.
To make matters worse the agents of imperialism stripped Zimbabwe of its national dignity by taking away its investment power the Zimbabwean dollar. Without a local currency Zimbabwe is not able to create meaningful wealth to cause economic growth. In the year 1999 we the workers formed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to try to avert a looming economic crisis. Unfortunately the neo-colonialists saw through our vision and sneaked into our ranks and again diverted our revolutionary efforts.
Instead of championing the cause of the citizens the MDC is now working to advance the interests of our former colonisers. This has been evidenced by its call for the imposition of sanctions on our motherland and the creation of an atmosphere of political intolerance and hate. It is also sad to realise that despite having given birth to MDC we, the workers and citizens no longer have a voice in the movement.