Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Samora Machel: Why we must keep remembering 19 October 1986.

Samora Machel
‘International Solidarity is not an act of charity: It is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objective. The foremost of these objectives is to aid the development of humanity to the highest level possible.’-Samora Machel (September 29, 1933 – October 19, 1986)

On 19 October 1986, exactly thirty years ago today, Samora Machel, the revolutionary leader of Mozambique’s independence was murdered by the apartheid South Africa government.

The anniversary of Samora Machel’s assassination at the hands of apartheid South Africa should make progressive minded people look back at history and be reminded that there is still massive struggle to be waged. Samora Machel is inspirational on those of us who still hope and fight for a socialist world which will be based on free education, healthcare, shelter, economic and environmental justice…as well as serious wars on corruption, dictatorship, capitalism and poverty. This is what’s on my mind as I commemorate thirty years after the assassination of the poison of Samora Machel.

I have been to Mozambique three times, twice in 2013 and once in 2014; on two of these occasions I was attending the International Peasants’ Conference on Land. The conferences were hosted by the National Union of Mozambican Peasants (UNAC) in Maputo. On the other occasion I was passing through Tete Province on my way to attend the SADC Peoples’ Summit in Malawi.

The days in Maputo were very inspirational, due to both the fighting spirit and courage of the Mozambican people as well as the historical significance of Maputo, as evidenced even the street names and statues in the capital of the nation.

The writer at Beira International Airport, , Octber 2013
I was also fascinated because being a socialist myself, I was curious to observe how one of the most socialist nations in Africa at the time of its independence from fascist Portuguese rule in 1975, had fared through the years to 2013/4. The nation had gone through a brutal civil war and the economic onslaught of the international financial institutions as well as the rising threats of Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian investments in plantations and coal and gas mines.

As I see the investments projects that were apparently leaving behind the majority of the Mozambicans and enriching the political and economic elites, I couldn’t help wondering if the Mozambique struggle hadn’t been long betrayed. Then I realised that almost all African nationalists fought colonialism and imperialism on the premise of establishing just, socialist Pan-African societies that would be in perpetual solidarity with other oppressed nations around the world. But that is a struggle betrayed.

 The struggle for a more just and equal world has long since been betrayed in Mozambique itself, Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa. It is however up to progressive minds to continue fighting for a more just and equal future for the impoverished masses of the African people. The choice now is socialism.

[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Prof Jonathan Moyo and the ZIMDEF scandal: The arrogance of being ethically ignorant.

Prof Jonathan Moyo (Newsday)
Professor Jonathan Moyo has been the top newsmaker this October. He has employed breath-taking arrogance via social media and at the Madziwa Teachers’ College graduation ceremony trying to dismiss mounting allegations of corruption and unethical conduct on his part as Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development. The main focus was on allegations of abuse of power and of outright looting by the Minister as the trustee of the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF). With reports that he is being investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission over misuse of ZIMDEF’s US$430 000, the Minister has arrogantly given statements to the effect that either the money misused either too little or had been used to fund national events. The last straw he has clutched at, was in very publicly likening himself to Robin Hood, indicating that he was taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
The Robin Hood angle has been overplayed
A shot from a Robin Hood film
As said before, in one of his defences, the Minister likened himself to the fictional character Robin Hood. Robin Hood, an historic English outlaw who was great at archery and would rob the rich to give to the poor, is a great character when it comes to the political discourse on distribution of wealth. Unfortunately for the Minister, his deputy Godfrey Gandawa and the latter’s phony company Fuzzy Technologies which is at the centre of the alleged misuse of public funds, Robin stole from the rich. The ZIMDEF fund from which the Minister and his accomplices stole from is by no means a fund for the rich, rather it is a fund meant to, among other things which are associated with the development of poor students and apprentices, provide for and promote the research, planning and development of human resources. At least these are some of the objectives outlined in the Manpower Planning and Development Act [Chapter 28:02].
Arrogance and Ignorance
It is surprising how ‘big’ people in Zimbabwe can be arrogant when they are so ignorant about ethics. Zimbabwe does not have a leadership code and the progressive 1984 Zanu Pf Leadership Code has long since been so violated that it has now become an empty code. But that is no excuse for the arrogance being displayed by Ministers when they are found with their hands in the public coffers. Some have allegedly stolen money from parastatals, bought the latest cars and called it pocket money; others have built extravagant houses and yet others have stayed in hotels whilst dismissing good houses and whilst their own voters, workers and supporters continue to live in slums and badly-serviced neighbourhoods.
Despite all these shenanigans, very few serious investigations have been conducted. This sends wrong signals and office holders in Zimbabwe seem to feel that stealing from state coffers is tolerable by both law enforcement agents and the generality of the mases. Hence it is important that the public, activists, media, opposition and law enforcement agencies be vigilant and treat the ZIMDEF case with the seriousness it deserves.
Factionalism or not, government perpetrators must face the music
It is a play on the intelligence of the Zimbabwean people when public office holders hide behind their own political party infightings to brush aside allegation of abuse of public funds. The current trend by Zanu PF ministers of blaming factionalism whilst ignoring the serious charges they face is becoming nauseating. We do not care about the factional politics in the ruling party, we are concerned when the people we entrust with public office and public resources abuse the same resources and the same duties with impunity.
 Whilst every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Prof Moyo and his colleagues must not play hide and seek games with the law. To quote a line from New York Times to Donald Trump recently, it is time that we welcome the opportunity for the unethical views and arrogance of the Minister and his colleagues to be made right by a court of law. We also welcome the chance for the same courts to correct the Minister’s arrogance and ethical ignorance and to show him and his accomplices the correct ways, holders of public office and public funds, are supposed to follow.

 [Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]

Monday, 10 October 2016

Mine Workers in Zimbabwe: A forgotten and divided force in the environmental justice movement.

Mine workers at a Zimbabwean mine (AFP)
Mine workers around the world have been known for occasionally rising up in powerful resistance against the cruel power of naked capitalism. From the 1985 Coal Miners Strike in the United Kingdom to the 2012 Lonmin Marikana wage strike by platinum miners and the 2015 strike by gold miner’s families in Gwanda, these workers highlighted their potential for solidarity and defence of their dignity as human beings.

Zimbabwe, as a resource-rich nation, is beginning to make strides towards an alignment of the forces fighting for labour justice with the ones fighting for environmental justice. In the past, the local environmental justice movement has gained momentum but the disconnect between labour and environmental justice has been noticeable. It goes without saying that the lack of cohesion between such forces was a threat to the promise for a sustainable future for humanity.

Furthermore, mine workers in Zimbabwe continue to be organised (or disorganised) within too many trade unions and these are ostensibly at loggerheads with each other. At the moment mine workers are organised into the National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (NMWUZ), Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (AMWUZ) and the Zimbabwe Diamond Workers Union (ZIDAWU). NMWUZ is an affiliate of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) whilst ZIDAWU was formed in August 2012 and registered as a trust.

Historically, mine workers in Zimbabwe through these many trade unions, were focusing on mere wage struggles and were not greatly concerned the environmental or the degradation caused by their labour power. However, there is usually some connection when mine workers fight for occupational health and safety (OHS) since OHS issues are environmental justice issues as well as well as labour rights.

The major problems facing mine workers in Zimbabwe were recently articulated by the National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe during the 2016 Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI) organised by public interest law group, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA).

The major cause of mining accidents are shoddy environmental protection and rehabilitation policies by profit-seeking mining companies. Hence injuries and fatalities in Zimbabwe’s mines are usually due to poor engineering designs in functional mine and poor rehabilitation of disused mines , leading to the death of ‘illegal’ miners. Workers are exposed to dust, silica and harmful chemicals like mercury as well as being forced to work in claustrophobic shafts with poor lighting, poor ventilation and poor water pumping systems.

The effects of these environmental and economic injustices and labour violations paint the dire picture shown in the tables below:  

Table 1: Percentage Distribution of Injured Persons by Age Group, 2013 (Source: NSSA/NMWUZ)
10 – 14 Years
15 – 19 Years
20 – 24 Years
25 – 29 Years
30 – 34 Years
35 – 39 Years
40 – 44 Years
45 – 49 Years
50 – 54 Years
55 – 59 Years
60 – 64 Years
65+ Years
Not stated

Table 2: Fatal Injuries by Industrial Sector, 2010 – 2014 (Source: NSSA/NMWUZ)
Mining & Quarrying

The most viable and sustainable future for the mine workers in Zimbabwe can be attained through collaboration with other groups who are courageously campaigning for environmental and economic justice in the mining and extractive sectors. These groups include mining community rights groups, environmental justice associations and even the so-called independent commissions like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. But above all, mine workers need to begin re-aligning their forces and working in harmony with each other as well as in solidarity with powerful mine unions beyond borders. The current divisions in the Zimbabwe’s mining trade unions movement will not advance the cause of mine workers or the global campigns for a world that is free from environmental degradation and human rights violations. Aluta.
[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He blogs at ]