ISO setback

Against a backdrop of mounting tension and increased polarisation in Zimbabwe between the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the International Socialist Organisation candidate and former MDC MP, Munyaradzi Gwisai, was badly squeezed in a parliamentary by-election in Harare. Comrade Gwisai could only muster 73 votes in the solidly working class constituency of Highfield, as against over 8,000 for the victorious MDC candidate and 3,000 for Zanu-PF. He finished fourth out of the seven candidates, despite being the outgoing member - his expulsion from the MDC for opposing its rightwing, neoliberal policies automatically triggered the by-election. With Zimbabwe still simmering following the March 18-19 political stayaway/lockout, organised by the MDC leadership in cooperation with a section of Zimbabwe capital, the by-election came at a bad time for an independent working class candidate. Hundreds, if not thousands, of potential ISO supporters decided to back the MDC - originally set up by the trade union movement - in order to keep out Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF, which is despised by the overwhelming majority of workers. However, while MDC voters felt free to back their candidate in the ballot box, party workers were forced to stay away. Following the stayaway/lockout the leadership issued an ultimatum (which expired on March 31, but was subsequently extended), threatening more of the same if the government did not accede to its list of demands. Mugabe has reacted with predictable ferocity, flooding key areas of Harare with riot police and paramilitary forces, arresting leading MDC figures and beating supporters. Many have been forced into hiding. Clearly comrades from the ISO - sister organisation of the Socialist Workers Party - must now reassess their strategy after what was undoubtedly a successful period of work in the MDC. ISO national treasurer Rosa Zulu concluded: "We are back in the position we were in before the party was formed. Nevertheless, we will continue our work, we will continue to publish Socialist Worker and we will continue our struggle on the ground." Peter Manson