Civil society mobilisation on Zimbabwe and Food Prices

17 May 2008

COSATU and others have organised marches, to be held on Saturday 17 May in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, on two of the most burning issues of the day, Zimbabwe and rising food prices.

The people of Zimbabwe are facing a massive challenge. Despite high levels of intimidation, media bias, out of-date voters’ rolls and banning of party rallies, on 29 March they voted for change and rejected the rule of ZANU-PF. It was a triumph for democracy. The opposition MDC won the majority of seats in Parliament and are convinced that they also won the presidential vote.

The result announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission however gave no candidate a 50%+ vote and now, in the face of even worse violence, the people face a run-off election between the front-runner Morgan Tsangvirai and incumbent Robert Mugabe.

If this run-off election is to truly express the will of the people it will be essential to have a bigger and more effective team of local and international observers. We shall be urging the South African and other SADC governments to do everything in their power to ensure that the election is not stolen thorough violence, intimidation or vote-rigging.

More then ever the people of Zimbabwe need international support from democratic forces in Africa and the World. Please join our marches and show your support for their right to elect a government of their choice. The will of the majority must be sovereign!

Food prices
The rocketing price of food and other essential goods is devastating us. The majority of South Africans are considerably worse off than a year ago and the poorest face hunger and malnutrition.

A new report by reveals that in March alone CPIX inflation rose by 1.6%, with the annual rate increasing to 10.1%. The main reason for this increase was the cost of food, transport and school fees. A breakdown of CPIX by income group shows that for very low income earners inflation is now up at 13.5%! The main reason is that food, which has been rising fastest, accounts for 51% of their expenditure. During March, food prices (within CPIX) rose by a massive 1.4% a month, including increases in milk products and grain products at around 3% a month.

The situation is even worse as a result of criminal price-fixing, which has already been proved in the bread and dairy sectors. Greedy companies, under cover of the global price rises, are getting together to put up their prices even higher, so they can make even bigger profits at the expense of their consumers. This theft of the poor by the rich must be ruthlessly stamped out.

Urgent steps must be taken to cushion the poorest families by raising social grants and minimum wages of workers covered by sectoral determinations. All basic foods must be VAT zero-rated. Land reform must be speeded up to make more land available for food production. The world trade system must be reformed to end the rampant profiteering by the big, subsidised farmers and food companies of the rich Northern countries at the expense of the farmers, workers and consumers of the rest of the world.

Join the marches on 17 May and let your voices be heard.