When it happened minds came together. Struggles converged like many rivulets forming a powerful river. Floating hopes joined to become an unstoppable Hope. It all flowed towards the future. This was the force of the just-ended Zimbabwe Social Forum as thousands of radical spirits came together in central Harare from 28-30 October. Problems were attacked, common struggles found. Visions of The Society We Want abounded, strategies were laid out. The future was on the horizon, it felt.
The Powers-That-Shouldn’t-Be had tried to stop the event. The police denied us “permission” to host the forum. But the future does not ask for permission. Our story does not seek clearance. The fattened spider sat in the centre of its web of power always fears the hordes of other spiders ready to sew new, diverse power webs. But the webs were already knitted. Months of meetings, endless hours of planning, ever-expanding networks.
Our months of meetings were open, transparent and directly democratic. Those of us creating the Freedom Youth Camp to be held at the ZSF believed the tools we use must build the house we want.
The three day event was an eruption of diversity. The Freedom Youth Camp was a space where hundreds of young radicals had fiery discussions on sexism, grassroots democracy, non-violent direct action, alternative youth culture and a web of other subversive realities. In the camp the Students’ Solidarity Trust hosted a heated discussion on “Student Vicimisation” which saw youths erupting into toyi toyi war dances before sitting down, sweaty, and looking at the history of Zim university students in struggles against Rhodesian colonialism, followed by IMF-imposed structural adjustment programmes and now a brutal bourgeois black regime.
The debate on ‘Grassroots Democracy’ facilitated by the Zimbabwe Youth Survival Alternative Project saw youth giving birth to visions of community democracy where communities control the decisions that affect them and the resources around them. This is democracy that doesn’t rely on distant “leaders” but empowers communities to run their own lives with community assemblies and committees in charge of everything from their water to their schools. The 2001 Argentinian social rebellion came to people’s minds as Argentinians rose up against the IMF and a corrupt government and began to run their communties and factories.
Youths at the discussion then broke into deliciously democratic groups and came up with strategies for building democracy from the grassroots.
“Alternative Youth Culture” was another inspired event at the camp where young rebel artists held a mock talk-show talking about corporate exploitation of artists and Zanu PF politicians’ use of musicians for their power-hungry dreams. The hip hop groups gathered on stage rapped about the need for young artists to counter this through Do-It-Yourself style recording and promotion while keeping the message socially conscious and anti-commercial.
At the same time other tents saw young workers gathering to fight for a living wage, economic justice activists attacking debt and capitalist trade, HIV/AIDS activists shouting about their need for free anti-retroviral drugs, constitutional militants strategising on how to win a new people-centred constitution... The future was being born.
The Forum culminated in feelings of hope. Webs were woven uniting the oppressed as many struggles became one. Capitalism, patriarchy and centralised power were surrounded by these webs. Social justice and economic justice became fighting words linking one soul to another. A grassroots movement was born. The fattened spider should be wriggling in fear.
Samm Farai Monro