‘Trade unionism runs in my blood’

The just-ended seventh elective national congress of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) climaxed in the election of Japhet Moyo as new secretary-general of the labour body, replacing long-time labour activist Wellington Chibebe, who becomes the deputy secretary-general of the International Trade Unions Council in Brussels, Belgium.

NewsDay Senior Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) caught up with Moyo (JM) at his ZCTU offices in Harare and had a one-on-one interview with him.
The following are excerpts:

ND: There was a lot of bickering before your election when eight ZCTU affiliates sought a High Court order to stop the congress. Would you say your election into office was free and fair?

JM: It is a hot seat and a lot of people are interested in it because of its prominence. That is why there is a lot of bickering. However, to some of us the bickering prior to the congress was normal.

The only bad thing was that some people tried to use unorthodox means to campaign. The bickering is now history and those who were my ‘enemies’ before the congress are now my friends.

ND: Is there any bad blood between you and former ZCTU president, Lovemore Matombo?

JM: Not at all. I will be writing to him to advise him of the outcome of the congress and to invite him for the official hand-over and take-over. Whether he is going to attend, it’s up to him and it is difficult for me right now to say whether he is going to resist change or not. If he does, he will be fighting the workers, but I personally have nothing against Matombo.

ND: Due to the pre-congress bickering, do you foresee any imminent threats of the ZCTU splitting into factions?

JM: No, the split was only coming from media reports. We do not believe that there will be a split. One of the unions, the Zimbabwe Construction Trades and Allied Workers’ Union, has already disassociated itself from the eight unions who had teamed up with Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe leader Raymond Majongwe and they have said the affidavit used at the courts was forged.

ND: People have been saying former ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibebe might want to control the labour body from Brussels even when he has left. How far true is that?

JM: I do not know about that. My relationship with Chibebe has purely been business although we have also struck up a friendship. I do not see his influence in my personality and it might be difficult to believe he is going to control this organisation from Brussels.

We (ZCTU) also operate from structures and if he is to have any influence at all, it would mean he has to keep in touch with people in factories, which would be difficult. Workers are the ones who are going to determine how ZCTU policies are going to be formulated and it will be difficult for Chibebe to control ZCTU from afar.

ND: Can any political party influence ZCTU policies?

JM: I might have my own political ideology, but it is not going to influence how ZCTU is going to be run. Workers, including those not formally employed like vendors, are the ones we represent as ZCTU and those are the ones who will formulate policies.

Those people might support political party A, B, C, or D, but it will depend on which party has the majority of supporters. One way or another, the policies of ZCTU might be biased towards one political party or another and there is a strong feeling within the membership of the ZCTU that we should openly declare which political party we support.

Of course, there might be disappointments as our affiliates might belong to different political parties, but we might share the same political ideologies with a certain political party.

For example, Cosatu in South Africa has an alliance with the African National Congress. While we might decide to support a certain political party, we would want to preserve our independence and critique their policies.

We were critical of Zanu PF and since the inception of the MDC we have also been critical of some of its policies. We are going to continue carrying out a watchdog function and remain independent.

ND: What new plans do you have for the ZCTU?

JM: People put me in this post because they have faith in me due to my track record in trade unionism. I have come in to complement the already existing team of technical people who have been responsible for formulating ZCTU policies.

When it comes to our vision, our direction will come from the people in the factories and not us in the offices.

My wish is to see the ZCTU emerging stronger and unified, as well as gaining financial strength. In the past the ZCTU has relied on partnerships with the international community in terms of programmes.

But my view is that Zimbabwean workers are the owners of the ZCTU and are supposed to fund it.

We also need to put more pressure on employers to pay salaries above the poverty datum line and ensure the government crafts legislation that benefits the generality of Zimbabweans.

We are going to make even more noise to whoever is governing if they do not deliver water, electricity, schools and other sectors.

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