EMBATTLED opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday urged youths to take action to pressurise President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government to address the economic challenges facing the country.
Addressing workers at the Workers’ Day celebrations at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare yesterday, Tsvangirai said his long history in the labour movement had taught him that Zanu PF would never address the free-falling economy unless action was not taken.
“I believe in action,” said Tsvangirai. “Maybe I am old now to do that. You, the youths, should wake up and act. Nothing will be addressed without action.”
Tsvangirai was the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) prior to the formation of the MDC in 1999.
He led several mass actions, particularly stayaways, against the Mugabe government, but failed to dislodge the 90-year-old leader.
The opposition leader said Zimbabweans should not allow Mugabe to turn the country into “Zanu PF Pvt Ltd”, saying the country belonged to
Tsvangirai’s call for action comes at time his party youths recently failed to mobilise for mass action to pressure the Zanu PF government to deliver on its last year election promise of creating over two million jobs.
The demonstration had been planned by youths, most of them university graduates, who have failed to secure formal jobs as the economy continues to collapse after Zanu PF’s electoral victory in July last year.
But Mugabe in his Independence Day speech last month threatened to deal ruthlessly with lawlessness.
Tsvangirai said Zanu PF promised over two million jobs, but a year on after the “stolen” elections, the opposite had prevailed as more companies had closed down throwing over 10 000 workers out of formal employment.
Presently, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is estimated to be hovering above 80 %.
The ZCTU says over 100 companies have closed shops and over 10 000 workers have been laid off since a single face government was sworn in last August, ending the five-year-old inclusive government between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube.
Tsvangirai said under Mugabe, Zimbabweans had been plagued by severe economic hardships.
“Nowadays, everyone is an informal worker. Companies are closing down and graduates are facing a bleak future,” Tsvangirai said.
The former Premier brushed aside the internal fights currently rocking his party, describing them as a shortlived turbulence and called on people to focus on the national crisis.
Tsvangirai on Tuesday “fired” his party’s secretary-general Tendai Biti and 10 MPs for staging a palace coup against him.
This was four days after Biti announced that he had “suspended” his boss together with other officials sympathetic to Biti over charges of subverting the party’s constitution.
After Tsvangirai’s address, popular musician Leonard Zhakata took to the stage and thrilled the workers with his hit song, Mugove, which is a tribute to diligent workers who are not paid enough despite their effort.
ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the economic situation had worsened since Mugabe took sole control of government.
He said Zanu PF’s economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), was silent on how it would address the plight of workers.
Meanwhile, police yesterday blocked the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) from holding parallel May Day celebrations at the Harare Gardens, saying the venue had already been booked by organisers of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa).
In a letter dated May 1, Police Officer Commanding Harare Central District, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, said he could not sanction the PTUZ event as it would disrupt Hifa activities.
“My office, however, regrets to inform you that the commemorations have not been approved as they cannot be held at the Harare Gardens because the venue is already booked for Hifa activities,” Saunyama said.
PTUZ national co-ordinator Ladistous Zunde said they only received the communication just before their commemorations kicked off.
“They said we should find an alternative venue and then apply to them again so that they can clear us, but at the moment Saunyama said he is tied up in a Hifa meeting and cannot attend to us,” Zunde said.
PTUZ lawyer Jeremiah Bamu said the police action was unlawful.
“Even Hifa (organisers) did not object to the plans. The letter which does not even make reference to any law and the order is in contravention of Section 65 of the new Constitution which guarantees labour rights. The rights are still being denied,” he said.