The Zanu PF government has become adept at shirking responsibility with the classic case being its vehement denial it caused the economic collapse that has impoverished the majority of Zimbabweans.
President Robert Mugabe and his party blame everything that has gone wrong with the economy on sanctions imposed by Western countries. The government has been blamed for the ongoing massive job layoffs that have hit employees at State-owned institutions the hardest, but the authorities do not want to be held responsible for that carnage.
According to a report we carried this week, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said he had received a government directive to cut down on staff.
Kaseke spoke at a time when there was stampede by State institutions to retrench; taking a cue from a Supreme Court judgment that said employers can terminate contracts by simply giving three months’ notice.
The ruling meant that employees could be dumped without any benefits and this has seen companies falling over each other to cut down on staff.
Some of the companies that have gone that route include the National Railways of Zimbabwe which has reportedly shown at least 500 workers the door, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (309), Air Zimbabwe (100), CMED (Private) Ltd (200) and the Grain Marketing Board with an astonishing 1 200 employees now jobless.
The majority of the affected parastatals fall under Obert Mpofu’s Transport ministry. When Mpofu was asked about this anomaly, he threw a tantrum and claimed NewsDay had been sent to tarnish his image. He said the parastatals were run by boards which made the decisions to fire employees in their hundreds.
However, the reality is that nothing happens at these parastatals without government approval. State enterprises such as NRZ are literally abused by government officials and ruling party apparatchiks. The majority of the parastatals are bankrupt because of government interference.
NRZ and GMB have not been paying workers for some time and it is clear abuse for them to just discard workers without paying any form of benefits. Ministers handpick boards whose sole competency is to support the ruling party, but poor workers are made to suffer because of their incompetence.
It is strange that Mugabe’s office would deny knowledge of a government directive to parastatals to retrench and still not take action against those who go against the stated policy.
By remaining spectators while the parastatals send workers home in their hundreds and without benefits, the government is endorsing the measures. No sane person would buy the claims that the retrenchments are happening without the government’s knowledge and approval.
The way the government has handled the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling shows that Mugabe’s administration has no common position on labour laws.
There are some business minded members of Cabinet who saw an opportunity to rescue their tottering businesses and they are now reluctant to ensure sanity prevails at State-owned companies.
The government has taken too long to address the shortcomings of the Labour Act that were exposed by the Supreme Court ruling and this raises questions about Mugabe’s commitment to end the job losses.