The ruling Zanu PF party has ordered a shutdown of all vending sites and small-scale businesses in Harare today as it seeks to commandeer residents to belated May Day celebrations, where Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some Cabinet ministers are expected to roll out the party’s 2018 election promises, NewsDay has learnt.
Xolisani Ncube/Alois Vinga
For the first time since the turn of the millennium, this year government has organised the Workers’ Day celebrations through the ruling party’s affiliated trade union, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU).
To ensure that the gathering set for Rufaro Stadium does not flop, the Zanu PF commissariat department led by Local Government minister, Saviour Kasukuwere has ordered all party structures in the province to ensure maximum attendance.
“Publicly this is a government programme being organised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare together with ZFTU, but in practice the provincial commissariat department has been tasked to ensure there is massive attendance,” said a party insider who refused to be named.
Zanu PF Harare provincial commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe, however, refused to discuss the matter, referring all questions to Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira.
Mupfumira told NewsDay that: “Just like other ministers, we have invited Cde Mnangagwa as the minister responsible for Justice. We invited all ministers, but I don’t know who will attend or who has confirmed because that is being done by officials in the ministry. I have been away and do not know which of our ministers is coming.”
She added: “All I can tell you (is) the programme is starting at 9am, and we expect all labour unions to be there.”
This came at a time over 90% of the country’s working population has turned to the informal sector as the economy and industry continued to shrink.
National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe leader Stan Zvorwadza warned government and Zanu PF not to continue abusing “an already angry population” pushed to the edge by grinding poverty.
“As vendors we have resisted abuse by politicians who want to use us for votes. We are the people sustaining the economy at the moment and any attempt to try and disturb our business should be condemned.
“Because Zanu PF has destroyed the labour market, it now wants to destroy the future of vendors. We say no to such manipulative moves. We urge our members to resist this move and work for their well-being as we are the only workers left in the country,” he said.
Zimbabwe Informal Sectors Organisation leader Promise Mkwananzi urged his members to defy the Zanu PF directives and continue trading as Zanu PF’s gesture of reaching to them was insincere.
“Zanu PF is the instigator of the removal and persecution of vendors in the country. It was Chombo (Ignatius) as former Local government minister and later Kasukuwere who drove the decimation of vendors from the streets with the former going as far as trying to enlist the services of the military. It shows the desperation and insensitivity of Zanu PF towards the people. They want to disturb vendors from conducting their business just to satisfy their empty egos in a party that has totally lost direction and focus,” Mkwanazi said.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said: “It’s politics at play, there is nothing about the workers or their plight. All Zanu PF wants is to send a message to themselves that they can mobilise people and lie to them and pretend as if they care when in actual fact they want their support come election and end there.”
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the move by Zanu PF to commandeer informal traders to its event was a ploy to curry favour with the sector, which is now the only bankable constituency after the collapse of the labour movement in Zimbabwe.
“This is an attempt to align with the informal sector which is now the critical constituency for any political party. We can’t say it’s a Workers’ Day event because if it was as such, it should have been held today (yesterday) not tomorrow (today),” Masunungure said.
“This is a political gathering in a bid to buy the support of vendors with no connection to the welfare of the workers. It is contrary to an earlier assertion that government wanted to help the trade unions organise the May Day celebrations,” he added.
Yesterday, thousands attended Workers’ Day commemorations organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare yesterday.
In his address, ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the country only needed a political solution to address the current economic challenges.
Police in Kwekwe yesterday also blocked a workers day procession organised by the ZCTU, citing lack of manpower, adding a rival group had already booked to hold a similar march. Police officer commanding Kwekwe district, Chief Superintendent N Mutomba, wrote to the trade union last week banning the procession claiming the rival ZFTU had also requested to hold a procession in the town.
“Approval for the procession has not been granted. The “Other Trade” Union organisation ZFTU has also notified its intent to hold a meeting at its separate venue from yours and a procession will invite unruly and criminal elements that would put business premises, motorists and other members of the public at risk,” Mutomba said.
But ZCTU legal adviser, Zakeyo Mtimtema said: “It is unfortunate that the Zimbabwe Republic Police continue to choose to disrespect workers’ constitutional rights to freedom of association, expression and demonstration protected by Section 58 and 59 of the Zimbabwe Constitution.”