‘We will protest until govt listens’

THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says the country was now in a humanitarian crisis and accused government of ignoring the plight of workers and of downplaying the impact of its austerity measures.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

In an interview with NewsDay, ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said workers were suffering, but their pleas were being treated with scorn and brutality after police arrested 10 officials from the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe last Friday, together with their lawyer, Douglas Coltart. The officials wanted to present a petition to Finance minister Mthuli Ncube over poor teachers’ salaries of around $500 a month.

“Due to shortages of (electricity) and low domestic demand, many companies are scaling down and some are closing shop with people losing jobs; and retrenchments are now common in the labour market. What we have now is a humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions,” Mutasa said.

“Workers and trade unions have tried to make government understand the folly of continuing in this direction of austerity measures, but this has been met with scorn and brutality, and as a result workers have no other option than to stop working and to protest until government is ready to listen,” he said.

Workers from different sectors have declared incapacity due to the low wages.

In the past two weeks, the police have snuffed out five attempts by the opposition MDC to hold demonstrations to protest over government’s handling of the economy.

Zimbabwe’s economy is mired in its worst crisis in a decade characterised by rolling power cuts, and shortages of fuel, cash, medicines and increased clampdown on citizens by security forces.

“Everything is getting to a standstill and nothing is functioning despite the tomfoolery being displayed by some policymakers, especially the Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and government spokespersons,” he said.

Mutasa said workers could no longer afford to report for work, pay rentals, feed their families or pay school fees.

“No amount of brutality must lead to people surrendering their constitutional rights. Workers will never surrender their collective power. The ZCTU has completed its consultations and workers have emphatically demanded that we call for nationwide general strikes until the government starts to respect citizen engagement. We are announcing the form and dates soon.

“People are starving and dying in homes due to lack of medical care. The country is in total darkness and queues for fuel and even bread are the order of the day. What is a 76% increment from someone that has increased fees of all government services by over 500%? That is a mockery. Wages have been eroded by up to eleven-fold since Ncube adopted fascist economic experiments,” he said after the latest government offer to its workers.

While prices of goods and services keep going up daily, including exchange rate movements, salaries of both public and private sector employees have remained stagnant and they were robbed of their future through erosion of their pensions and savings, Mutasa said.

“The only solution is to redollarise and have workers earn the stable currency again or pay salaries based on the prevailing interbank exchange rate,” he opined.

Mutasa described Ncube’s financial measures as disastrous neo-liberal economic structural adjustment policies.
“We warned Ncube against Nazi-style economic authoritarianism of austerity. Instead of taking heed they brutalised and arrested us,” he said.

The ZCTU president added that the labour laws had been amended several times in favour of capital, further noting that the judiciary has been aiding the neo-liberal agenda through retrogressive judgments like the Zuva decision and many others over the years.

On the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF), Mutasa said it was dysfunctional and lacked political will.

“The government does not believe in genuine and effective citizen participation. When we met on June 26, the inaugural meeting after the TNF Act came into effect; there was only one minister and two deputy ministers present.

All the other important ministers snubbed it as they normally do. The resolution of TNF for Cabinet to review Statutory Instrument 142 of 2009 taking into account inputs of both business and labour was also brushed aside,” he said.

He said demonstrations and any other collective actions were a legitimate means of exerting pressure on the decision-makers and were also guaranteed in the Constitution.

The call for nationwide protests comes as police recently banned MDC’s free Zimbabwe marches and beat up protesters who had gathered for the Harare demonstration on August 16.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Progressive Teachers Union secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said failure by government to give teachers a meaningful increment will seriously affect the November examinations.

“Third term might not even re-open as long as the issues of teachers are not addressed. We will not be deterred and we are sending a clear message to government that we are not going to allow them to do what they are doing by increasing prices of everything except wages,” Majongwe said.

Last week, government offered a 76% increase for civil servants, which will see the lowest getting paid slightly above $1 000.

Civil servants rebuffed the offer saying it “does not meet the stated position of the workers which is $4 750 for the least paid civil servant”.

5 Comments

  1. Some points of correction for Mr Mutasa: Demand for goods supplied by businesses has not realy gone down. Demand remains but it has only shifted to cheaper alternatives because of the jecha musadza stance adopted by the businesses by the wanton daily hiking of prices. How can you just wake up from sleep and tell your workers to sell bread for ten dollars a loaf without any explanation at all? Where in your mind do you think your customers get that money from? Even if the workers get pay increment, the following morning will see prices of everything more than double up! Now, is that Mnangagwa’s fault? When the government scraped multicurrency system in local transactions, the parallel markert forex rate tumbled and you Peter complained and threatened a strike! What did you realy mean? Zimbabweans must never be fooled by saboteurs who pose as mesiahs. Ibvai mangopinda mupolitics full time monyatsodyisa masapoters enyu jecha kusvikira aguta muchibatsirana na Chamisa wako.

    1. its people like you farai who rejoice whilst others are walloping in poverty. fuel reserves at Mabvuku and feruka are full of fuel but the zaanu pf government is failing to pay. have you ever bothered to ask youerself why

    2. The price of commodities depends on the production costs. Firms cannot sell goods below their costs of production just to please govt. What we have in Zimbabwe is Stagflation, a condition of slow economic growth, relatively high unemployment, or economic stagnation, accompanied by rising prices, or inflation. Stagflation is a result of government total failure to deal with the economic situation in a country, due to war, poor policies, excessive corruption. Its a sign of government incompetence, or gross negligence or both. business have to survive and so have to charge prices so that enable them to stay afloat. business cant just produce goods for charity, so that a failed government may remain in power. Bud sadly you Farai, and I dont know for what, you deliberately choose to ignore the dynamics of economics, and instead choose to blame the opposition. To you government is infallible, and has not done anything wrong, and in your eyes govt is victim rather than villain. To you people must not complain, however bad thier living conditions become, but must suffer silently, and, if they do complain, to you it means they are MDC. You are on the side of the failed government and not people. So Njere is right, people like you rejoice, whilst others wallow in excruciating poverty. If they complain or protest I guess it is people like you who guns them down on the streets.

  2. its people like you farai who rejoice whilst others are walloping in poverty. fuel reserves at Mabvuku and feruka are full of fuel but the zaanu pf government is failing to pay. have you ever bothered to ask youerself why

  3. Wezhira Wezhara

    Raymond Majongwe, schools will reopen and exams will progress. How many teachers do you have as members? They will not listen to that hogwash because they are parents too.

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