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'Workers in Zimbabwe are mourning'

by Daniel Itai
02 May 2020 at 18:34hrs | Views
"My prospects are useless, the leadership of the country should change because they have failed us as a country, in terms of employment it's their duty to create employment but they have failed.

After I graduate I won't seek employment in this country, l will leave and take whatever opportunity comes my way unless all of them quit and we start on a fresh page, a new Zimbabwe," said Leandra Kapfeka (not her real name), who is in her final year of studying towards a Media Degree.

The above sentiment is amongst the many that are being aired by thousands of young Zimbabweans across the country.

Today is Workers Day a day which is celebrated across the world including Zimbabwe however, for many Zimbabweans there is nothing to celebrate due to the high levels of unemployment and petty salaries.

For many trade unions, being on lockdown does not change the dire employment conditions that have seen the unemployment rate reaching over 80 percent with most of the country's industry being informal.

"After we attained our independence, Zimbabwe had one of the progressive pieces of labour that safeguards the rights and interest of working people, but in the last ten years we have seen neoliberal policies pushing back and eroding all the gains. The attack comes through legislation and judgments for the judicial.

All the jobs are now informal, with no safety nets after retirement. Our wages are less than those in 1968 in value. It's all precarious work and casualiation and jobs are exported to other countries.

We have pursued destructive  policies that promote informality. Currently we have over four million Zimbabweans who are in the diaspora some doing menial jobs because we have not created opportunities for them back home.

A country with millionaires that don't employ people has no future. A country with more limousines and eighteen bedroom mansions when the majority are in abject poverty needs reconstruction. You can not have a society with the rich and the poor people but no middle class.

Let us put resources where the majority of our people are and support small businesses to grow and create jobs instead of policies that actually suffocate those starting small businesses," said Japhet Moyo, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

For Dr.Takavafira Zhou president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Workers Day in Zimbabwe is actually a day of mourning.

"Rather than celebrating achievements of workers throughout the world in terms of reduction of working hours and improvement of salaries that are above the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), workers in Zimbabwe are mourning the demise of workers' salaries and conditions of service with monotonous regularity from grace to grass.

Zimbabwe has since 1991 seen the shrinking of job opportunities as government adopted neoliberal policies that instead of creating employment opportunities decimated the workforce. A combination of a defective political system of sultanism, kleptocracy, defective economic system of statism, patronage, cryonism, lackeyism, clientelism and resurgent neo-liberalism, episodic high profile corruption and cartelism have cumulatively ruined the economy of Zimbabwe shattering the industries, creating more than 95 percent unemployment and reducing Zimbabweans into vending and disillusionment.

The current dehamonisation of labour laws where private workers are governed by Labour Act and Public servants by the Public Service Act is unenviable. The Apex Council that the government trusts to engage in collective begging through the so called National Joint Negotiation Council (NJNC) has long outlived its usefulness. The government of Zimbabwe must respect ILO Conventions 87 and 98, let alone 151 and 154 in its treatment of workers. The government must abandon its callousness and monumental labour injustice in treating its workers and restore workers' salaries' purchasing power parity that was unilaterally reduced and devalued when government changed them into bonds and RTGs," said Dr. Zhou.

The Movement for Democratic Change - Alliance (MDC-A), which is the country's main opposition party, also reiterated the same Workers Day mantra as the trade unionists alluded, "as a party that was born out of a workers movement, we cherish and commemorate the Workers Day, not only is it a day that reminds us of our umbilical ties to the working fraternity, but we remember those who toil day and night to make our country great again.

However, the Workers Day also brings with it a flood of sad memories of a nation that once had a thriving economy, best railway in southern Africa and booming industry yet all that was destroyed by greedy, corruption and mismanagement.

In essence, the day reminds us of the decimation at the hands of ZANU-PF of everything that represents, signify and dignify workers and the economy.

Talk of the once booming Zisco Steel Company, Kadoma Textile industry, Bulawayo railway hub, Cold Storage Commission, Bata, the list is infinite. That tells you how far we have gone as a nation when it comes to destroying everything that represents workers.

Figures, statistics and facts do not lie and the astronomical levels of unemployment is a marker that both public and private sectors are overwhelmed as far as creating employment for the vast majority is concerned.

This is particularly because we have a government whose economic policies are stringent hence, there is fear to invest in such a volatile environment like ours.

Sadly those who control corridors of power in the public sector are the same familiar faces that you see in the private sector.

We demand policies that are pro-poor and not just for the benefit of a few politically connected elites and cabals like Kuda Tagwirei, Billy Rautenbach and the looting lot.

Only until such a time when we have businesses that make profit while at the same time benefiting the majority and not a few individuals can we talk of growing our workforce, otherwise our best brains will continue to flock and flood foreign labour markets and not our unfriendly labour shores," said Stephen Chuma, MDC-A's national spokesperson of the Youth Assembly.

Some renowned global economists have predicted that over 60 million Africans are set to lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Zimbabwe, the case might be a total conundrum due to the already highly fragile economy.

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Source - Daniel Itai

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