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Opinion / Columnist

Civil servants strikes, opposition's Trojan horse

12 Feb 2019 at 22:26hrs | Views
Zimbabwe is fast becoming a "strike country" as various civil service arms try and outdo each other in registering their grievances against Government through withdrawal of labour and other forms of protest.

While all this is legal and guaranteed under Section 59 of the Constitution, history has shown these strikes to be Trojan horses for opportunistic opposition parties and "career protesters." Sadly, Zimbabwe has an abundance of both.

Just this year, a group of rural teachers embarked on a "long march" that took so long, people had forgotten their grievances when they arrived in Harare and it took celebrity protesters such as Doug Coltart to alert the public what the shoe-destroying exercise was all about.

Not to be outdone, our brothers and sisters in the medical field embarked on 40 days and 40 nights of illegal absentia from work in protest over a number of issues. Needless to say, being cognisant of the importance of the medical profession, Government had already committed to meeting most of their demands, only for the medical personnel to rescind on the agreement at the last minute.

While they eventually returned to work, lives had been lost and innocent people in dire need of their services had been robbed. Just last week, the latest to join the strike circus were members of the esteemed teaching profession who among other things, were demanding salaries in US dollars.

This was despite Government clearly and unequivocally stating that it could not pay civil servants salaries in United States dollars or any other foreign currency for that matter. One wonders how the teachers strike was supposed to change this position, for Government's position was not a whimsical one or a teaser, it was a statement of pure fact backed by economic variables obtaining in the country.

This round robin of strikes is not a new phenomenon and normally would be shrugged off as manifestation and enjoyment of the democratic space in Zimbabwe. What is worrying and should be guarded against is the propensity of opposition parties and career protesters to latch onto every single civil servants strike and hijack it to push political agendas.

This not only drowns genuine grievances by the civil servants, but also taints the strikes with a toxic, unflattering political stench. It ceases to be a teachers strike and a communication of teachers' needs when the loudest message is "chete chete" or "chabvondoka". By allowing their justifiable demands and concerns to be overshadowed by political messages, civil servants union leaders are doing their membership a great disservice.

Teachers, being the most recent example, and civil servants at large are real human beings not pawns to be used on social media for money-generating selfies, likes and retweets. By subscribing to a membership of a union such as the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) or the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), these hardworking human beings are bestowing trust in their leadership to deliver their messages factually and clearly to their employer.

It is therefore not fair, for a union leader tasked with delivering the message "please increase our allowances" to go on social media and send the message as "ipai mwana ma jiggies ake", for then, it turns into a political free for all.

It is also disgusting, if not criminal, for union leaders to impose their political beliefs on the general membership just because they are the ones mandated to speak on behalf of the unions. Union leaders who want to use their positions to advance political agendas and narratives should come clean to their wide and diverse membership. Minimum journalistic research has revealed that some ordinary members of these unions are not in agreement with pronouncements made by their leaders, especially on social media.

Zviri kutaurwa kuHarare and on social media is a bastardised version of their concerns as communicated to their union leaders. It is possible that some civil servants unions are not aware that they are the perfect Trojan horses for desperate political parties anxious to throw spanners at Government and portray a picture of chaos in the country.

These should take note and ask themselves why there are people like Doug Coltart who feature at the front of every demonstration and strike by anyone, from teachers, to doctors to mahwindi.

Is he an angel that wants to save everyone in the country and shine his light? Clearly not. A more apt explanation is that the sporadic strikes by various groups provide the perfect fodder for people making a living out of pushing the narrative that Zimbabwe is "burning."

A wise man once warned of outsiders who cry more than the bereaved at funerals. Likewise, civil servants should be wary of individuals who only show concern for them when they are striking against Government, but have no problem supping with corrupt members of the same government and even vigorously defend them in courts of law.

Civil servants' concerns are genuine and understood and should be delivered to their employer as is. President Mnangagwa is on record stating that his door is open to everyone and he is a listening President.

It would be most beneficial for civil servants to utilise this open door and thrash out better deals for their membership than to waste time organising poorly attended publicity events only intended to extend their leadership tenures at the different unions.

Civil servants deserve logical representatives who utilise the most effective ways to get their grievances addressed, not those only concerned with getting their names and images splashed on social media or securing political posts.

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