THE MOTHER of all strikes is imminent – as Zimbabwe’s massive union, ZCTU (the Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions), mobilises other unions to avert victimisation.
ZCTU has come out to say they are talking to other unions to organise a massive strike so that the government through state security agencies will not victimise striking workers. ZCTU says that a strike needs collective effort to be successful.
This was revealed by ZCTU’s president Peter Mutasa, who spoke for publication and said: ‘The workers know the system is brutal so (that) if one sector, if teachers or doctors embark on a strike, they will be easily targeted by the State security.
‘What we will do now is call for a general strike, we are currently consulting general workers and different unions – even those who are not members of the ZCTU.
‘The general strike is the only way to go because they will not be able to victimise all workers.
‘This year, workers across sectors are going to down tools. Workers are going to engage in various sustained peaceful protests. Only fools will begrudge workers for resisting slavery and economic dictatorship.’
Public sector workers have accepted a 140 per cent salary hike starting this month, a union official said last Wednesday, averting a potential strike against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Soaring inflation has eroded salaries and savings in the southern African nation, which is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by shortages of foreign exchange, food, fuel, electricity and medicines.
Earlier this month, the top public workers union, the Apex Council, rejected a government offer to double pay for employees saying it was too little. After another round of negotiations which dragged into the early hours of Wednesday, an Apex Council official said workers had accepted a pay deal that would see the lowest paid state employees getting 2,450 Zimbabwe dollars (US$146) a month, up from 1,033.
‘This increase does not meet our demand, but we will take it while we continue pushing the government to pay an increase that is above inflation,’ said an Apex official, declining to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press. Labour Minister Paul Mavima could not be reached for comment.
With year-on-year inflation estimated at 520 per cent in December by economists, and the local currency losing value, life is increasingly hard for ordinary Zimbabweans who also have to contend with the effects of a devastating drought last year.
That has sapped any hope of an economic rebound promised by Mnangagwa when he was elected in a disputed election in 2018.
- Robert Tapfumaneyi, a journalist working for Syl media, was assaulted by the security personnel of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Tuesday, 21 January while he was covering a party event in the capital Harare.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) in condemning this attack on press freedom and urges the MDC to refrain from such acts of violence against journalists.
The journalist was harassed and attacked by security staff who accused him of working for the State Broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC). Security staff also grabbed his camera and threw it to the floor and prevented him from covering the event.
This new attack adds to the long list of journalists who have been threatened, beaten or arrested by security forces and political activists in Zimbabwe in recent months. ZUJ’s General Secretary, Foster Dongozi, condemned the attack and called on MDC officials to apologise publicly to Robert Tapfumaneyi and ‘replace his equipment if it was damaged during the scuffle’.
The ZUJ also urged the MDC to establish a clear protocol for security personnel on how to deal with the media at their public events. This protocol must guarantee journalists’ safety.
‘Several journalists have indicated that they are now afraid of covering MDC events because they feel threatened by the security details and that needs to be solved,’ the ZUJ added.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said ‘the attack on Robert Tapfumaneyi was a deliberate attempt to stop him from performing his work. We support ZUJ’s call on MDC officials to apologise for the attack, fully refund and compensate Robert for damage caused and issue a media protocol for their workers that clearly guarantees journalists’ freedom and protection when covering their events.’
- Zimbabwe is on the verge of a complete shutdown as private and public sector workers as well as college students plan to take to the streets. Teachers, lecturers and students are planning to coalesce with the rest of the civil service for a strike that could cripple essential services and the start of the school calendar.
Government workers last week rejected an offer by government to double their wages, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is planning (a) ‘mother-of-all’ demonstrations to press government to address key national issues and reverse ‘anti-poor people policies’.
The 97% salary hike would have seen the lowest paid government worker getting Z$2,033. But the civil servants demanded that their salaries to be indexed to the United States dollar equivalent to those they earned during dollarisation period.
Alternatively, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Zimbabwe Teachers Association and Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) as well as the rest of the civil servants are pressing the government to raise wages to bring the lowest paid civil servant to a monthly salary of Z$5,000.
The confrontation is likely to start when schools open, with PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe calling for a united front with pupils, parents and teachers to confront the government.
‘Government must be taught … economic volatility in this country is increasing every day. Economic and political frustration is increasing every day. It’s better they engage people and they give us what we are worth because we are offering our labour to the country for the benefit of the nation and we need solidarity from everybody, the kids the parents and everybody out there,’ he said.
Acting Primary and Secondary Education minister Amon Murwira said he was aware of the concerns by teachers, but said the matter was being handled by the Public Service Commission (PSC), and an announcement would be made soon.
‘We have hope, I have hope, but at the moment, this is being dealt with the PSC and an announcement will be made regarding that,’ he said.
The government has failed to effectively deal with the industrial action by junior doctors, which has continued for over four months, with hospitals partially closed. Munyaradzi Gwisai, leader of the International Socialist Organisation in Zimbabwe, has called on all workers to have a joint demonstration and a shutdown of government business, saying workers have had enough and should not allow themselves to work for slave wages.
‘We now need a united front of all victims of austerity to lead the resistance against austerity and the junta. Students, workers, youths, vendors and the villagers … we have to learn the lesson that the late Morgan Tsvangirai, as secretary-general of ZCTU, learnt then that sometimes negotiations yield nothing.
‘You can’t keep talking to people who are not listening. There is no bigger army than the power of the workers and villagers,’ Gwisai said.
Irked by the increase in college fees against poor salaries, Zinasu has also warned it will be taking to the streets to protest what it called attempts to push them out of school. ‘They pay student teachers $150 and not even constantly, they pay our mothers $100, then they proceed to us students and demand $5,000 per term, $15,000 per year exclusive of other necessities … They must be stopped, they must be resisted.
‘They are evil,’ Zinasu said in a statement in response to a statement from Seke Teachers’ College, which increased fees for resident teacher students from Z$2,416 to Z$5,016 effective from January 10.
The ZCTU has already declared 2020 as a year for resisting slave wages and confronting the government over poor policies and the poverty-inducing austerity measures.
‘We have been mandated by the workers to ensure that we resist all these slave wages and engage in peaceful and constitutional action, which will end the suffering of workers, toiling every day yet they can’t pay just rentals or send their children to school. As we speak right now, many of our members are being evicted from their homes. Action has to be now,’ ZCTU secretary-general Peter Mutasa said.
He added that it was important for all workers to join hands and fight from the same corner. ‘Our message is that it is no longer effective for workers to fight from their different unions or groups. It is no longer tenable for the doctors to protest alone. It is also no longer effective for teachers to fight the government alone.
‘The same goes for nurses, bank employees or those (who) do general cleaning. They can’t fight from their corners,’ he said. ‘It is also now impossible for workers who work for famous companies to fight without joining hands with those who are self-employed.
‘So we are saying let us have unity of workers who work in formal and informal sectors. We now also want to see unity in the protests between the workers who work in cities and those who work in rural areas.’
Mutasa lashed out at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for people to avoid meat and eat vegetables and potatoes.
‘The issue that is bringing us all together as people is that of hunger. Every person who is working in this country must not be forced to eat vegetables and potatoes. A worker must get money enough to purchase foods that constitute a balanced diet,’ he said.
Mutasa said that workers no longer had any other way of dealing with the government to solve the multi-layered national crises than to take to the streets. ‘Our message is that we do not have any other way to go because most avenues have been closed, but we now need to fight oppression and exploitation of workers. We do not have any other choice.
‘So that is our first message (to workers) that we are going ahead with demonstrations and we are going to maintain our stance of fighting government policies which are oppressing the people,’ he said.
The ZCTU has also said it was against government’s introduction of a mono currency and maintained workers must be paid either in US dollars or the equivalent of their salaries in the green back as at September 2017.
Through the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association (ZHDA), the doctors — who have been on strike for more than four months now — have vowed to press on until their demand for better wages is met.
‘It has been four months since our members declared incapacitation, our employer has to date offered a net salary of Z$3,600 equivalent to less that US$170. A clear breach of our contractual agreement of net US$1,800.
‘We remain steadfast in our call for a decent wage for our members,’ ZHDA said.