ZCTU to become more militant


After realising that quiet diplomacy had not taken it anywhere and that it was not being taken seriously, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade unions has decided to become more militant so that it can effectively represent the country’s workers whose standard of living is being eroded every day.

The labour movement has declared the beginning of “the mother of all battles” against the recently enacted Labour Relations Amendment Act in order to render it inoperative.

It is going to launch a two-pronged approach on the political and legal fronts and might resort to mass action to get its voice heard.

The ZCTU is very bitter that its pleas to meet President Mugabe have been ignored for the past two years. President Mugabe also ignored its plea not to sign the Labour Relations Amendment Bill.

It also complains that up to now the labour movement has only had an audience with the President once and that was at the time the ZCTU was still closely affiliated to the ruling party.

The ZCTU parted ways with the government in 1988 when it decided to become apolitical saying that its major interest was to represent the workers and since the workers came from different backgrounds and were free to join political parties of their choice the labour movement should not be aligned to any one party.

It is also bitter that while its pleas continue to be ignored the government is giving concessions to minority groups like farmers and industrialists, people who once regarded the ruling party as their worst enemy, yet the labour movement represents the workers who voted the government into power.

The government’s decision to designate only five out of the 13 farms near Mutare that it had originally intended to was like a thorn in the flesh to the ZCTU because this change of attitude was at about the same time President Mugabe signed the Labour Relations amendment Bill.

This completely baffled the labour movement because the government was, on one hand, ignoring the plea of more than a quarter of a million people while succumbing to that of just a dozen, yet the land question was the raison d’etre of the liberation war.

ZCTU President, Gibson Sibanda, told national organising secretaries of the labour movement’s 36 affiliates that because of the government’s attitude towards the labour movement, the unions had no choice but to become more militant otherwise they would lose their credibility.

He said the country was being turned, on one hand, into a nation of beggars and destitutes and on, on the other, into a paradise for multi-nationals to extract all the wealth they could with the country’s leadership benefitting from this “treacherous path through kickbacks for their supervision of the rape and plunder of the country’s resources.”

Sibanda pointed out that the government was taking the role of representative of employer forgetting the worker who put it into power. This had resulted in most employers adopting the attitude that there was nothing they could do to improve the lot of the workers because the government was against this.

Because of mismanagement, Sibanda said the government should stop collecting the drought relief levy as it was not going to benefit any of the starving people but was going to end up the Paweni way.

The late Sampson Paweni swindled the government of more than $5 million in drought relief supplies in the early 80s.

While it may have noble objectives, the ZCTU is quite aware that it has an insurmountable task before it. One of its biggest weaknesses is that while it is the only labour centre in the country it has only so far managed to unionise 20 percent of workforce.

It will therefore have to recruit more people to join the unions before it can rightly claim to represent the country’s workers.

But the political and economic climate are all in its favour because it has now become the only credible body that can represent the ordinary people’s aspirations.

Although continuing to ignore the ZCTU’s pleas, the government is quite aware of the ZCTU’s potential. This is why they are trying to preempt the union by claiming that it is planning to form a political party. There are also reports that the government is planning another umbrella union body.

Sources say, there are a number of willing candidates but they are still sitting on the fence because they are quite aware that if they fail to establish an effective splinter union, their future will be completely ruined.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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