1 May 2023
Theme: Workers Demand an Inclusive Zimbabwe Free from Poverty, Corruption and Oppression"
Comrades and distinguished guests, as we commemorate this Workers Day which has become an annual ritual, the ZCTU continues to soldier on towards addressing workers’ concerns in a hostile environment. The position of the worker has continued to deteriorate over the years and it has become apparent that our fellow social partners; that is government and business do not have the political will to see the worker thriving. It is high time we move away from rhetoric and start devising new strategies to confront the beasts. Agonising over our problems will not solve them. We need to organise ourselves.
This year’s theme; "Workers Demand an Inclusive Zimbabwe Free from Poverty, Corruption and Oppression" aptly captures our mood in relation to the challenges we are facing as workers and citizens of this country. We are demanding recognition of our labour, equitable distribution of resources, the rule of law and an end to corruption which have pauperised
individuals and the country at large. The majority of workers are generally excluded from national processes. The national cake is now a preserve of a very small clique. It is high time we occupy spaces in governance and claim what is rightful ours.
Over the years we have endured serious challenges which remain unresolved
Oppressive labour legislation
Poor services and amenities
Constrained democratic space
The general welfare of workers and citizens is now pathetic. Labour is currently at war with government over the minimum wage. Social partners agreed on a USD150-00 minimum wage which was supposed to be gazetted with effect from October 2022. That has not been effected and government is adamantly claiming that the USD150-00 was just a recommendation. Such arrogance
cannot be tolerated when workers’ welfare is at stake. We are aware of the deceitfulness of government and employers in their piecemeal approach of paying allowances in USD while suppressing salaries in ZWL. That practice is killing us softly. There is no way workers are going to have a solid social security base upon retirement on meagre wages. We are enduring bleeding
taxes on already meagre earnings but we are not realising much from the array of taxes that we are enduring as social amenities and services are in shambles. Hospitals have no medicines, roads are all potholes, there is erratic supply of electricity and clean water.
Pensioners have become paupers as earnings have been eroded over the years. We reiterate our call that wages and salaries must be pegged in USD. Private and public pension houses are all paying peanuts. The Justice Smith Commission Recommendations on pensions has plainly been ignored while pensioners are wallowing in poverty. Where is the country’s leadership when senior citizens are rendered vulnerable and exposed? Price increases spurred by inflation have choked our meagre wages. Workers need real jobs and realistic salaries. As I am addressing you, prices of basic commodities and services spiked to unprecedented levels in the past week.
Most workers are earning basic salaries below ZWL200 000-00 per month. The Poverty Datum Line is over USD500-00 per month for a family of six. Every sector is pushing for a living wage. The teachers, security guards, shop workers, farm workers, drivers, health workers, miners etc are underpaid in a weak currency. Our demand for USD salaries still stands and is becoming more
relevant by the day. The USD is the only currency that can restore wage value and enhance social security.
Serious decent work violations and deficits that were compounded by Covid-19 still persists as employers continue to constrict workers’ rights and vary decent work standards. Chinese owned companies and private security companies are the worst culprits. Most jobs in the country are precarious and working conditions are pathetic. Foreign investors particularly the Chinese have enslaved local workers. They are paying very low wages while disregarding local labour laws because they are protected by powerful individuals within our political circles. Workers at Manhidze Steel Plant; Sunny Yi Feng, Bikita Minerals and many other Chinese established around the country are denied basic fundamental rights like provision of PPE, the right to join unions of their
choice, are under paid and are subjected to abuses. All this is happening at a time our worker and citizen protection standards should have matured. We are witnessing a lot of preventable workplace injuries and fatalities especially in the mining sector. It is sad to note that miners at Redwing Mine, can with impunity, defy operational bans by the Environmental Management
Agency (EMA) over fatal accidents involving artisanal miners and continue to mine while exposing employees to danger. What precedence are we setting for workplace safety? While we applaud the empowerment programmes, we expect the empowered locals to have a sense of patriotic commitment to the common good towards workers and the environment.
The level of informality in Zimbabwe has reached alarming. According to Zimstart we have 2.8 million unemployed people of working age but its common knowledge that the figure is much higher. There is no way we can address poverty with such a huge number of unemployed and underemployed people in this country. Our government has failed to implement the available
frameworks on decent work and formalisation of the informal economy. We know that its deliberate; to keep the masses on leash and at the mercy of the ruling authorities for political expediency. Decent jobs and livelihoods matter particularly for those who are most excluded and most vulnerable. Decent and productive jobs, sustainable enterprises and economic transformation play a key role in reducing poverty.
The genesis of our problems is no longer a secret. Our leaders have devised means of ‘killing us softly’. The country is seized with allegations of grand corruption as exposed in the Al Jazeera Gold Mafia documentary. The documentary has confirmed what was already in the public domain that corruption has reached a crescendo. We cannot be neutral or quite in the face of such plunder of our resources. We have a drug problem that is fast becoming a soft genocide. Who are the drug lords? Where are the authorities when a few individuals are annihilating the country? We call upon the President of the country to firmly act on these anomalies. We are watching when all this is playing out. Our role as trade unions is to enlighten workers and the masses. In the next three months we are going into a make or break general election. Our plea to political parties is that we want a violence free election. We run the risk of running into another contested election if violence is not contained. We are also calling upon all state organs to act in a manner that would not jeopardise the electoral process and discredit the results. The cost of a contested election outcome hits the ordinary man more than the privileged elites. It is high time the country exorcises itself from disputed elections that have earned us the banana republic tag and re-path towards a democratic trajectory. Our clarion to all
workers and citizens is GO AND VOTE WISELY.
Comrades, we have nothing to lose from fighting for what is ours. From now onwards we commit ourselves to more action and less talk because the adversaries we are facing are deceitful. Our efforts and actions must not just be on paper; they must be seen on the ground. With your support we get our strength and aspirations to achieve more together.
I thank you.