Zimbabwean workers yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating Workers’ Day, with the Government calling for unity while expressing its commitment to improving the welfare of workers through comprehensive strategies to ensure that there is no erosion of disposable incomes.
Commemorations were held in various centres across the country with major events being held in Dzivarasekwa in Harare and Kwekwe, Midlands provinces.
For the first time, the Workers Day commemorations in Harare were attended by all political parties, from Zanu PF to MDC T and CCC, among others.
Zanu PF was represented by its director of production and labour Happias Madambi, CCC was represented by its vice president Tendai Biti while MDC T was represented by organising secretary Gift Chimanikire.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Professor Paul Mavima joined commemorations by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in Dzivarasekwa while the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions held its commemoration in Kwekwe.
The theme of this year’s Workers’ Day Commemorations: “Restoring Workers’ Dignity.”
Several organisations that include trade unions, pressure groups, and political parties also conveyed their solidarity messages with workers.
Addressing workers in Dzivarasekwa, Prof Mavima called for unity, tolerance and discipline in moving the country forward.
“The Government is proud that all political parties are coming together in celebrating the country’s national events.
“It is through you, our hardworking Zimbabweans, that we will achieve our goal of constructing our own roads, dams and bridges; building our own schools, clinics and factories; growing our own food and manufacturing our own clothes. Through your hard honest work, you are bringing to reality our national development mantra, Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo/ Ilizwe liyakwa ngabanikazi balo”, he said.
Prof Mavima urged social partners in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) to expedite the establishment of the Zimbabwe National Productivity Institute which, among other objectives, will drive productivity consciousness across all sectors.
“A prosperous society is only possible if you as workers continue to play your part. As a country we commend you for your efforts that have led to the present growth trajectory in our capacity utilisation, which is now at 66 percent.”
He said wages and salaries must be commensurate with the resultant improving macro-economic fundamentals.
“Employers are challenged to respect and honour the efforts being made by workers in modernising and industrialising Zimbabwe. The Second Republic is determined to retain the purchasing power of workers, through a viable public transport system. Government will not stand by and watch while the hard earned incomes of our workers are stolen by ‘mushika-shikas’ and ‘makoronyera’ No!,” he said.
Prof Mavima said the incidence of non-remittance of payments for medical aid and pensions for workers by organisations will not be tolerated.
Zanu PF added its voice with the party’s secretary for Labour and Production, Cde Kenneth Musanhi saying salaries and wages must be commensurate with basic needs.
He said the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement policy was hinged on consistent interactions with labour unions as they were the nucleus of dialogue in finding solutions to challenges facing workers.
“To this end, we find pleasure in our solidarity with the ZCTU as we are both committed to accelerating policy efforts aimed at increasing the dignity of every worker in Zimbabwe. Upgrading the working conditions in all sectors of our economy is not only ideologically imperative, but it translates to the betterment of various livelihood pillars of our society namely the health and education sectors, as well as eradicating poverty, vulnerable and bolstering food security measures,” he said.
Cde Musanhu implored ZCTU affiliates to constantly engage Zanu-PF for increased policy advocacy given their common history to fight for workers.
“Given this history and ideological burden, Zanu PF and ZCTU are Siamese twins sustained by the umbilical cord of the class consciousness of teachers, nurses, miners, farm and mine workers among many other citizens whose skills are immensely contributing to our national fiscal growth,” he said.
In an interview from Kwekwe, ZFTU secretary general, Mr Kennias Shamuyarira said there was need to deal decisively with industrialists bent on profiteering though unjustifiable increase of prices of goods and services.
“There is also need to break monopolies in the economy where important products are supplied by one person or firm. There is need to whop errant businesses that are wantonly raising prices of goods and services.” Said Mr Shamuyarira.
Opposition party Labour, Economists, African Democrats leader, Mrs Linda Masarira commended the Government for its policy of leaving no one behind in national building.
She chronicled the history of the liberation struggle focussing on the contribution of workers in various categories.
Mrs Masarira castigated the opposition MDC for allowing neo colonialists in their ranks to undermine the ethos of the liberation struggle.
“Instead of championing the cause of the citizens the party worked hard to advance the interests of our former colonisers until it split several times because of power struggles. This has been evidenced by its call for the imposition of sanctions on our motherland and the creation of an atmosphere of political intolerance and hate. It is also sad to realise that despite having given birth to the party we, the workers and citizens no longer have a voice in the movement,” she said.
ActionAid Zimbabwe country director, Mr Joy Mabenge urged the Government to prioritise smallholder investment and ensure improved working conditions for agriculture sector workers.
“Currently the agricultural extension system has approximately one extension officer per 800 smallholder farmers thereby making it difficult for them to pay close attention to the needs of the individual farmer,” said Mr Mabenge.
There were also several commemorations in other areas.
In Beitbridge, Zimbabwe Revenue and Allied Workers Trade Union (ZIMRATU) president, Mr Dominc Manyangadze led the proceeding at Dulivhadzimu Stadium on behalf of the ZCTU president, Ms Florence Taruvinga.
He also urged the workers across all the economic sectors to always use the existing dialogue facilities when resolving labour-related disputes.
“On behalf of the customs and revenue officers employed by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, I appeal to the Government to consider including us in the vehicles (rebate) import facilities, just like what they are doing to civil servants and other dignitaries. This will serve as incentives and motivation considering that Zimra employees are the ones handling these rebate issues daily,” he said.
Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association (ZICHEA), territorial president for Beitbridge, Ms Portia Shumba appealed to the local councils to consider improving the state of the workspaces around the border town and review rates to ensure that their small enterprises remain viable.
In Masvingo the majority of people celebrated Worker’s Day by largely spending the day at home with their families as they grappled with the chilly weather which kept most people indoors.
Some of the people said they were preoccupied with the opening of schools tomorrow with focus on last minute shopping for their kids to go back to school.
They said workers in both the private sector and Government continued to bear the brunt of continuous price hikes that were eroding their earnings hence their appeal to employers to cushion them from the ravages of the rising cost of living.
Workers’ Day celebrations in Mashonaland West were held in various towns where workers gathered to commemorate the day and air grievances.
Various workers’ unions including Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU), Zimbabwe Domestic and Allied Workers Union (ZDAWU), and Chinhoyi Residents Trust among other groups converged near Gadzema Market in Chinhoyi for the provincial celebrations.
Same celebrations were held in all the seven districts of the province.
Chinhoyi Residents Trust representative, Mr Peter Liwanda encouraged Chinhoyi Municipality and other urban and rural councils to reward its workers handsomely so that residents get good service delivery.
Nelia Chiparamazani, a farmworker from a nearby farm called farm owners to review their salaries most of whom were earning less than $8 000.
In Gweru ZCTU officials addressed a handful of workers were in attendance.
ZCTU deputy secretary, Mr Kudakwashe Munengiwa bemoaned unfavourable working conditions for most workers.