Sifelani Tsiko Senior Writer
Zimbabwe joins the world today to commemorate the international Workers Day amid expectations that the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra and thrust will spur job creation and instil some hope in thousands of jobless people in the country.
Ever since President Mnangagwa assumed office, he has emphasised the need to attract foreign investment to create jobs and boost national economic growth.
His Government has since adopted a battery of measures to tweak archaic rules and operations that deter investment and job creation.
Furthermore, he has said he remained open to new ideas and views that could be actionable to boost job creation, investment and economic growth.
Through President Mnangagwa’s leadership, the country has scored major successes in the past four months, attracting investment commitments worth more than $11 billion.
All this, is largely due to the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra and culture that he is spearheading through a spirit of openness, honesty and hard work.
The thrust of his administration to press for transparency and accountability, marks complete departure from the previous administration which was riddled with bureaucratic inefficiencies, corruption, lack of transparency and accountability — something which scarred potential investors.
Confidence has enveloped the business sector and charmed the international community to embrace Zimbabwe.
Scores of foreign investors are now trekking to the country to scout for business opportunities and expand their business interests — a move which is likely to create jobs and instil hope among the jobless people.
Handouts bring misery and poverty while jobs bring dignity to people.
All efforts to create jobs must be promoted and given priority in the country.
But as the country moves to attract huge investments in various sectors, it must also ensure that it balances its appetite to create jobs with the need to create better conditions for its workers, with better wages, safe working conditions and union rights.
Workers’ democratic rights must be secured and upheld
And as we head towards the 2018 elections, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the country’s umbrella labour body is pushing a position paper on their expectations from the various political parties contesting this year’s general elections.
Its leader, Peter Mutasa, says workers’ issues must be honoured and acknowledged in every sphere of the economy.
“The workers are going to choose that which is in their best interests. Workers have always been participating in the political space of this country well before independence. That is why all pre-independence political parties were founded and led by eminent trade union leaders of the time.
“Even after independence, trade unions fought and won battles for workers through the political processes,” he was quoted saying.
The new administration is keen to engage workers on all matters that affect them, but is weary about labour unions being used to advance the interest of other opposition parties.
Closer collaboration and creating a win–win situation is key as the Government seeks to open the economy to investors while labour unions press for wage increments at a tricky time when the country is emerging from a two decade–old rough economic patch.
Talking about different interest groups, there is a thin line dividing the interest of industry and industrialists, Government and nation, and labour and labour organisations, which must be recognised and a fine balance should be made between such interests.
Industrialists and employers should move to promote innovation among workers and help them become entrepreneurs or create some incentives which may not pile inflationary pressures on the economy.
As the economy emerges from a dark past, strikes will not help solve the country’s problems, but dialogue is key to fleshing out problems that workers may have with the Government and their employers.
Neither trade unions nor employer groups or Government will want economic activities to decline.
For the country to sustain a high economic growth rate, dialogue and engagement are critical for an economy such as Zimbabwe’s.
Efforts to revive Zisco and a number of other companies that had collapsed or were facing viability problems must be sustained to help save jobs and also ensure economic growth.
As Zimbabweans join the rest of the world in commemorating international workers’ day, they must live with hope that the implementation of various economic projects worth billions of dollars will create jobs and spur economic growth.
Disputes on labour market are inevitable, but closer collaboration and mutual understanding, ironing out differences could be what Zimbabwe needs now more than anything.
Prolonged labour disputes could harm the economy and scare foreign investors who want stable and predictable labour environment.