Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in marking International Workers Day with thousands, who thronged the main May Day activities at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare heckling a senior labour ministry official as they rejected the government’s economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET).
Francis Mafuratidze, standing in for Labor Minister Nicholas Goche, was forced to cut short his address after angry workers heckled him for vouching that ZIMASSET will change the country’s fortunes as the government’s blueprint to economic recovery.
The workers said they did not like ZIMASSET, adding it is a useless program that may not change their lives.
ZCTU president George Nkiwane weighed in saying the government produced ZIMASSET without consulting workers and other stakeholders, adding that is the reason the majority of the workers were rejecting it.
Nkiwane said the blueprint is unachievable as it is narrow and based on the 2013 Zanu PF election manifesto.
He said the blueprint does not mention key issues such as national employment and debt resolution strategies hence the anger by workers.
The trade unionist also said workers are worried by the government’s plans to review the country’s labor laws to remove constraints that relate to issues like retrenchment, terminal benefits, procedures for dismissals and working hours.
Nkiwane noted that the government wants to implement the changes without consulting stakeholders, a move he said is contrary to international labor conventions on social dialogue.
He said most workers are getting wages that are lower than the poverty datum line, currently pegged at $550 per month for an urban family of six.
Nkiwane said unemployment remains high with the Zanu PF government failing to provide the 2 million jobs it promised in the run-up to last year’s elections.
Workers, he said, are equally worried by the political situation in the country where the ruling party seems to have no succession plan in place while infighting in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has left the labour-backed party weaker.
Embattled Movement for Democratic Change leader and former ZCTU secretary general, Morgan Tsvangirai, also addressed the workers though the umbrella union body had announced this week that it was not going to invite politicians to speak at the event saying they always take the chance to feather their nests and not deal with issues affecting the workers.
Tsvangirai urged workers to be resolute, adding they should unite as they take head-on the challenges they are facing in the country.
He urged workers to persevere and blamed Zanu PF for the economic woes affecting the country.
Tsvangirai was accompanied by acting secretary general Tapiwa Mashakada, national organizing secretary Nelson Chamisa and Deputy chairman Morgan Komichi.
Commemorations by the Concerned Affiliates of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions were cancelled after police said the planned venue Harare Gardens was booked for Harare International Festival of Arts activities.
This year’s commemorations were held under the theme, “Workers Intensify the Struggle, No to Labor Market Flexibility.”