01 May 2020
Labor is and has always been a critical component of the build of Zimbabwe, equally so, labor remains an accurate measure of national development. From the divorcing of the umbrella labor movement (ZCTU) from ZANU Pf and becoming the beacon of workers to the radical opposition of the World Bank sponsored Neo-Liberal ESAP, the labor movement has shone as a true reflection of the Zimbabwean society, all strata represented.
Under pressure from the Bretton Woods Institutions and the local capitalist, the Mugabe led government abused workers, arbitrary dismissals, sickly wages, little to no benefits at all; the Zimbabwean worker was under attack! At the same time, Regional Labour movements were changing the political discourse by challenging established hegemonic Nationalist Parties of which quintessence is Frederick Chiluba who beat Kenneth Kaunda hands down in an election in 1991. Almost simultaneously, the world was facing a radical change with setting up of the New World Order establishing the USA as the ultimate global power further creating uncertainty in the nation and entire region on ideology, politics and even culture. In all this melee, the Labor Movement stood firm still with the principle of representing the worker.
Fast forward 1998, food riots, students demonstrations, tipping point inflation, workers number corroded, the workers of Zimbabwe, under ZCTU led the Civil Society, Students, Church and ordinary citizens in what may be the greatest shutdown in Zimbabwe. A year later, the very same faces, same ideas, same rhetoric, same class (workers) formed what was and is the greatest challenge to ZANU Pf misrule, The Movement for Democratic Change led by trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai (May his soul rest in power!). Great respect is accorded to the then ZCTU leadership which maintained it’s independence from the new party which they themselves had facilitated and financed it’s formation. These MDC crusaders crushed old ways of thinking and brought monopolar political domination to an end. The whole nation was mobilized around a Social Democratic if not Socialist ideology and got hitherto unimaginable electoral gains.
2006, the state goes on the offensive by abducting, torturing, maiming and even killing trade unionists along MDC activists. International solidarity follows but there is a new breed within the labor backed party; The state had invested so much to cripple the labor movement and had dealt the major blow during the farm invasions of the early 2000s decimating a good fraction of farm and plantation workers affiliated to the ZCTU. The economy too was doing its best to reduce the workers of Zimbabwe drastically.
Now, today there is a coterie of trade unions and coalitions of such with not much ideological orientation if any, some of these groupings have been formed in disguise by the employer and State to bring confusion to the negotiating table of workers issues. The most worrisome issue is no longer of the ruling class dominating the working class by deceiving and repressing us but the transfomation of its own ideology into the culture of issues we breathe everyday. It boggles the mind to see values and aspirations of exploiters and ruling class end up being aspirations of some amongst the working class. In our case an interesting yet sad scenario is a case where the “Alternative” dominated councils is collaborating with those in Government in destroying informal traders (Vending) sites at a time when the country’s livelihoods depend on informal sector and also taking advantage of the COVID19 Lockdown to carry out these demolitions.
Radicalisation of the Labor Movement is a primary necessity today more than ever, to protect and safeguard the interest of the worker. It is only through radical confrontation that due attention may be accorded and action thereof taken. We have Labor Unions such as ZCTU, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe among others taking their share of the burden and all progressive forces should now unite under the theme of radical action, may the public be judge. The current COVID19 is an eye opener of real class differences among us.
As we celebrate the Workers Day lets bear in mind that injustices and system of domination and exploitation should be confronted head on . Imposing our social force through radical action will destroy a humiliating begging for crumbs approach from the Employer and the Elites.
Aluta Continua ✊✊🔥🔥
Robson “Nikita” Chere is the National Secretary General of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and a Secondary School Teacher . He writes here to the people of Zimbabwe in his own personal capacity
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