Tsvangirai’s remarks at the Workers’ Day celebrations Gwanzura Stadium, Harare, 1 May 2012
The President of the ZCTU, Mr George Nkiwane
The Secretary-General of the ZCTU Mr Japhet Moyo
The Minister of Labour and Social Services Hon. Paurina Mpariwa
Cabinet Ministers here present
Members of the ZCTU General Council
Affiliate unions here present
Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I feel greatly honoured to be invited to speak at an important day such as Workers’ Day. I notice that every time I am invited to speak at a ZCTU-organised event, I am referred to as a “guest speaker.” I can never be a guest at a workers’ function because I spent half of my life serving the interest of the workers!
I always say that one can never be guests in their own homes so I am at home here and I am not a guest! Firstly, I want to start by expressing my displeasure at the fact that there are two or more celebrations taking place today because labour has chosen to factionalise itself.
While “factions” may be associated with politics, it is certainly not in the interest of the workers of Zimbabwe to have a divided leadership claiming to represent their interest.
I therefore hope that common sense will prevail because it is in the interest of workers for the country’s largest labour body in the country, the ZCTU, to be one united entity. On this one, I am speaking as President of the MDC, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and as a former secretary-general of a united family of the ZCTU.
I hope that dialogue will be speeded up so that the workers of this country will speak with one strong voice through a united body. Ladies and gentlemen, it is true that there is nothing to celebrate at this year’s workers’ day. Our calendar is now laden with meaningless national holidays.
Today, we “celebrate” workers’ day in a country where very few people are still in formal employment, companies have closed down and the remaining workers, including civil servants, are earning below the poverty datum line. So today is workers’ day in a country with no workers.
On Thursday, we “celebrate” Press Freedom day when there is no such press freedom in the country. So I have no doubt in my mind about the bleak backdrop on which we celebrate this day. I want to say that as an inclusive government, we have made our own strides in improving the lives of the people.
It is easy to forget that four years ago, this country was on the brink of collapse. Savings were wiped out, we had a debilitating hyperinflationary environment and our own civil servants were earning the equivalence of US$2.
The inclusive government has at least provided some modicum of stability, albeit with the limitations of a shaky coalition that has no common vision. We also have had own glaring shortcomings.
We have a unique coalition of opposing ideologies and this has resulted in this government dismally failing in its major responsibilities of creating jobs, promoting investment, paying its own workers and setting the tone and foundation for economic progress and development.
Most of our industries remain closed and millions of our people are either jobless or in informal employment. The country is facing a serious liquidity crunch while the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Fund (DiMaf) has proved to be inadequate to bring back the noise in our silent firms.
Ladies and gentlemen, the case of Bulawayo is a pertinent example of the mammoth task facing this government.
According to official government statistics, 85 companies closed down last year due to high production costs, high tariffs and lack of credit lines, leaving 20 000 workers jobless. Of the 85 closed companies, 19 are in the clothing and textiles, 63 in the motor and three under the construction sector, while five companies were reported to be under judicial management.
This is the sad story in most cities and mining towns across the country; the bleak and dark backdrop on which we celebrate Workers Day today. We have no option but to return the dignity of the worker, to give our government workers a decent and living wage and to resuscitate and revive our ailing industries in order to create jobs and set the tone for a sustainable future for our children.
Sadly, my experience has shown that this cannot be achieved by a coalition, especially an uneasy coalition like ours where we have bickered over remittance of diamond revenues and come up with a flawed so-called empowerment law; a euphemism for looting and personal aggrandizement at the expense of improving the condition of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
One cannot expect a government which bickers over an Independence Day theme to agree on fundamental policies that shape, create and nurture a sustainable vision for the Zimbabwe of the future.
My point is that only a legitimate government borne out of a free and fair election can address the concerns of the workers, the students, the church, the women, the youth and most importantly, the millions of unemployed Zimbabweans looking for a visionary leadership that will steer this country forward.
I therefore implore all of you to support the call for a free and fair election; the creation of a peaceful environment that will lead to a legitimate government that will address the cross-cutting concerns of Zimbabweans in their diversity.
It is this labour body, the ZCTU, that created the MDC and I want to assure you that we remain alive to our mandate to deliver real change in the lives of the people. I assure you that we have not lost our sense of mission.
We are certain that the incoming MDC government will fulfil the mission for which the workers of this country deployed us first into opposition politics, into a coalition government in 2009 and finally into our own government in the coming year.
We have a clear national economic vision that transcends party politics. A vision to create jobs, bring investment and set the ground for peace, stability and security as these are key ingredients to economic success.
We will start by having a clear five year programme that will deal with job creation, a clear programme underpinned by political reforms, a commitment to the rule of law, infrastructure rehabilitation, resuscitation of our manufacturing potential and increasing our mining and agricultural productivity.
Some of us envision a $15 billion economy in the next five years and we can be able to achieve a US$100 billion economy by 2030.
It is possible, if we work together, to achieve 10 per cent annual growth rate as long as we all agree to a peaceful country underpinned by constitutionalism and the rule of law. Our challenge is that there are others who are not driven by the collective national interest and prefer chaos to peace so that they can create wealth for themselves and their cronies.
The economy is not performing, but there are things that are key in the short-to-long term.
These include the issue of the social contract and government, labour and business must have an institutionalised forum to dialogue as we navigate this delicate transition. A social contract will provide the necessary framework for tripartite consultations on all matters affecting the management of the economy, promotion of economic growth and development, the operations of the labour market and the provisions of a comprehensive social security net.
Dialogue has been the missing link and it is also important on the part of the workers to note that their issues should not be narrowed to wages alone. Workers’ concerns are broader than a living wage and these include the need for harmonised labour laws and the general improvement in the quality of life.
Any visionary government must seek to provide an environment that will reward enterprise and initiative and the creation of a labour-intensive, knowledge-based economy which offers its people full employment.
An MDC government will seek to create and maintain an adequately remunerated, highly-motivated workforce supported by well-managed and up-to-date training and research units.
I want to tell you that there is nothing that has frustrated me in my three years in this government than our failure to pay the civil servants a decent wage. I want to say here that the workers of this government, who continue to offer public service for a pittance, are the unsung heroes and heroines of our time.
We have our own issues of transparency and remittance of diamond revenues and ghost workers but some of us believe any credible government must be able to pay its own employees a decent wage.
Lastly, I notice that your theme for this year is By words and deeds, proud to be ZCTU. It is an apt theme because this country must move beyond rhetoric into proper action that prospers the ordinary Zimbabwean and sets a firm foundation for future generations.
I thank You
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
1 May 2012
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