By Morgan Tsvangirai
Today is that day again when we salute and pay tribute to the workers worldwide, when we remember their sacrifice and their blood, sweat and tears in making economies tick and in feeding their families.
In Zimbabwe, we mark this day comes in the wake of a debilitating economic crisis spawned by a stolen election in July last year. That stolen election, after which $1 billion was spirited out of economy in a week, has led to the multi-layered crisis of legitimacy, confidence and expectation.
It is in the context of such crises that we celebrate this day in which the few remaining workers in our country are struggling to bring food on the table, to send their children to school and to meet their daily obligations.
We meet today when our industry has collapsed, when millions of our people have been absorbed by the unproductive informal sector and when government is struggling to pay its workers a consistent and decent wage.
This Workers’ Day, being celebrated under the theme “Workers Intensify the Struggle – No to Labour Market Flexibility”, is an important but sad day for the great people of this country.
The state of the nation
The country is in a parlous state. The workers are bearing the brunt of this debilitating national crisis, from the liquidity crunch to the daily struggles to survive and feed our families. There is deafening silence in the productive sector as confirmed by the Zanu F government’s zero commitment to support the productive sector in the current budget.
The economy has been highly informalized and most people are now vendors, flea market operators and selling odd things on the informal market.
The few workers who remain in the formal market are grossly underpaid, with even civil servants now earning staggered salaries, with pay dates consistently postponed as this government struggles to meet its wage bill.
As the MDC, we remember with pride our days in government when workers earned a living wage that as paid in time. We admit that we did not meet all the national expectations in our days in government, but we gave Zimbabweans and the workers of this country the much-needed relief in a hyperinflation environment caused by Zanu PF.
As a party, we join you in your efforts to intensify the working people’s struggle and in your rejection of labour market flexibility. We join you in the rejection of a labor law regime that fails to respect the role of the workers who have continued to give our ailing economy some semblance of life.
We join you in your rejection of policies and a budget that did not meet the workers expectations, a budget that did not even commit a single cent to the productive sector to support our industries that are now comatose.
We join you in rejecting the government’s plan to reform legislation to make it easier to make it easier for employers o hire and fire employees and to please employers.
Added to that, we have seen companies closing after July 31 despite Zanu PF’s pledge to create an ambitious 2,2 million jobs. There has in fact been an intention to make sure that the millions of jobs are lost than created as this government pursues reckless and insane policies such as the indigenization policy in the current framework. As currently implemented, the policy is anti-investment and is against the spirit of ensuring that our economy ticks again.
There is little to celebrate today as the registrar of companies only last month deregistered more than 150 companies. So far, 7 500 workers lost their jobs when their companies failed to open after the December shutdown while 300 people are being retrenched every week due to viability challenges.
Despite this sad situation for workers and the ordinary people, top executives in both private and public companies were recently revealed to be earning obscene perks and salaries. Corruption by the high and mighty and the well-heeled and well-connected in the public and private sectors is the cancer at the heart of our economy but there is no effort by anyone in government to stamp it out.
I have said before that we have become so good at corruption and theft as a country that we have gone beyond the mere robbery and theft of public assets and proceeds from the country’s natural resources.
We have perfected the art such that the people’s mandate and the people’s votes are no longer safe in this country. Even the people’s expression through an election is now susceptible to pilferage, as we all saw on July 31 last year. This is the grim environment in which we mark this year’s May Day.
A workers’ struggle under siege: Same script, different actors
The MDC is a product of the aspirations of the working people of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders from whose parentage we derive our pride and our support. The MDC was formed to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe in their diversity, but particularly the working people and the ordinary people of this great country.
As I sand before you today, I cherish and acknowledge on behalf of the party the support you have given us following what has turned out to be an ill-fated attempt by the elite to capture our struggle.
This struggle was not conceptualized in opulent boardrooms on expensive billiard tables. The working people’s struggle that conceived the MDC was started in smoky factories, in the mines, in the villages, by the students and the broad civic society under the constitutional movement.
Despite the diversity of the players at its formation, the soul of the MDC has always been shaped and marinated by the workers and the ordinary people of this country. The soul of our party, conceived largely by the ZCTU, has never been driven by the privileged people who today want to capture the ordinary people’s struggle.
Today, we publicly pledge here, in the presence of our great parent on this great day that we shall not allow the elite capture of our party by those we thought were partners in our struggle to positively transform the lives of the people of Zimbabwe.
We publicly pledge here that the soul of the MDC struggle for real change shall continue to reflect the aspirations of the ordinary people. I also want to take advantage of this platform to disabuse people of the false perceptions deliberately created to justify the hostile take-over of this great people’s movement.
I, as Morgan Tsvangirai, will not be at the helm of the workers’ project until the cows come home. I will pass the baton to a new generation but only through a democratic process called a Congress and not through a boardroom coup by a few individuals outside the people process that elected us and gave us responsibility.
That is the democracy that we subscribe to and that is why the national council of the party formed by the workers yesterday resolved to bring forward our Congress to October 2014. That is the forum where leaders are elected or removed, not through clandestine and illegal gatherings of a few in boardrooms and other up-market venues.
It is the classic case of the same script but different actors. The attempt by the elite to capture the people’s struggle was attempted again in 2005. But just as it failed then, it has failed again and we in the party shall remain focussed and united in our quest to bring everyone, indeed all committed individuals, into one big tent so that we can all unite to bring positive change in the country.
We are not discriminating anyone in our genuine quest for unity. I have publicly spoken on the need for a united front in our quest to bring back the country to legitimacy through our eight-point plan that will culminate in a free and fair election predicated on political reforms.
Despite the betrayal by a few along the way, we retain the same faith in unity that we had when we gathered, despite our sectoral diversity, to form this great people’s movement. We continue o call upon the unity of all democratic forces under one big tent so that together, we shape the destiny of our own country.
I want to conclude by saying that the current crisis facing this country, particularly the ordinary working people of this country, cam only be resolved when we return this country to legitimacy. We have met many trials and tribulations in our various stations as we execute this struggle, but we must persevere until we achieve the positive change we set out to achieve way back in 1999.
We must confound the sceptics who think that temporary setbacks will make us lose focus on our mission to serve the people of Zimbabwe. Speaking for myself, I want to assure you that they may frustrate me, but they will not succeed in breaking my spirit.
Have a happy May Day.
I thank You