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Zimbabwe job losses: Govt’s crocodile tears

A ruling by Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court has led to more than 20000 workers losing their jobs, according to worker’s unions. In his inaugural blog for Waza, Blessing Ivan Vava interrogates the hypocrisy of the government’s reaction.

Blessing Vava
Blessing Vava

A friend of mine in Zimbabwe recently lost his job with a local company. He had been employed by that company for seven years, and last week he received a letter terminating his contract and ordering him to leave the premises immediately.

After seven years of service, he will receive no termination benefits and will only receive three months’ salary. He joins over 20 000 workers who have been fired from work: many from private companies, and an even bigger number from parastatals.

Shifting blame

This has been happening in the wake of propaganda by the ZANU PF government, which strangely shifts the blame for the job losses to the country’s labour laws; particularly a ruling that has thrown the Zimbabwe’s workers in the streets.

In July this year, the Supreme Court in Zimbabwe ruled that employers have a right to terminate employment contracts simply by giving the requisite notice of intention to terminate employment.

This position is untenable.

The ruling party is now seeking to amend the country’s labour laws in a bid to ‘end’ these firings. What hypocrisy?

Colonial legislation

Quite telling though, is the hypocrisy shown by the ruling party. They blame the ruling on the flimsy pretext that it is a result of the colonial legislation that Zimbabwe adopted and never changed since the country gained its independence.

Shockingly, ZANU PF has exhibited serious levels of hypocrisy, acting as if they are concerned about the firing of workers, whereas the government- itself the biggest employer- has already started sending its employees home.

Parastatals are firing workers

To date, most parastatals including the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Grain Marketing Board, ZIMPAPERS and the National Railways of Zimbabwe, have dismissed thousands of employees. The figures are set to rise as more employers take advantage of the relaxed labour regime.

The Supreme Court ruling has in a way confirmed the true colours of our government, which is now in an overdrive capitalist cycle. And Zimbabweans should brace for more tough times ahead as we have embraced another ESAP, albeit one,with more devastating effects than its World bank imposed predecessor.

In 1991, the state embraced the Economic and Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), which advocated for tighter fiscal policy, reduction of public expenditure through faster privatization of parastatals, and civil service downsizing. This program left a majority of Zimbabweans jobless.

Policy inadequacy

The collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy originated from ‘market fundamentalism’, but the recent crisis has been due to a total collapse of the nationalist interventionist paradigm, itself a creature of the Third Chimurenga (the chaotic land reform) and ZIMASSET policies.

As if our government has not learned from history, they are still embracing free market, neo-liberal models that have failed in the past. We should not forget that the Minister of Finance, Mr Patrick Chinamasa, said government plans to cut the public sector wage bill to 40 percent of total revenue from the current 80 percent.

Planned

Therefore, the Supreme Court ruling is not surprising: it had been planned already. And it is clear that the pressure is coming from institutions like the IMF and World Bank, and of course the East, which are prescribing these austerity measures as pre-conditions for a financial bailout.

It is shocking why the international community is quiet while all this is happening in Zimbabwe. Their only loud cries were when Cecil the Lion was killed. It boggles the mind.

It is obvious that ZANU PF is behind the Supreme Court ruling (never mind the interpretation of the law). They have a two thirds parliamentary majority, which enables them to change the laws.

Compromised judiciary

If they were truly against the ruling as they have been saying, the ruling would have been delayed, thus paving way for the proposed labour reforms they are making noise about.

I say so because the Judiciary itself is compromised. The Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, is a former ZANU PF MP, and all the other Judges are appointed by the President. That’s where their allegiance lies, and not vice versa.

In the past, ZANU PF has used the judiciary to settle political scores, and no serious ruling is made without Mugabe’s approval. In Zimbabwe there is no rule of law, it is taboo to pass a judgement that is not preferred by the president. It can never happen.

Evidently, this hullabaloo about changing the labour laws is all hogwash, because the damage has already been done. And by the time the law is passed, only Mugabe and his cronies would still be employed by the state.

Political expediency

Thus, in the case of Zimbabwe, institutions like the judiciary are being used to sustain the capitalist economy. And the state is also clearly serving the interests of capital.

As the government is complaining about over-expenditure, their levels of spending on the military are quite alarming, gobbling about $379 million allocated by Chinamasa during the budget presentation.

With the ongoing retrenchments, it is obvious that, despite the bloated manpower in our security forces, no single soldier or police man will be retrenched. They would rather keep them for political expediency because, if my friend’s experience is anything to go by, the anger towards the government is growing by the day.

This article first appeared on Waza who are proud to feature as part of their content, local bloggers who have a knack for expressing their unique perspectives, independent thoughts and engaging stories. 

The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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