By Bridget Mananavire
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday suffered the indignity of addressing a virtually empty Rufaro Stadium in Harare, after the government ill-advisedly sought to hijack and use for its own ends this year’s Workers’ Day commemorations.
Despite committed efforts by lapdog State media to drum up support for the event ahead of yesterday, the commemorations flopped spectacularly after the country’s main workers’ representative body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) boycotted what ultimately manifested itself as a Zanu PF rally.
The Daily News has been told that Labour minister, Prisca Mupfumira acted against advice from fellow Zanu PF officials and invited Mnangagwa to be the guest of honour at the event despite indications on the ground that the VP is hugely unpopular.
Barely a thousand people, most of them huddled in the middle of the stadium’s western stand, attended the commemorations, as the embattled VP — facing serious Zanu PF resistance to his mooted ambitions to succeed President Robert Mugabe — officiated at the event.
“Mupfumira blundered by inviting Mnangagwa against wise advice not to. We believe that the move was meant to prop up the VP and sell him as a suitable person to replace …Mugabe but as soon as Zanu PF people leant that the VP had been roped in, they decided against attending.
“It was a huge embarrassment and exposed the VP and yesterday he was the subject of serious ridicule on the Zanu PF social media platforms with most saying the humiliation at Rufaro was enough testimony that Mnangagwa was unelectable. Buses were sent throughout Harare to pick up people but they still snubbed,” said a top Zanu PF official yesterday evening.
Another official said it was a blunder for Mnangagwa to try and use such an event to raise his profile because the people were already angry with joblessness and poverty coupled with the fact that the VP was not a popular politician.
Not even the presence of high-profile musicians such as Jah Prayzah and Suluman Chimbetu managed to woo disinterested residents of the nearby high density township of Mbare to the do, that had been billed as the “centrepiece” of national events marking Workers’ Day.
Meanwhile, a joint statement released by the African Democratic Party, Mavambo Kusile Dawn, Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment, Movement for Democratic Change, People’s Democratic Party, Zimbabwe African People’s Union, Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, Zimbabweans United for Democracy and the National Constitutional Assembly, said the economic climate meant that hope was in short supply in the country.
“About 98 percent of working age people, especially the youths, are in the informal sector, 60 percent of the industries which were operating in 2010 have shut down and 83 percent of our people live on less than $1 a day.
“Generally, the people feel hopeless, and they are in despair, dejected and demoralised. More critically, in many enterprises in all sectors of the economy country-wide, in both the public and private sectors, working people have gone for long periods without being paid for wok already done.
“In the last month, the spectre of cash shortages has haunted even the few who are still employed, as they fail to access their hard-earned money,” the parties observed.
Other people who spoke to the Daily News yesterday also said given the level of economic pain that was currently being experienced in Zimbabwe, there was little point in celebrating May Day.
Some of the people went to the extent of saying Workers’ Day should be renamed “Unemployment Day” locally, to better reflect the dire economic reality in the country.
Speaking at the Rufaro Stadium commemorations, Mnangagwa said the government was concerned about the worsening cash crisis ravaging Zimbabwe, adding that both Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe were working hard to mitigate the situation.
He also bemoaned the fact that many workers had lost their jobs, while some were going for months without their salaries.
Turning to the high levels of corruption in the country, he said culprits would face the music regardless of their social status.
Speaking earlier, Apex Council chairperson, Cecilia Alexander, said she was disappointed with government regarding its implementation of the hotly-disputed civil service audit.
She added that because the government had not consulted workers when it embarked on the exercise, the resultant audit report had many irregularities — further savaging the continued harassment of civil servants that was akin to what used to happen during the colonial days. Daily News