By Nokuthaba Nkomo
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) cranked up the pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government, confirming it would go ahead with its planned national strike this month.
This comes as the government has increasingly come under pressure from restive labour leaders, who are agitating for the salaries of their union members to be paid in United States dollars.
At the same time, the government is also still battling to convince striking doctors to go back to hospitals, following a month-long stand-off which has led to the suspension of critical medical procedures at public hospitals.
“Workers are generally worried about the narcissist approach taken by government in making policies. We are in a form of dictatorship worse than what we had during Mugabe’s era,” ZCTU president Peter Mutasa told the Daily News yesterday.
“If things continue like this, the country will be left with no drugs in pharmacies, no doctors and nurses in hospitals, no teachers in schools — and this is destructive. As a union we have agreed to take action and we want to co-ordinate all workers’ groups to join the shutdown.
“We want a welfare State and we want to stop the austerity measures that are making our lives difficult … We have communicated with our members and we are hoping to discuss with other civil organisations before we embark on the shutdown,” Mutasa said further.
The planned ZCTU shutdown comes at a time that civil servants have demanded to be paid in United States dollars, or the equivalent in bond notes to cushion themselves from the deteriorating economic environment in the country.
However, the government has rejected outright the public servants’ demands to be paid in US dollars.
Still, the Apex Council — which represents hundreds of thousands of civil servants across the public sector — is adamant that the government should pay its workers a minimum of $1 733, or the equivalent in US dollars.
“All the unions have agreed that they will not be able to come to work in January if the government fails to give us a positive response. It doesn’t mean that we are calling for a strike, but workers will fail to come to work due to the high cost of living.
“We did a research in November and we are saying the lowest paid civil servant must get something like $1 733 — and we have communicated our position to the government,” Apex Council chairperson, Cecilia Alexander, told the Daily News last month.
The government has come under growing pressure from disillusioned citizens over the worsening local economic situation — after Mnangagwa was feted in his early days in office for superintending over arguably the most peaceful elections since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
Zimbabweans have in the past few months had to contend with rising prices of basic consumer goods and widespread shortages of items such as cooking oil — which have disappeared from supermarket shelves.
Thousands of commuters have also had their festive season travel plans thrown into chaos, due to the current fuel shortages being experienced in the country.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa himself told the Zanu PF conference in December that his government was battling to fix the country’s myriad economic problems.
However, he also told his followers at the Esigodini conference that the government was working flat out to try and solve the multiple crises.
“Government, along with industry, continues to dialogue and interrogate the cost build-ups, towards finding lasting solutions which will bring permanent relief to consumers and greater stability to the economy.
“We also need to address the question of our own domestic currency once the correct economic fundamentals are in place,” he said. Daily News