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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: A nation of toiling workers

May day is a special day. It is the day that we pay tribute to the world’s working people, that rare breed in our families and communities who slug it out under tenuous conditions to give meaning to our lives.

At a personal level, it is a day that invokes memories of my previous life as a salaried worker; first as a journalist and secondly as an employee of a political behemoth.

As a journalist, I was overwhelmingly elected the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists at a Masvingo hotel on a sunny Sunday afternoon in October 2002. That occasion baptized me and marked my entry into the leadership of the working people of this country. At least for some years.

That election as a leader of the country’s press corps earned me a place in the general council of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the country’s national labour union.

So I am a trade unionist to the bone-marrow. As a dedicated employee of a political party, I won the “Worker of the Year” award for three consecutive years. I know how to grind it out with excellence of execution.

This means at a personal level, I deeply appreciate the sweat, toil and blood of the working people. And I can intimately relate to this great day.

We commemorate this day after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) has just revealed that the toiling and underpaid workers of this country are contributing more to the country’s revenue than their companies.

Yes, individual tax contributions in terms of Pay as You Earn (PAYE) are more than corporate tax. From the figures released by ZIMRA, the few remaining workers still in formal employment contributed 17, 9 per cent while corporate tax contributions accounted for 15, 3 percent to the national fiscus.

Indeed, given these statistics, the weather-beaten workers of this country deserve to be saluted and appreciated.

On Friday and as confirmed by a global report, I lamented the fact that Zimbabwe is an unhappy nation when we were ranked 145 out of 146 countries in a global happiness index report.The civil servants, the ordinary citizens and everyone who toils for their family everyday, is severely stressed and unhappy.

Today, we ought to remember these working people. They deserve our utmost respect.

In a country where citizens have begun yet again that embarrassing craze of flocking to neighbouring countries to buy basic foodstuffs, we must pay tribute to those who work hard every day to bring food on the table. These workers are heroes and they ought to be celebrated today.

It is Zanu PF itself that has dramatised our parlous national predicament. Yes, Zanu PF has graphically and dramatically demonstrated that Zanu PF has dismally failed.

Only on Wednesday last week, the Zanu PF DCC chairperson for Kariba, Rhodrick Mugwanhira wrote to the immigration authorities at Chirundu border post pleading with them to relax their immigration conditions so as to allow residents to cross into Zambia to buy cheaper basic commodities.

It is a sign of failure of national leadership when citizens have to fish out their passport and have it stamped to cross over into a neighbouring country to buy soap, cooking oil, candles and matches.

The workers of this country are bearing the brunt of the dismal failure of the Mnangagwa regime. Today, I reproduce last year’s highly emotional piece that I wrote with tears on my cheeks. It was an emotional treatise that I dedicated to the despondent working people of this beloved country.

Dear reader, I plead for your indulgence as the situation described hereunder has only gotten worse in the past 12 months.

Ode to the country’s toiling workers

May 1 is always Workers’ Day and we must all accord due veneration to those who sweat it out every day to give meaning to the lives of their loved ones and those around them.

They toil every day to bring food on the table and on this special day, the world pays tribute to the workers—-this special breed that brings dignity to the sacred institution called family.

In Zimbabwe, the day must assume a unique dimension as the civil servants of this land are slugging it out under very difficult circumstances, worsened by an inept government that does not care for its own workers, worse still for everyone else.

To the toiling civil servants of this land, this is your day. With salaries that can barely take your families for a week, we salute you.

For me, special mention must go to the teachers because there are so many of them in my immediate family. Today is your special day. To all the teachers of this country, who continue to give our children education and who can still afford to exude smiles and affection to those around them in spite of their parlous living circumstances, we salute you.

Special mention must go to the teachers at Tsatse School, my rural school in Shumba ward in Domboshava where I did my primary education. This is the place that it all began; the place that I call home and today, I pay special tribute to all the teachers there who can barely eke out a living.

Some of them are supplementing their meagre income by moulding clay products for sale while their uncaring employer looks away indifferently. To the lady teachers at this school who last year came to Tamborinyoka village during the holidays, asked for permission and dug a whole anthill to mould bricks for sale, this is your special day. We salute your fortitude and dedication.

In my whole life, I had never seen teachers “running” bricks, let alone female teachers! But then this is the “new” dispensation and there is newness and novelty in many respects. Under Mnangagwa, virtually all civil servants have become a sorry sight, their dignity swept away by the hurricane of ineptitude personified by their own employer.

To the doctors, nurses and the rest of the health staff working under tenuous conditions, this is your day.

To the police and the disciplined members of our uniformed forces, this is your day. Indeed, to all our suffering uniformed forces, your Commander-In-Chief has bought himself an $18 million private jet so he can fly over your sorry predicament!

To the few workers still in formal employment, this is your day. We know you are slugging it out under very tough conditions to give some semblance of life to the fading heartthrob of our economy, a heartthrob that has now calcified into a barely discernible pulse.

To the teeming millions by the roadside–the now booming informal industry on the country’s pavements and the various vending markets across the country, this is your day. We salute you for choosing honesty and chastity over crime and kleptocracy.

This is your day.

To the hollering industry by the roadside—where everyone is selling something to someone at high pitch, this is your day. You have chosen a life of honesty to work for your families and to send those innocent kids to school.

We salute you.

To those gallant youths who have decided to working towards inheriting a better future, we pay a special ode to you on this special day. Makomborero Haruzivishe, Obey Tererai Sithole, Joannah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, Netsai Marova and many other youths currently in custody for working towards a dignified future, we salute you today.

To the suffering mothers at home, the single mothers, widows, widowers and those leading child-headed families who slug it out under very difficult circumstances, we can only extend veneration to all of you.

To the ZCTU and those many unions whose job is to represent the toiling masses of our this our cursed land, we give you our salutation!

And yet among this valiant lot we are celebrating today, there is a cursed breed whose daily work is to repress and increase our suffering.

Curse be unto those who are working to reverse the people’s sovereign will as expressed in the new Constitution and in the elected officials that are being recalled everyday. While the people worked hard to write a Constitution for themselves and made their choices known in an election, the regime and its surrogates are working hard to undo the people’s expression in both respects.

These are workers with a wicked difference and we pray that they all be cursed.

Lastly, fare thee well to Charles Chifamba, the people’s hero in ward 6 of Goromonzi West who passed away two days ago and will be buried today in Rusape. You were a worker with a difference and you worked hard in the last election, resulting in Tongai Kamusori of the becoming the first ever people’s councillor from the people’s party in this ward.

Ward 6 of Goromonzi West houses the famous Glen Forest cemetery and for the first time in 2018, through the sweat mainly of Chifamba and others, we buried Zanu PF at Glen Forest in this ward.

Charles Chifamba, the fruits of your labour in this ward will always remain your legacy. You have left your own indelible footprints on the sands of history in Goromonzi West. On this Workers Day, as they inter you in the loamy soils of Rusape today, we shall always remember your great work in our home area.

We remember you this Workers Day for your great work that shall live forever.

Next year, there is only one big piece of work to be done in the various polling stations across. The citizens are clear on what they will do.

Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava as well as the interim deputy champion for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with him on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.

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