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THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has threatened countrywide mass demonstrations in response to the massive job cuts triggered by a recent Supreme Court ruling.
The job cuts that have caused uncertainty among the country’s restive working class were a threat to the existence of trade unions whose struggle for parity and socio-economic justice could come to nothing as both private companies and government entities have condemned thousands of people into poverty.
ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo told NewsDay yesterday that the labour body’s general council held an extraordinary meeting in Harare over the weekend and resolved to mobilise for mass protests in major cities to pressure government to urgently intervene.
Moyo said police had been notified of the planned demonstrations on Saturday.
But, police yesterday said they wereunaware of the plans.
To date, at least 10 000 workers — both in the private sector and parastatals — have lost their jobs within a space of two weeks as employers capitalise on the court ruling to “cheaply” offload their excessive workforce.
The ruling allows the employer to terminate employees’ contracts by simply giving three months’ notice without the option of retrenchment packages.
“The general council resolved to embark on demonstrations against the mass dismissals of innocent workers through notice.
“The general council viewed the onslaught as a misinterpretation of the (Chief Justice Godfrey) Chidyausiku judgment by unscrupulous employers,” Moyo said.
Moyo said the demonstrations were also against government’s failure to stop the job losses.
“The general council has since mandated the secretary-general to liaise with the organising department, affected workers and other interested groups to agree on the suitable dates,” he said.
“As a result, the responsible department, after consulting the affected workers, settled for the 8th of August. We are, therefore, calling for all labour unions to mobilise for the action.”
Yesterday, the officer commanding Harare Central District police, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, said he was unaware of the ZCTU’s planned protests.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba also professed ignorance over the matter.
“I have not been told about it. I am not aware of such demonstrations,” Charamba said.
Part of the ZCTU notification to ZRP Harare District delivered yesterday morning read: “The ZCTU hereby notify (sic) you that it will conduct a peaceful demonstration on the 8th August 2015 between 1000 hrs-1200hrs to voice its concern on the ongoing job losses following the Supreme Court judgment that gave employers the right to terminate employment contracts on notice.
“The demonstration will end with the delivery of a petition to the Hon Minister of Labour and Social Services and Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe.”
Moyo said the special meeting had also called for the boycott of all companies that had used the Supreme Court ruling to terminate workers’ contracts without paying them any benefits.
“The general council further called for the boycott of all Zuva Petroleum, TN Holdings and other identified entities that are spearheading this madness on poor workers,” he said.
Moyo has since written to ZCTU affiliate unions calling on them to mobilise for the action, which would be simultaneously held in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Masvingo and Mutare.
“You are kindly requested to organise and mobilise your membership and supporters, including those whose contracts were terminated, to participate in the national protest action in their respective ZCTU regional centres,” wrote Moyo in a memorandum to all general secretaries of affiliate unions.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said government’s reluctance to stem the tide of job losses was deliberate.
“The government intends to reduce its responsibilities vis-a-vis the national economy. It wants to leave workers and informal traders exposed to the vagaries of the free market and create a reality in which it is no longer accountable for the plight of the majority poor,” Zhangazha said.
“In the process it instills fear and apprehension about seeking to challenge government policy positions because citizens are desperate to make a living and will almost sell their political souls just to stay alive and look after their families. They are deliberately putting citizens between a rock and a hard place”
He added: “Zimbabweans are definitely under siege from an elitist regime that is pandering to the whims of the International Monetary Fund and China which have no contextual application to its policy intentions.”
Political and economic analyst Vincent Musewe said the prevailing situation could trigger civil unrest.
“By year end, we will have a deflation of unbearable proportions. This can cause food riots. We are on course to the 2008 scenario, this time, food will be in the shops and people do not have money to buy,” Musewe said.
“It is a monumental catastrophe. Millions of people will be without anything to do.”
The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) has pledged its support for the mass action, saying it will also mobilise its members to join the demonstrations.
“It is our fervent wish that we work formally with the ZCTU to fight the system and its policies in our quest for social and economic justice,” newly-elected ZCIEA president Lorraine Sibanda said during her acceptance speech after the association’s congress in Harare.