Govt workers shred petition during foiled march, declare end to wage talks

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By Leopold Munhende

FRUSTRATED civil servants on Wednesday tore into pieces, a copy of a petition they intended to hand over to Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube in a symbolic declaration of an end to any future dialogue prospects with their employer.

This happened when anti-riot police were deployed to block a protest march by the government workers over poor wages.

Addressing fellow workers outside the Public Service Association (PSA) House in Harare Wednesday, Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander tore the petition to shreds amid cheers by other civil servants saying their employer had displayed insincerity and intent to cheat its workers.

Alexander said government was taking them for fools before calling on all those with cameras to record her tearing the petition as confirmation that talks between the two parties have failed.

“They take us for fools but at the end of the day, if they do not address issues affecting civil servants, we are not going anywhere.

“It is clear that we have been denied an opportunity to hand over our petition, may all those with cameras take note of this, we are tearing the petition,” said Alexander to cheers from the workers made up of mainly teachers.

She said her action indicated the beginning of a new era after a protracted history of disappointments from government.

Added Alexander; “What this means is the beginning of another era, you can push someone into a corner for so long. We told government on October 14 that your workers can no longer afford to go to work, they did nothing and it is 22 days now.”

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general, Raymond Majongwe, who was first to tear the petition on behalf of his organisation, said government was engaged in a deliberate attempt to destabilise teachers’ unions and the Apex Council by sowing divisions between them.

Teachers, like doctors, are demanding payment of their wages in US dollars or equivalent at the prevailing interbank rates.

Despite boasting about achieving a budget surplus through his different financial interventions, Ncube has adamantly indicated government could not afford to pay the monies being demanded by its restless workforce.

Ncube insists government has done all it could through payment of cushioning allowances and a bonus for 2019.

Workers have however scorned this, describing it as nothing for as long as it is paid in a volatile local currency which loses value almost every day.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Obert Masaraure blamed Ncube and President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly dehumanising government workers.

“Mnangagwa and Mthuli have dehumanised us. This is no longer a war to be fought by teachers, nurses or doctors on their own, it is now about the poor fighting an oppressive system of thieves who want this country’s wealth to be their own.

“They want to cheat Cecilia (Alexander) but we will not let that happen. We are no longer going to work.”

Most teachers’ unions were represented at the demonstration which was contained at their offices by baton stick wielding police officers.