By Leopold Munhende
ZIMBABWE Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa has warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa not to unleash notorious state security agents to silence dissenting voices ahead of the labour union’s planned protests against a crumbling economy this Monday.
The ZCTU has called for mass protests to register anger against government’s failure to set civil servants salaries in US dollars and unwillingness by Mnangagwa’s administration to implement economic and political reforms.
ZCTU, in partnership with the militant Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), has called for nationwide protests from Monday to also force Mnangagwa to dismiss his Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and guarantee salaries are pegged in US dollars as the local currency continues to tumble against major currencies.
In a telephone interview with NewZimbabwe.com Sunday, Mutasa said the labour body was going ahead with the scheduled Monday demonstration despite fears the police and army officers will break the protest.
Thousands of state security agents are deployed across the country to enforce Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Among other Covid-19 regulations, mass gatherings including protests are not allowed during this period.
Several MDC Alliance youth activists have been arrested after staging demonstrations against the worsening economic situation in Zimbabwe.
“State brutal force can only work for a short period, in a country where the majority cannot afford to buy food anymore, it is folly to avoid the crisis and rely on the use of force,” Mutasa said.
“The use of the lockdown to trample upon workers’ freedoms especially the right to protest against bad working conditions is deplorable.”
Mutasa said Mnangagwa should respect workers’ genuine concerns and their right to protest against a non-performing government.
“Workers are working during the lockdown period and they should enjoy their rights. In fact, President Mnangagwa recently announced that the government will respect the freedoms of citizens during this relaxed period of lockdown.
“Workers’ demands for a living wage in foreign currency is legitimate considering that everything else is now charged in US dollars,” he said.
ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure told NewZimbabwe.com workers should be allowed to peacefully protest following the relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown regulations that have seen churches reopening.
“The current lockdown is inspired by the unscrupulous agenda of curtailing people’s freedoms.
“If the people are allowed to meet to worship, they should be allowed to meet to demand material things that can sustain their lives. The protests will be sustained until the value of teachers’ salaries is restored.
“We will not allow duty bearers to hide behind Covid-19 to deny citizens their source of livelihood.”
Pressure group, Poverty Liberation Movement (PLM) has also informed ZCTU that it will mobilise its structures and take part in the protests.