ZCTU, government in hide and seek over joint Workers Day gig

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By Alois Vinga

ATTEMPTS to heal a decades old rift between government and labour federation the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) seem to have hit turbulent waters after it emerged the two will hold separate gatherings on Workers Day.

Reports had indicated Labour Minister Sekai Nzenza was set to attend the ZCTU’s main commemorations in Harare probably setting the stage for a thawing of relations after exactly two decades of hostilities.

But late Tuesday afternoon, Nzenza’s communications assistant, Francis Mupazviriho sent out an invitation statement to the media advising that government will host a separate media briefing to mark the Workers Day commemorations.

“The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Hon Sekai Nzenza will be holding a press conference tomorrow (May 1st) to mark May Day celebrations. The conference will be held at the National Social Security Authority boardroom,” the statement said.

Contacted for comment and quizzed on whether Nzenza was going to turn up for the ZCTU organised function, Mupazviriho said the minister will instead be represented by officials dispatched to stand on her behalf.

Relations between the Zanu PF administration and the ZCTU then under the leadership of the late Morgan Tsvangirai, took a hit at the turn of the century when the labour federation anchored the formation of the country’s biggest opposition party the MDC.

Until then former President Robert Mugabe or some of his key lieutenants had always officiated at such events but the then Zanu PF leader angry at what he saw as betrayal stopped it.

However, since President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s take over in November 2017, the new regime in Harare has gone out of its way to project itself as reformist with a view to engage internally and externally in a bid to return the country to the family of progressive nations.

Sources privy to the developments allege that the ZCTU and government have been making efforts to re-engage after realising that they need each other as key strategic partners in order to achieve a meaningful social cohesion. The latest developments however, effectively indicate that the rift between the two could be far from over.

Meanwhile, ZCTU’s Moyo revealed that the commemorations will go ahead Wednesday as scheduled.

“Our theme for this year’s commemorations is: ‘We are at a cross roads! unite, fight neoliberalism and austerity’. The choice of the theme was influenced by the situation we find ourselves in as a nation as workers are facing other multi- faceted challenges around job security, safety, exploitation and degrading treatment by employers,” Moyo said.

Moyo said that the theme is a befitting one, given workers are faced with unscrupulous employers and an authoritarian State captured by business completing a hostile environment around them.

“There are massive work deficits and informalisation of labour at various workplaces. Workers are dying from dangerous chemicals, unsafe workplaces, non- payment of salaries and underpayments.

“The commemoration gives workers an opportunity to reflect on these trials and tribulations a well as reaffirm our resolve to fight on. It also allows workers to reassert the agenda for the coming years in the struggle,” he added.