By Alois Vinga
THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says it will petition government over failure to address outstanding terminal benefits owed to 400 000 ex-commercial farm workers.
This comes after government has agreed on a US$3,5 billion compensation deal with white former commercial farmers who lost their land during the country’s violent land reform process inside the last two decades.
Under the Global Compensation Deed, government pledged to pay the former landowners for improvements made on the land when they were still doing commercial farming.
The agreement, which seeks to end a prolonged impasse between government and the farmers, is however silent on any plans to compensate black workers who toiled on the same farms and also lost livelihoods.
But speaking to NewZimbabwe.com Thursday, ZCTU president Peter Mutasa expressed disappointment over the development.
Mutasa vowed to pursue the matter with government.
“We are writing to the government putting forward our demands on behalf of the former farm workers as we support our affiliate General Agriculture Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ),” he said.
He questioned why government was not emulating the good deeds of its South Africa peer which took it upon itself to pay compensation for WENELA workers for services they performed some ages back.
“This is clear that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube do not respect workers and the poor. We are very disappointed,” Mutasa said.
“It is unimaginable that a government which is supposed to be acting for the benefit of the people will prioritise paying few former farm owners only and neglect around 400 000 workers.”
Mutasa said the ex-workers and their families were displaced without being paid their terminal benefits while some were either maimed or lost their lives during the violent land invasions.
The labour rights defender said the majority of affected workers had no other homes except for those that were in the farms.
Many, he said, were held hostage by the new black farmers as they have nowhere to go.
Mutasa urged government and the international community not to disburse any payment towards the ex-commercial farmers without addressing ex-workers’ payments.