By Alois Vinga
LABOUR federation the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) wants to be part of any political dialogue between protagonists President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his rival MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.
ZCTU president, Peter Mutasa told newzimbabwe.com in a wide-ranging interview Thursday, that workers are keen to make sure any solution to the country’s current crisis avoids the elitism that was seen during the Government of National Unity.
“There is need to avoid an elitist approach to dialogue, like the one which took place in 2008 where political leaders sat down in a hotel and hammered a deal which we later realised it had serious deficiencies because it ignored socio-economic issues bedeviling workers.
“While appreciating that the engagements will be purely political, we will also be keen to be a part of the dialogue in order to represent the workers voice,” Mutasa said.
Former President Robert Mugabe and the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai were forced into dialogue after a bloody inconclusive election in 2008 that resulted in the formation of the GNU between 2009 and 2013.
While Chamisa insists he will force Mnangagwa to the negotiating table, the Zanu PF leader has gone one step further and called for a platform for all candidates in last year’s presidential elections.
Chamisa has snubbed the move, instead demanding “genuine dialogue.”
“We told Mnangagwa that there must be dialogue to resolve the country’s political crisis. We meant genuine dialogue but he goes on and drags the likes of (Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, Elton) Mangoma.
“We will not be party to a choir. The dialogue we seek is not one made up of people who agree with Mnangagwa. We have a dispute with him and he must agree to a face to face meeting to deal with the crisis,” Chamisa said Wednesday.
On the other hand, Mnangagwa has characterised Chamisa’s behaviour as akin to the rebellion by the biblical “Satan” against God’s rule in heaven, for rejecting his “all-encompassing dialogue initiative” arguing he will only deal with those that want the country to progress.
Mutasa said political leaders in Zimbabwe, have no choice but to find each other and dialogue. However, the ZCTU leader suggested the talks should be anchored on resolving the country’s socio-economic problems rather than a fixation with political power.
“Dialogue is now the only way to go but our emphasis is that focus must go towards addressing socio-economic issues because we believe that the country is in an economic crisis. Such factors have been ignored for a long time and this may be the only way out,” Mutasa told newzimbabwe.com.
While government has indicated its willingness to re-engage social partners under the Tripartite Negotiation Form (TNF), Mutasa said it was key to accept that most of Zimbabwe’s problems have their genesis in “unresolved political problems hence the need to sensitise the political leaders to deal with the problem once and for all.”
Mutasa admitted historical ties between the opposition MDC and the ZCTU have made it easier for the two to find each other on most occasions.
He however denied the labour body has interests being used as a platform for regime change.
“ZCTU has no interest in setting the regime change agenda as alluded, because we have no benefit from that due to the known government worker relations the world over.
“Even if you support a specific political party it may still trample on workers’ rights when it rises to power,” said Mutasa.
The ZCTU was the fulcrum upon which the MDC was formed in 1999 with then secretary general Morgan Tsvangirai as well as president Gibson Sibanda all leading the political formation in its infancy.
Since then successive Zanu PF governments have had a frosty relationship with the ZCTU.