Opposition throws weight behind mass protests

OPPOSITION political parties have thrown their weight behind planned mass protests by a cross section of civil servants, saying workers should refuse to be “abused and trashed” by the government.

By Nqobile Bhebhe/Obey Manayiti

Teachers and nurses have announced their intention to down tools to press for payment of salaries and bonuses.

Some teachers began accessing their salaries yesterday, while the rest of civil servants, including nurses, would be paid on January 5.

MDC-T national spokesperson Obert Gutu said as a labour-backed movement, they supported the strike call.

“The MDC would like to express its deep concern at the failure by the Zanu PF government to pay December salaries for all civil servants on time,” he said.

“Teachers, nurses and, indeed, all civil servants deserve to be remunerated on time every month. These people work extremely hard in very difficult conditions to ensure that all government operations are fully functional.”

Gutu said civil servants deserved to be treated with dignity and respect.

“As a labour-backed political party, the MDC fully supports the call by teachers and nurses to embark on strike action starting on January 1, 2016,” he said.

Gutu said civil servants should also demand to be paid their bonuses.

“The Zanu PF regime has utterly failed the people of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe should refuse to be abused and trashed by this insensitive and kleptocratic regime.”

MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said the government was detached from the people.

“We are dealing with an intolerant, incompetent and bankrupt government that is detached from the people,” he said.

“The Mugabe government is too broke and too rusty to inject life into key sectors like health and education. The Zanu PF government is trapped between a rock and a hard place; a foolish reaction will badly affect the poor. (President Robert) Mugabe should stop his ostentatious behaviour, swallow his pride and quit to save lives.”

Chihwayi added that serving under Mugabe was a nightmare for government workers.

“This is a regime that does not respect dialogue or seek an amicable and lasting solution to a crisis. The MDC sympathises with the poorly-remunerated, frustrated and abused teachers, doctors and nurses,” he said.

The Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) urged civil servants to go ahead with the industrial action.

“It’s amazing that they are not on strike already. It is the extent to which Zanu has normalised the abnormal, people work every day for no pay. We will not only support, but we will be at the forefront,” PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.

Bulawayo Chapter PDP spokesperson Fortune Mlalazi said civil servants across ministries should unite and launch massive public protests to force the government to act on the “national crises”.

But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the problem was not isolated to Zimbabwe only, while accusing opposition parties of trying to make cheap political mileage.

“Everybody knows we are going through an economic crisis. It’s affecting the entire world, including our neighbours in the Sadc region. It’s not as if somebody is responsible. There are droughts, El Nino, which are contributing too,” Khaya Moyo said.

“These are things we need a collective approach to and everybody is doing their best to deal with the matter. We need regional groupings like Sadc and Ecowas [Economic Community of West African States] to try and work together because the problem affects other countries too.”

Some Bulawayo residents also said while the call to strike was noble, they doubted whether it would generate much steam.

“I wonder if there is that appetite for strikes anymore. People are now cowards and with plans to retrench civil servants, the strike call will be ignored out of fear. Those who strike will be easy targets for retrenchment,” Dominic Chirowa, a resident, said.

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