THIS generation is notorious for telling someone to “go hang” without saying so or through conduct or behaviour. Housemaids are called domestic technicians, while garbage collectors are referred to as hygiene technicians.
As not to be outwitted in this abuse of terminology or jargon, the government of Zimbabwe has coined the phrase “new economy”, meaning the informal sector. How on earth can the government be proud of informalising the economy?
Those who recall the simple reason sons and daughters of the soil took up the liberation guns was to restore the black person’s dignity.
In broad terms, dignity can be viewed as a triangle, consisting of the right to life, a fair share in the resources of the State and to vote for a government of one’s choice, (one man, one vote).
Agreed, during the white man’s era, blacks were third class citizens, the first class were the white man, followed by the Indians and Coloureds.
Issues that led to the liberation war were displacements from land, forced taxation in the form of head, cattle and hut taxes.
Disenfranchisement, which is denial of the right to exercise one man, one vote was another bone of contention.
In terms of the Master and Servant Act of 1934, black workers had no rights. They were treated as property of the employer. A work-related misconduct was criminalised, resulting in the offending worker being sent to jail for the said offence.
35 years down independence line, we witness a new economy. How does one reconcile the new economy philosophy with the ZimAsset? We are told ZimAsset projects the creation of two million jobs for the period 2013 to 2018. To say this is a mirage is an understatement.
On one hand, the government is advocating for casualisation of labour, liberalising the labour market and productivity linked wages and salaries.
In layman’s language, the government of the day is removing the worker’s dignity, making it possible for employers to hire and fire willy nilly, as well as leaving every decision with the employer.
When the Minimum Wage Act was promulgated in 1980, it was a realisation that workers could not match the employer’s power in the bargaining chamber.
The question to be asked is – has the status quo changed over (35) years since independence? Something fundamental has gone seriously wrong with the government.
Is it because our black rulers are now owners of factors of production minus labour? Labour has become a thorn in the flesh of the government. At every fora, the chorus is about employment costs as the major driver of exorbitant product costs.
A scratch of the surface will tell one that corruption is the major if not the only driver of products costs. Tenderers in government tenders and elsewhere must pay bribes. Illegal fees are paid for being introduced to relevant people. The list is endless.
Almost any and every institution has in one way or another some form of introduction levy or commission. Potential investors have been lost, while those who lingered on find themselves with inadequate resources to kick start their projects after forking out millions of dollars on bribes.
The new economy philosophy promotes a labour force without pension contributions as all workers will be casuals. Termination expenses will be reduced once the Labour Act is amended in favour of employers.
Labour is the only weapon at the worker’s disposal. Once the worker is denied the right to have a say on the conditions, remuneration and tenure of employment that will spell doom for the workforce.
One would have thought the government had learnt a lesson from the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) disaster. The International Monetary Fund and its sister Bretton Woods Institutions alluded to the fact that Esap was a blunder. This was in the backdrop of arguments to the effect that Esap had not worked anywhere in the world.
One wonders what has happened to the government that was so worker friendly, the government that brought in the Minimum Wage Act, that formed the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
It is unbelievable that the same government is sentencing workers to eternal destitution. It all starts with casualisation and ends up with a pensionless retirement. Gone are the days of ukudla endala – mudya ndigere meaning pension payouts.
The callousness started when the people pensions and insurance policies were wiped out when Zimbabwean dollar collapsed. People were quiet then, when bank accounts were flushed down the drain. Many workers are in salary arrears ranging from one to 24 months.
Now the very jobs are contractised. Attempts are underway to cut those slave salaries, which are already in backlog. People then, who went to the liberation war were fighting injustices like land displacement, denial of self dignity, enfranchisement and the right to a living wage.
Today, the worker has lost self dignity to fend for own family, displaced of his only source of living, the job together with a living wage or salary. Workers of the world arise and unite.
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