Written by Makusha Mugabe
Sunday, 03 May 2009
Morgan Tsvangirai in ZCTU regaliaPrime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai donned his old Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions regalia at today's Worker's Day celebrations to tell workers to be patient with the inclusive government which is broke and cannot pay the wages demanded by their unions.
But whether teachers, policemen, nurses, doctors, soldiers and government workers will listen to his call will determine whether Zimbabwe does not degenerate into civil strife, with walkouts by civil servants, leading to further collapse and the government's inability to pay even the US$100 allowances that it has been paying.
The US$100 civil service allowances are being paid by donors in hard currency which Zimbabwe is not earning sufficiently because of the collapse of its export sector, but thanks to friendly donors the government has been able to tide them over the difficult period, and prices have been stabilized, though they are still high.
The money is coming from donors as the government is not collecting sufficient taxes to pay all its needs, because there is no industry and no agriculture, but trade unions are demanding four times as much as the government says is able to pay – thus pitting Prime Minister Tsvangirai who is responsible for all government finances against his erstwhile supporters in the worker's movement.
The workers workers supported Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and voted for it and for him as President against Robert Mugabe a year ago, but Mugabe refused to leave and went on to assault MDC supporters until Tsvangirai negotiated a settlement in an effort to rescue the nation which was doomed to collapse in a political and economic crisis that had brought Zimbabwe to ruin.
But the government is not making any headway in attracting financial support from those who matter because Mugabe is now back paddling on agreements signed.
While some MDC supporters are calling for pullout from the government, but Tsvangirai has taken the pragmatic stance which recognises that Mugabe and his military machine would not allow any opposition and would stop the movement towards free and fair elections.
Meanwhile the government is broke and only able to pay the $100 allowances, which Tsvangirai said would improve “when things improve”
He pleaded with ZCTU to give the new government time to fix the economy before pressing its demands for a minimum wage of $454.
"We have been in office for less than three months. I plead with you to please give us time," he said. "Your demands must be realistic, taking into account that your government is broke and that industry has not been performing."
ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo had earlier told thousands of cheering workers at the rally that the labour movement would call national strikes and protests to press its case.
The government has appealed for billions of dollars from the West to help revive Zimbabwe's shattered economy, but Western donors such as Britain want to see further progress in implementing the power-sharing agreement, which Mugabe is going back on.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 May 2009 )