Zimbabwe: The Role of the official Trade Union Federation

Report by the International Revolutionary Workers of Zimbabwe, 17.8.2016, www.thecommunists.net




The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) plans to lead processions in the countries major cities throughout the country on Saturday August 20 to protest against the Special Economic Zones Bill H.B 15 which is now before the President for assent.


Previously ZCTU activists tried to rally workers to the streets in major towns and cities in anti-government demonstrations and failed miserably. But only a pocket of protesters turned up for the demonstration. Normally, when street protests are mulled, those expected to join are the poor workers, the disgruntled and the down trodden. Zimbabwe has those in abundance, but they chose to concentrate on their own livelihoods. A few workers who have to be at work will poppy down through the windows of their multi-storey establishments, and they will never join.


The lack of interest by the impoverished populace to demonstrate shows that the ZCTU has lost its ground and betrayed the masses. Also this shows how far trade unionism has lost relevance in a country where formal employment has almost ceased to exist and the ZCTU now appeals to a very few workforce which itself is largely uninterested in these protests.


But it is the despair which the workers who suddenly found themselves without jobs that got many thinking. Did the ZCTU really represent workers? Did the union believe sincerely in speaking on behalf of the voiceless? Left on their own vices with no jobs to turn to, it has certainly dawned on many that the ZCTU sold out.


It is a cruel sell-out technique which has left deep scars that will never heal for many until death. Now those men and women who constituted an important labour force in a glaringly growing economy are now left on their own. No worker in Zimbabwe will align himself/herself to a union which publicly supports a political party just as ZCTU work in hand with the bourgeois MDC.


Today the former workers are not fooled and neither are the majority of all Zimbabweans. The ZCTU is playing a political game for MDC. It will not work because Zimbabweans have realised the importance of safeguarding what they have. Once bitten twice shy, all those millions in the informal sector will not give heed to any of ZCTU messages veiled in the solidarity.


Unemployment has spiralled out of control, with estimates suggesting that 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s able-bodied are out of formal employment. The catastrophic closures of companies coupled with widespread retrenchments have forced many into the informal sector. Therefore, Zimbabweans are more concerned with their day to day activities for survival and they now support those groups that have nothing to do with any political parties.


In the memories of Zimbabweans are the 1997-98 mass street protests spearheaded by the same principal workers' representative body, ZCTU in conjunction with many other civic organisations. ZCTU was fronted by the then secretary general, Morgan Tsvangirai, now president of the MDC-T. ZCTU, therefore, actually they are playing in the hands of political parties.


Thus as the IRWZ we call on the trade unions, mass organizations of the workers, poor peasants and urban poor to fight for the interest of the broad masses!


While we support the unity of action with reformist, populist and centrist forces, at the same time we warn against any illusions in the bureaucratic leaderships! For the formation of a rank and file movement inside the trade unions to organize the ordinary workers independently of the bureaucracy!