State security agents were today crushed by Bulawayo workers in a Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) planned demo to protest against the wave of redundancies triggered by the controversial Supreme Court judgement in the Don Nyamande and Kingstone Donga versus Zuva Petroleum case. In Harare scenes were the opposite as blocked labourers were given a humiliating bashing by ZRP officers.
Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s ruling, which has so far seen 18 000 workers dismissed within a month upholds a common law precedent allowing employers ‘to terminate an employment contract by giving three months notice” without giving neither reason nor compensation for the loss of jobs.
Harare’s ZCTU offices were besieged by police, entrances were blocked while unionists chased away. Those who resisted were bundled into a truck and whisked to different parts of Harare where they were dumped.
“I myself was dropped at Mbare. My comrades were dropped at Mupedzanhamo. This is consistent with what we have come to know as the Mugabe Regime,” said ZCTU Secretary General, Japhet Moyo.
On the contrary, ZCTU defied the police in Bulawayo as a 1000 strong crowd took to the streets. ZCTU Vice President, Sithokozile Siwela told protesters that, “The rebranding of slavery is unacceptable. How can people work for 40 years and be sacked without as little as a match stick in token of appreciation.”
“We demand the establishment of a specialized Labour Court of Appeal distinct from the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe as well as appointment of specific Constitutional Court Judges distinct from the Supreme Court Judges,” said Sithokozile who read ZCTU President, George Nkiwane’s speech outside Bulawayo’s Mhlahlandlela Building.
“We are saying to the Government that workers are under siege from all spheres. The government has a duty to protect the vulnerable by moving swiftly either by using the Presidential Powers or Ministerial Powers as a stop gap measure before the amendment of the Labour Act to stop the current wave of job losses,” said Sithokozile.
According to Sithokozile, workers and Government clashed in past decade with Government trying to legalize labour market flexibility. After meeting resistance, Government then tried to use the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) and former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, to introduce labour market flexibility. After failing to make headway, the “anti-labour schemers” then used Chidyausiku’s bad judgement to enact a law that contravenes International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 97and 98, specifies the rights of workers.
To add salt to injury, Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ), Executive Director, John Mufukari, is on record saying “you can not grow an economy by making it impossible to shed labour when necessary because you will go into liquidation.” At a Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting held recently in Harare, some EMCOZ members called for fixed retrenchment packages. Others supported the removal of legislation that pegs a minimum retrenchment package to be paid upon severing a contract of employment.
Although Chidyausiku’s ruling has angered some war veterans and pro-Zanu PF youths, Government will nevertheless plough ahead and enact labour market flexibility policies, which it has cherished for years.
“We will amend the law, because the judiciary and the judges did not do anything wrong,” said Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Prisca Mupfumira.