HARARE: It is now four years since the signing of the Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe. The agreement, which was signed on 15 September 2008, brought together the three major political parties in the country to form a unity government with ZANU-PF led by President Robert Mugabe.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the smaller MDC splinter party of Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara agreed to form an inclusive government after the 2008 disputed presidential and parliamentary elections that the MDC claimed to have won. Civic groups, trade unions and other stakeholders were not represented at the signing of the historic agreement.
The formation of the inclusive government subsequently brought an end to political violence and adoption of a multiple currency system in the financial sector. The Zimbabwe dollar, which had lost value and reached inflation to a million percent levels, disappeared from the system and the streets were awash with United States dollars, the South African rand, the Botswana pula and the British pound. Inflation stabilised down to seven percent, schools re-opened, hospitals had drugs, supermarket shelves were full of food, fuel was available at service stations whilst some industries that had closed due to foreign currency shortages re-opened and employed workers.
Once more, most families could afford three decent meals a day. The country had indeed moved from a period of despair and agony to hope in 2009 and 2010. However, from 2011 to 2012, many negative developments took place.The new MDC legislators had to learn their ropes, with some of them getting entangled in corruption whilst others were given posts that wielded little political influence.
The major concerns of both parties were not addressed. Sanctions targeted at ZANU-PF members by the US and European countries remain in place and now affect every Zimbabwean and ZANU-PF wants the MDC to influence the US and the European Union (EU) to drop the sanctions. Although MDC says it has nothing to do with the sanctions, they are the strongest weapon for the opposition. The discovery of diamonds in Marange in 2011 was another morale-booster for many Zimbabweans as the diamonds would contribute immensely to the fiscus and kick-start the economy.
However, to complement the land reform programme, the government in 2012 introduced an indigenisation and empowerment law that compels foreign investors to cede 51 percent shares to locals. MDC does not want the indigenisation law but prefers foreign direct investment without any strings attached. The two diamond mining companies in the country - Mbada Diamonds and Anjil Diamond Mine - have complied with the indigenisation law but are now under Western sanctions.
These and many other negative developments have affected the economic and the livelihood of many Zimbabweans.For four years now the politicians continue to play the blame game, accusing one another of underperformance and failing to initiate development in the country. In a wide-ranging interview, Japhet Moyo, the current Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said workers are now fed up with the inclusive government.
"We are stuck with a government which came after an agreement which did not involve us and has become a time wasting forum which has brought more misery to the people and hope to fade," said Moyo. "Yes, there have been positives in the two previous years as schools reopened whilst some industries have been re-opened and shops operating at full capacity, but these have turned out to be false hopes. We have two governments in one and two voices from the one government."
Meanwhile, workers have been sceptical about the indigenisation policy. "The policy has not empowered ordinary workers at all. It has empowered those who were already empowered, such as the powerful politicians, war veterans and very few individuals who can jump the bureaucratic barriers to get to the top for favours," Moyo said. He strongly believes the indigenisation policy discourages prospective investors from coming to Zimbabwe. "The policy has retarded investor appetite and thus the capacity production curve in 2012 is going down from 50 percent to 40 percent levels because investor enthusiasm is falling," he noted.
Unemployment remains very high and has reached beyond 80 percent and is likely to go up in the election year.There is a significant upsurge in the number of self-employed people on the streets of Zimbabwe cities due to retrenchments after company closures.
"In 2011, there were around 4,000 job losses. This year we expect the number to be much higher, considering the number of company shutdowns and the disputes over non-payment of salaries coming to our offices every day," Moyo revealed. And sadly, health and safety policies at the workplace are not adhered to because managements do not budget for such items any more. "More accidents are being reported more often than before, workers are not provided with protective clothing, company vehicles are not serviced regularly whilst some equipment is used without safety components fitted to the machines," he said.
However, Moyo commended the HIV/AIDS programme, which he says is doing well. "We are happy with our HIV/AIDS programme which is jointly funded by the Canadian International Development Aid organisation (CIDA) and the Global Fund Against HIV/AIDS. Our aim is to see zero new infections in the next 10 years," he said. On the tourism front, Zimbabwe is this year hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference at Victoria Falls Town in August. Therefore, there is naturally much excitement and optimism amongst stakeholders as the New Year unfolds. The major aim of WTO is to stimulate economic growth, job creation and to promote peace and understanding among nations. It is anticipated that 3,000 delegates from 158 countries will attend. It is an opportunity for Zimbabwe to market itself and portray a good image of itself.
Asked how the workers are reacting to this forthcoming event, Moyo said the excitement may be short-lived because many things have not changed and Zimbabwe remains a high-risk country to do business with or even visit. "There have been very minimal changes in Zimbabwe in terms of freedom of expression and corruption. There are roadblocks everywhere and then this indigenisation law. The fundamentals have not changed," he pointed out.
He added that there could be business during the conference, with hotels getting fully booked and people watching the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side for a better view. But after the conference, business is likely to shift to our neighbours in Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.
Moyo also doubts the prospects of new jobs being created after the conference. Relations between the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Zimbabwe government have never been smooth since MDC's formation.ZANU-PF views ZCTU as an enemy because it gave birth to the opposition MDC.
The previous ZCTU executive, led by Lovemore Matombo, has been in trouble with the police for violating the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Most former workers have pending court cases for violating the law as individuals or as members of ZCTU. "We have all been charged and are still on the hook. We can be summoned any time for violating POSA. The inclusive government promised to drop the charges last year but up to now nothing has happened. The MDC is a powerless entity in this government and cannot put pressure on our behalf," Moyo lamented.
Internal bickering within ZCTU over the past two years is also worrisome. Issues surrounding elections, violation of congress protocols and leadership were major headaches for the executive. Moyo conceded that ZCTU was not exemplary in its conduct. "The executive met and finally agreed that in future members who have grievances should not go and talk to the press as ZCTU but should come forward to the executive where their grievances would be heard and dealt with confidentially," he said.
Moyo also revealed that the mother body currently has a pending case before the courts. "We have one court case pending and it may be heard early in the New Year. This is the Ray Majongwe and Lovemore Matombo challenge that the last congress was not conducted according to constitutional procedure," he said. This is what he thinks of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections: "Our politicians are all power hungry, be they ZANU-PF or MDC.
Rigging elections has been diffused by electoral reforms such as counting votes at polling stations and more observers. So organised violence could be the only option available to steal the vote," explained Moyo. He added that the outcome of the elections could present three models. "The first scenario could be an overwhelming win for the MDC but the party will fail to take over power as happened in 2008. Thereafter we shall continue as a pariah state or it could be a violent election which will be disputed once more and we end up with another inclusive government but with new players in office. Lastly, ZANU-PF and MDC will both fail to garner 50 percent of the votes due to voter apathy and a re-run will be conducted to see ZANU-PF become victorious.
Finally, as economic hardships continue to bite and hope for prosperity fades, the strength of ZCTU remains.Operations are in progress, although the unions failed to organise any more strikes during the past year due to POSA and the pending court cases. Affiliate membership has risen to 33 percent. But some unions will inevitably collapse due to the nature of their industry.
"The textile industry will soon disappear, the manufacturing industry shall also disappear and the electronics industry has collapsed, the top six workers' unions are the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), the Commercial Workers Union, the Hotel and Catering Workers Union, the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union, the Food Industry Workers Union and the Engineering Workers Union," said Moyo.
The year 2012 was very tough indeed and this year already looks gloomy. So what next for the beloved country? (SPA)