WORKERS across all sectors in the country coordinated by former Highfield member of Parliament Munyaradzi Gwisai who is also a veteran trade unionist have begun convening labour forum meetings in major cities as part of a broader strategy to mobilise a general strike against worsening economic hardships and demand full dollarisation by the government.
Gwisai is leader of the International Socialist Organisation in Zimbabwe and was one of six activists who faced treason charges for addressing a meeting at which video footage of protests in Egypt and Tunisia was screened in 2011.
A total of 40 other participants of the meeting were arrested. In the latest development, The NewsHawks can reveal that during the past two weeks, the workers mobilising for a general strike have held labour forum meetings in Harare and Bulawayo.
In an interview with The NewsHawks, Obert Masaraure, spokesperson of the coalition of workers and Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president, confirmed the development.
A general strike refers to a strike action in which participants from different sectors lay down their tools and cease all economic activity, to strengthen their collective bargaining position.
They are organised by large coalitions of political, social, and labour organisations and may also include rallies, marches, boycotts, civil disobedience, non-payment of taxes, and other forms of direct or indirect action.
Masaraure said: “Workers have resolved to unite and rise demanding US dollars salaries. The workers are currently conducting labour forums across the country in preparation of a crippling national strike. The workers of Zimbabwe are angered by the systematic theft of their wages designed by Professor Mthuli Ncube. The deliberate free floating of the USD is meant to steal from workers who are being paid in the local currency.”
He also revealed that the catastrophic pace at which the moribund Zimbabwe dollar is depreciating against the United States dollar has made life extremely tough for workers.
“The pattern of using currency to steal has been consistent from the 2016 one-is-to-one scandal. Today the local currency is being used to exploit workers. The workers are united across all sectors to defend their class interests,” he said.
Speaking on the reaction of workers in Bulawayo and Harare during the consultative labour forum meetings, Masaraure said the majority were clear that it is time for a general strike.
He said other workers had suggested that they vent their anger against the government by voting against it in the 23 August elections but the majority felt the date was too far and an immediate plan of action was therefore needed.
“The response from Harare and Bulawayo was overwhelming. Workers from all federations, including ZFTU (Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions), Zibawu (Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers’ Union, Artuz, and ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions) were in attendance. The biggest resolution so far is that a general strike has to be declared. “The majority of workers felt that the plight of workers cannot be deferred to the ballot box. Tonight (Thursday) there is a reflection meeting to decide on way forward,” he said.
Masaraure also confirmed that veteran trade unionist Gwisai was coordinating the unions. “He is at the centre of the proceedings,” said the Artuz leader.
Zimbabwe last held a general strike in 2019 when unions protested a 150% fuel price hike announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
At least 12 people were killed, about 200 arrested while 21 were left with gunshot wounds when police fired live ammunition and teargas during running battles with groups of people who were protesting in Harare.
The clashes were the worst outbreak of disorder in the country since the aftermath of 2018 elections when six civilians were shot dead by police while protesting the delay in the announcement of presidential election results.
They came on the first day of a three-day general strike called by unions amid an intensifying economic crisis. The security minister, Owen Ncube, confirmed there had been deaths but did not give a figure.