LEADERS of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) recently met President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House, barely a month after they were criticised by the union’s affiliates of selling out the workers’ cause by cosying up to the government.
This comes after the ZCTU leaders were accused of misleading the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at a meeting in Switzerland by telling the body that Zimbabwe no longer had a bad human rights record.
The ZCTU’s claims resulted in Zimbabwe being struck off the list of 24 countries with a terrible human rights and labour injustice record.
During the trip to Geneva last month, ZCTU president Florence Taruvinga (pictured) and secretary-general Japhet Moyo flew out of Zimbabwe together with the government delegation led by Labour minister Paul Mavima for the ILO meeting which ran from 12 to 15 June.
Also in the delegation was the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions secretary-general Kennias Shamuyarira.
The NewsHawks gathered that the State House meeting happened on 7 July and the ZCTU was represented by Taruvinga and Moyo.
To the Geneva meeting, eyebrows were raised when the ZCTU leaders flew business class and the trip was funded by the Zimbabwean government. Speculation in labour circles is now rife that Taruvinga and Moyo could have been compromised.
Their latest meeting with Mnangagwa was facilitated by Mavima, again raising concerns that the ZCTU leaders are selling out the workers’ struggle by jumping into bed with the government which is accused of trampling on labour rights and causing poverty through bad governance.
ZCTU affiliates told The NewsHawks that the meeting of their leaders with Mnangagwa was kept a secret to them and only publicised afterwards, after word had leaked.
However, Moyo said it was false.
“ZCTU would like to dispute that it held any secret meeting with HE the President of Zimbabwe. Actually the meeting being referred to was urgently called in a short notice and our affiliates were thereafter briefed. You can check our Facebook page as well as our Twitter handle to attest that there was nothing secretive about the meeting.
“The matter is already on the agenda of our next formal meeting. We had further informed our affiliate representatives on the upcoming TNF meeting. The agenda of the TNF being to receive the reports of the TNF technical committees. All this information is going to be part of our discussions when we formally meet,” he said.
In a memorandum sent to members of the ZCTU’s general council, Moyo said the formal agenda of the meeting put foward to Mnangagwa was that labour leaders wanted to brief him about their visit to Geneva where they attended the ILO conference.
Part of Moyo’s memo to the ZCTU general council members reads: “According to the informal invitation, the purpose of the meeting was to brief HE the President on the outcome of the ILC that was held in Geneva in June 2023.
“However, for social partners the meeting created an opportunity to engage on other pertinent issues that we have always raised with the line Ministry.
“Our team was therefore able to inform HE the President about the challenges workers face, the volatility around socioeconomic matters that has affected the constituency and most important we wanted to understand government policy regarding safeguarding or protecting wages and salaries in the current inflationary environment.”
Moyo also said that the ZCTU leadership complained to Mnangagwa about the ineffectiveness of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum which is being snubbed by ministers when it is supposed to convene and deliberate on issues affecting workers so as to proffer solutions such as pegging the minimum wage.
“We also raised our concern around the functioning and effectiveness of TNF platform that has not been able meet regularly to attend to the issues that the platform was constituted to deal with. Our view was that there’s no seriousness on the part of government at the TNF to address the challenges, alternatively they are failing to deal with the situation.
“The other matter we raised was the criminalisation of the trade union work and how our affiliates have struggled to access workplaces and we were able to give examples of Chinese investments where politicians have interfered with trade union work.
“We also discussed the Labour Ammendment Bill and differed with the employers’ representatives who indicated their objection to its assertion by the President. The employers appear to be putting a strong opposition to the signing of the Labour Ammendment Bill and have submitted their objection to the ministry of Public Service and social welfare,” wrote Moyo.
Regarding the 23 August general elections, the ZCTU leaders appealed to Mnangagwa to take all necessary steps to ensure peaceful polls.
The ZCTU’s State House meeting came barely a month after the leaders of public sector workers under the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU) led by Cecilia Alexander also visited Mnangagwa, purportedly to push the agenda of the plight of the government employees, but it later emerged that their real priority was different.
Sources told The NewsHawks that towards the end of the meeting, David Dzatsunga, the ZCPSTU secretary-general, raised the issue of charges laid against Alexander and begged Mnangagwa to intervene and have them dropped.
Alexander, who is the Public Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) board deputy chairperson, was arrested in April this year together with board chairperson Wellington Tutisa on charges of abusing US$900 000 and ZW$14 million from the entity as holiday allowances. The matter is pending at the Harare magistrates’ court.
“They all begged that Mnangagwa intervene and have the charges dropped, but he did not give a direct answer. Instead, he kept on saying he is a listening President and he had taken note of the issues raised,” said the source.
In October last year, disgruntled Zanu PF members of Parliament also met Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga at State House over a similar matter of welfare.
They complained bitterly about their incapacitation due to erratic payment of salaries, allowances and the non-provision of fuel which they said was hindering their work and hampering visibility in their constituencies.
The legislators also complained bitterly over Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s perceived hostility towards them.
They made it clear to Mnangagwa and his deputy that they had visited the two Zanu PF leaders not as a form of revolt but to tell him that they were incapacitated and financially paralysed, such that they could not effectively work for the President in their constituencies.
They said the development was worrying ahead of the general elections.
Unlike in the latest episode which saw government employees leaving empty handed at State House, last year Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was ordered to pay the MPs and he acted swiftly and some legislators received their money on that very day.