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MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was yesterday heavily criticised by workers who attended the Workers’ Day commemorations organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions at Gwanzura Stadium after he attempted to turn the event into a political rally.

Mr Tsvangirai was given an opportunity to speak as a former secretary-general of the ZCTU, but left many workers unhappy with his conduct after he started speaking about his party’s demands, instead of the welfare of the workers.

“What we are facing is a deep national crisis,” said Mr Tsvangirai, who appears desperate for support following his unpopular decision to boycott by-elections to be held on June 10 in several constituencies which the party used to hold.

“It is not only an economic problem, but a political problem. Those who are ruling stole the election that is why we are saying we will not go to any elections without reforms. We are saying no reforms, no elections.”

Workers who spoke to the The Herald at the stadium said Mr Tsvangirai had gone off-side by speaking on issues that had nothing to do with their daily needs.

“What kind of a speech is that,” said Mrs Evelyne Moyo of Highfied. “We came here expecting to hear issues concerning our welfare, but Tsvangirai talks about his party and its demands which have nothing to do with bread and butter issues.”

Mr Togarasei Kunaka of Mbare said Mr Tsvangirai had dismally failed to distinguish between a Workers’ Day event and a political rally.

“I think he should not be invited next time because he has completely abandoned the workers’ cause,” he said. “He came here to please his political handlers and not the workers. But as a former trade unionist he is supposed to know better.”

Another worker who preferred anonymity said workers had nothing to do with the MDC-T’s political demands, but were interested in the betterment of their welfare.

“This was a Workers’ Day celebration and Tsvangirai was supposed to be aware that it was not just members of his party in attendance,” said the worker.

“Definitely, this was not a political event, it was an apolitical event, an event for workers from all political affiliations who gather on this day simply because they have one common denominator, that of being workers.

“Tsvangirai’s attempt to rope us into his party’s agenda gives an impression that we are not concerned about our welfare.”

Mrs Fatima Miriro of Glen View said she would not attend future events organised by the ZCTU as long as they will invite “political leaders who do not have workers’ welfare at heart”.

After realising that he was going off the mark with his misplaced political utterances during his address, Mr Tsvangirai tried to correct his mistakes by acknowledging that workers had diverse political affiliations.

“Let me return to the political autonomy of the workers movement because it is the only way it can represent all workers despite political affiliations,” he said.

The MDC-T lost dismally to Zanu-PF in the July 31 2013 harmonised elections that were widely endorsed by sadc, the African Union, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries and a host of progressive nations around the world.

Even former MDC-T secretary general Mr Tendai Biti admitted that they lost the elections because they did not have a message that resonated with the aspirations of the general population.

Mr Tsvangirai went on to blame the Government for the xenophobic attacks in South Africa that have resulted in seven deaths, two of which were Zimbabweans.

In his address to the sparse gathering, ZCTU president Mr George Nkiwane said workers were against proposed amendments to labour laws that would make it easier for employers to hire and fire them.

“We have met today as workers under difficult conditions were some are saying our salaries should be cut and that we should have labour market flexibility that will allow employers to easily fire employees,” he said.

“We are against such a policy as it only works in an economy that is functioning well where it is easier for a person to move from one organisation to the other and where there are social safety nets.”

Mr Nkiwane urged employees to work together to resolve some of the challenges they are facing and called on employers to take the welfare of workers seriously.

Some of the demands he made include a right to educational leave, access to free Anti-Retrovirals for those living with HIV, poverty datum line linked wages and salaries and resuscitation of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.

Members of a faction of ZCTU also held their commemorations at Raylton Sports Club in Harare yesterday.

The workers were drawn from unions which included the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Commercial Workers Union of Zimbabwe, College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Graphical Workers Union, Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union, Zimbabwe Rural District Councils, International Solidarity Organisation and a faction of the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

Speaking at the event, the faction’s president Mr Lovemore Matombo expressed concern at the large number of workers being retrenched.

Mr Matombo urged Government to continue to deal with corruption.

The faction’s secretary general Mr Raymond Majongwe said while workers in the country shared experiences from their respective field on Workers’ Day, unity among them was paramount.

In Gweru, Workers’ Day proceedings by the ZCTU faction aligned to Mr Nkiwane were held at Mkoba Stadium.

Zimbabwe Bankers and Allied Workers Union president Mr Peter Mutasa, who also doubles up as the ZCTU third vice president, said workers would continue to exert pressure on Government not to adopt labour market flexibility.

“We categorically say no to labour market flexibility because this will give the employers the right to hire and fire workers willy nilly,” he said.

“As workers we will also fight unjustified retrenchments on workers when it is clear that it is management which needs to be retrenched since they are the ones responsible for running down companies through corruption and obscene salaries.”

Source : The Herald