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  • Social contract - ZCTU pull out and call for general strike
    International Socialist Organisation (ISO)
    July 19, 2007

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    On 1 June 2007, the leaders of the unions led by the ZCTU signed the Incomes and Pricing Stabilisation Protocol with government and business. Also signing were APEX for public servants and the Zanu (PF) yellow dog "union federation", the ZFTU.

    The ZCTU says it only signed this protocol and not the other two or a social contract, but the protocol is the most important of the three, the very heart of the social contract that RBZ Governor has been pushing since March. The idea was to reduce inflation to 25% by year end from the then 3 700%; to stop the massive increases of prices of basic goods with businesses promising to increase prices of goods only within agreed parameters; stabilize the economy and give workers a living wage consistent with the Poverty Datum Line. National Employment Councils were supposed to do a one off collective bargaining bench-marked on the April PDL of $1.7 million per month and thereafter monthly collective bargaining based on the inflation rate, whilst government undertook not to tax employees earning below the PDL. The labour leaders in turn promised to ensure "industrial peace" for the six months duration of the protocol, i.e. stop workers from going on strike including the stay away in July as resolved by the ZCTU General Council and affirmed only a week before and at May Day by militant ZCTU president, L. Matombo. They also surrendered their historic role as the leaders of the poor and downtrodden by signing an agreement that said nothing about them. Giving up their most powerful weapon even at a time their South African and Nigerian counterparts were executing huge strikes in defence of the poor.

    But the labour leaders were decieved. The Protocol had no mandatory legal binding effect, being a mere set of promises. Less than 3 weeks after signing of the social contract, there has been a huge wave of price increases of everything from transport to food that we have not seen in the last decade. Panicking, the government responded by slashing prices by 50%, firing the head of the Incomes and Pricing Commission and moving the tax-free wages bracket to $1.5 million.

    The bosses, in any casehad not really given much away, with the June PDL already over $3.5 million. Considering the history of other countries in particular Italy, France, Spain, Indonesia and South Africa, the social contract strategy has always been used by governments and bosses when their system of capitalism is in deep crisis and in danger of being overthrown by revolution from the poor to buy time, co-opt labour and the radical movements and later on launch vicious attacks against the working people when things stabilize. In Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, is now in a corner, battered and bruised by the general crisis of Gono's neoliberal capitalism, sanctions and near collapse of the agriculture sector. There is real danger of a total economic collapse by December Such a situation creates ripe conditions for massive riots, strikes and revolts from below, which as we saw in apartheid South Africa, Argentina, Madagascar, etc can topple even the most intransigent and brutal of regimes. Already there are growing signs of uneasiness amongst the lower ranks of the army and police. The regime knows this, which is why it has imposed a virtual state of emergence in the main cities and towns.

    But that will not be enough. To stop possible mass revolts, the regime will have to neutralize and co-opt its most potentially powerful enemy, organized labour under the leadership of ZCTU from leading general strikes in the next few months, that are likely to be joined by other sections of the urban and rural poor. At the same time, the Mugabe regime is, using its ally South African president, T. Mbeki, also trying to neutralise the other major potential source of "troube", MDC (Tsvangirai), which still has strong support of the urban poor. This is being done by tying the MDC to openended talks with Zanu PF which will drag on until 2008 and in the process discourage MDC from going to the streets. To stop the massive and worsening economic crisis, the regime eventually, after the elections and on dealing with the Mugabe succession issue, will be willing to enter into a neo-liberal, anti-working people and western supported government of national unity with MDC, but with it as the senior partner. This is the real objective of this dangerous social contract and the Mbeki talks. This is what Mugabe meant when recently offering the opposition leaders bribes of farms and tractors -"Nyaya yekudya inyaya yedu tese, hapana asingararame nekudya. Kana toita politics dzekutunguna tinenge taguta." (When it comes to eating the national cake, we eat together, and only engage in party politicking and insult one another after we are full).

    Way Forward and our Demands

    Now that the capitalists and state have reneged on their promises, labour must immediately pull out of the social contract and mobilize for action this July, taking a leaf from the unions in South Africa and Nigeria. The general strike must involve demonstrations by all sections of the working people and poor. If by the August SADC Summit, Zanu PF has refused the central demand of free and fair elections under a new democratic constitution, MDC must pull out of the Mbeki talks and join the action.

    To succeed we need a campaign that unites the factory with the township, the growth point and school and college campuses; that unites the workers with the unemployed housewives, youths, students, vendors, informal traders and combi drivers, peasants, the human rights activists, political party militants and revolutionary socialists and their different movements, such as those under the Zimbabwe Social Forum. This action cannot be unilaterally controlled by the ZCTU leaders alone, if it is to succeed, but like LASCO in Nigeria, be a genuine democratic united front with all these movements, including in the formulation of strategies, and demands, with labour leading.

    We need full scale mobilization like leafleting, posters, labour forums in industry, labour - residents forums in the townships and setting up joint labour-activists teams operating in the industries, colleges, and townships.

    Our demands must be comprehensive and holistic - a Working People's Charter demanding:

    • A statutory tax free national minimum living wage adjustable every fortnight consistent with the rate of inflation, indexed to the bread basket and USA dollar,with employment councils only negotiating top ups;
    • Mandatory jail sentences for managers, directors and owners of businesses that unilaterally increase prices of basic goods and services or offload them on the black market or violate the minimum wages;
    • Immediate take-over of businesses by councils of residents and workers of enterprises that violate minimum wages or violate price controls or off-load goods on the black market;
    • A special levy into a worker controlled fund, on all Stock Exchange companies, multinationals, pharmacies and large businesses like retailers like mines, OK and TM to fund our collapsing health, education, transport and peasant agriculture sectors as well as emergency food aid for those in need and the needs of the disabled and those infected and affected AIDS/HIV;
    • Immediate stopping of harassment of vendors and informal trade and the full right to trade everywhere; dissolve ZINWA and not to privatisation;
    • The lifting of the de facto state of emergency in our cities and towns;
    • Repeal of POSA and AIPPA;
    • A new people-driven democratic & anti-ESAP constitution before any elections within six months;
    • Trial of those guilty of crimes against humanity and compensation for the victims.

    The situation and timing has never been more ripe. The ZCTU leaders and militants today have a historic duty on their shoulders to provide leadership and call for and lead mass action without further delay - Failure to do so, history will judge them very harshly.

    Shinga Mushandi Shinga! Penga mushandi ! Another Zimbabwe is Possible! Now is our time!

    Extracted from the July 2007 Newsletter

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