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Workers Day commemoration: Let us all stand up and defend the right to protest!
Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR)
May 01, 2010

ROHR Zimbabwe joins the rest of the nation in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Union (ZCTU), its affiliates and the entire workforce in commemorating this year's International Workers Day, falling a few weeks after the celebrations of the second independence anniversary under the tutelage of the three political parties in the coalition government.

Following the victory of the eight hour demonstrations in Haymarket Chicago in 1886 when several workers were massacred protesting against ruthless social and economic conditions affecting workers, as an organization we join the labor movement in amplifying the voices of workers against the evils of capitalism, poverty, inequality, denial of the right to protest freely on the violation of workers' rights.

We unreservedly acknowledge that the work force is the anchor of industry and chief driver of economic growth in every growing economy despite the unbefitting situation of downplaying their rights and legitimate demands.

This year's Workers day comes at a time when the generality of the various sections of workers from tertiary, health, farming, education have been turned by design into perennial victims of an inconsiderate ruthless system that has refused to yield to the multi faceted concerns affecting their plight around the country. Not only is it too apparent but also regrettable that despite the coming in of a new political dispensation the bulk of the workers are still earning below the poverty datum line of US $400.

The appalling situation has restricted teachers to a paltry salary between US 150 -240 since the coalition government came to power and the government has remained stone cold to the widespread strikes seeking redress. Working conditions for health workers have remained unfriendly due to lack of refurbishment of infrastructure and equipment in state hospitals.

Farm workers have been grossly subjected to wide scale human rights violations at the height of violent farm evasions by the youth militia, war veterans and defiant political party supporters who are loyalists to the self appeasing system of patronage.

Against the spirit of the International labor movement, repression against labour representatives and civil society members by the state and its agents has intensified in the last decade as an unorthodox means to silence workers from protesting on their grievances. This is evinced by the recent arbitrary arrest of labor union workers, the President Lovemore Matombo, shooting of unarmed worker protesters in Shurugwi, the intimidation and harassment of the GAPWUZ director Gertrude Hambira and her staff.

As succinctly put by the courageous secretary general of the workers Union Wellington Chibhebhe, '' as much as others may say the situation is improving there is not much to show for the workers." This in the backdrop of the introduction of the foreign currency economy which has seen inflation dropping from a record high quadrillion to 0.6 % following a decade of massive economic plunder, decay, mismanagement and corruption.

As we commemorate the day of the worker, ROHR Zimbabwe encourages the majority of Zimbabweans to actively contribute towards shaping a people reflective democratic constitution that respects, protects the rights, and interest of workers as an integral part to nation building and utilize the opportunity to redefine the current retrogressive legislature curtailing the freedoms of the work force.

We also challenge the coalition government to heed the voices of workers and realize that true development can only be premised on development that is workers centered and not a situation where the workers are manipulated and under developed in the midst of moving forward. Workers are the prime producers of wealth and products in every society and therefore they are entitled accordingly to leave in dignity with the highest standards of living.

We do not condone a situation whereby the hard sweat of the workers is sacrificed to solidify a dictatorial regime that feeds on snuffing the very lives of the hardworking Zimbabweans who carry the country on their shoulders.

Under the banner of international labor movements we subscribe to the following demands besieging the plight of workers in today's world particularly in Zimbabwe:

  • The unconditional right of workers to act independently of the government and their employees in striking, protesting, assembling, marching and speaking freely should be guaranteed in the constitution as a protection of the people's social rights in line with international law and other statutes under labor movements.
  • The poverty datum line should be responsive to the demands of the basic needs for an average family to live in the dignity of human beings as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of human rights. The poverty datum line should not be imposed by the government but rather it should be a byproduct of the negotiations with intended beneficiaries.
  • We condemn any aggression towards protest against violation of workers' rights as an infringement on freedom of expression.
  • Understanding that women constitute 52% of the population, we demand the eradication of all forms of discrimination targeted at women. There should be equality and unconditional access and for women in positions of leadership, governance and in all areas of social, economic, political, cultural and family life.
  • We demand that all pensioners should enjoy a dignified life without economic concern and to eliminate any discrimination in the payment of retirement pensions.
  • Workers should freely engage in political activities and support political parties of their choice without fear of reproach or persecution.
  • Child labour must be eradicated and all children must be entitled to educational facilities, health and welfare, independent of gender and race, religion, or social and economic status of their parents.
  • We strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest, trial and imprisonment of labour union activist.
  • We tender our support to the fight for legitimate demands of teachers, nurses and other working classes of the society in their endeavours to seek redress from the government and their employers.

Concerted efforts should be made particularly by the coalition government in creating a conducive environment to lure foreign investors to invest in the country to stimulate growth of the manufacturing industry, create jobs and overturn the record high percentage of unemployment which is feared to be hovering above 80%.

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