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  • Price Controls and Shortages - Index of articles

  • We'll fight 'satanic' wage freeze: ZCTU
    Vusumuzi Sifile, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
    September 02, 2007

    TWO of the country's leading civic society organisations have warned President Robert Mugabe his announcement of a wage freeze last week was "satanic", illegal and "hopelessly unconstitutional".

    Last week, Mugabe invoked the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to freeze all wage and salary increments.

    But the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the National Constitutional Assembly said the decree smacked of government hypocrisy, as it rendered useless ongoing dialogue through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).

    Legal experts have noted that although the government could use the decree to control rentals and other charges, the same measure could not be used for wages and salaries as these fall under the Labour Act, which has not been amended.

    In a statement, ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe, said the measures were "satanic, economically wrong and morally suicidal".

    He said the announcement was an indication Mugabe was out of touch with reality, and should brace himself for a showdown with with the workers.

    "There is no rationale in freezing salaries when only last week prices of commodities were reviewed upwards — what hypocrisy!" said Chibebe. "The move by the State means that battlelines have been drawn between the ZCTU and government . . . This means that we keep going round in circles and never stick to agreed programmes of action to finding lasting solutions to the crisis in Zimbabwe."

    Chibebe said the measures were "unacceptable in a democracy" and "tantamount to condemning all Zimbabweans to poverty".

    "President Mugabe, it would seem, is not in touch with the reality on the ground and we wonder on what planet he lives. It is no secret at all that he is well catered for — he has never slept on an empty stomach, he has never walked from State House to his Munhumutapa offices, his children have never been chased away from school because they had not paid fees, and he has never experienced water and electricity cuts. Freezing wages and salaries, when an average wage in the industry is $1 million is tantamount to condemning all Zimbabweans to poverty."

    Yesterday, NCA chairperson Lovemore Madhuku said the decree was "hopelessly unconstitutional".

    "Wages and salaries cannot be dealt with under a presidential decree, they fall under the Labour Act. The Labour Act has not been amended, and unless it has been amended, the decree on wages and salaries cannot be effected. Obviously, they should realise this mistake, a wage is not a price," Madhuku said.

    Economic commentator John Robertson said yesterday the new measures were an attempt by the government to find excuses for not reviewing civil servants' salaries.

    "This is only going to make things worse," he said. "The government is trying to protect itself from the demands of civil servants. They now have an excuse for not reviewing their salaries upwards and want to get everyone under their umbrella.

    "They cannot talk of a price freeze when the goods are being sold on the black market. The real price at the moment is the black market price, and this will only worsen the situation."

    Robertson predicted that like the July price blitz, the new measures would backfire.

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