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Time with ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo
Guma , SW Radio Africa
December 15, 2010
of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions, Lovemore Matombo, is the guest on
Question Time and joins Lance to answer questions from listeners.
He states the ZCTU position in support of only holding presidential
elections next year, their relationship with the MDC, attitude to
the coalition government, constitution making and the empowerment
legislation, plus diamond
mining in Chiadzwa. Has the ZCTU been demobilized and unable
to call for strikes?
Guma: Two weeks ago the president of the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions, Lovemore Matombo said the country did not need
to hold parliamentary elections and should instead focus on holding
a presidential election. Well Mr Matombo is our guest on Question
Time this week and is here to answer your questions. Thank you for
joining us on the programme.
Matombo: You are welcome.
OK, now we understand you have just been at the Montclair for a
retreat of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, could you just
maybe tell our listeners what it was all about?
We had gone to Montclair as a retreat of our labour institute, the
Labour and Economic Development Research Institute just to evaluate
the work they have done during the course of the year and of course
we did discuss quite a number of issues pertinent to the current
political and economic environment. So that was the basis of our
retreat to Juliasdale.
Guma: OK I might
as well start with a question that more or less links to your having
this retreat, a listener from Victoria Falls who does not wish to
have their name read out says they remember in November, I think
that was last year, when you and four other ZCTU staff members were
arrested in Victoria Falls for addressing a ZCTU meeting. Now his
question is - how has that case been concluded and are you
still facing problems holding your meetings as a trade union?
necessarily about meeting disturbances but we have recorded arrests
and disturbances of individuals during the year and we came up with
about 111 violations that we have recorded. But in as far as our
meetings are concerned, the environment appears to be peaceful and
we are holding our meetings without any disturbances as the leadership
Guma: OK and
how has that particular case been resolved? When you were arrested,
were you charged? How was that concluded?
Well in fact the magistrate at the time made it quite clear to the
police that the police had no right what so ever under POSA
to disturb meetings that are called by the labour movement. In fact
POSA is very clear; Schedule 24 is very clear that the labour movement
does not need to apply for any permission and I think it was just
a question of being mischievous by the police officers in that area.
But what we have done is that we have sued the police and the case
is still with the court. We hope at some stage it will be heard.
Guma: OK naturally
most of our questions from the listeners were centred on your comments
on the forthcoming elections. From Bindura comes an email from someone
calling themselves Mabandi and he wants to know why you think parliamentary
elections are not necessary and we should just have a presidential
Well what we have said as ZCTU and our resolution is very clear,
that the issue that brought about this political arrangement called
the GNU arose as a result of the dispute on the presidential election.
If there was no dispute on that aspect we could not have come with
this particular political arrangement and therefore, I think it
is clear to everybody that as a matter of principle, the issue that
is contestable at the moment is that of the presidential elections
of 2008, and therefore we believe it is reasonable that we should
go for presidential elections only.
Guma: Now within
the context of your resolution, would that be open to all the candidates
or just between Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe?
view is that because we had not gone to the time limits of both
the presidential and parliamentary election, the disputants are
the ones that should go for these elections.
Guma: OK, we
move onto the next question - Honest Manhanga from Harare
wants to know why the ZCTU has been quiet for a very long time in
terms of organising things like stay-aways and demonstrations? He
says does this mean there are no issues affecting workers right
Matombo: I think
basically what the people of Zimbabwe need to understand is that
ZCTU is not necessarily a political organisation. It is a labour
movement and our day-to-day operations that deals with worker/employer
relationship are still going ahead as is always the case, but of
course, because our social well being is affected directly by politics,
that's when we come in.
We are not that
quiet. I think people would want to understand the ZCTU only when
we call for stay- aways, when we call for protest and things like
that, but I think it's only fair and reasonable enough that
after the consummation of the political agreement, weigh up MDC
as a party. It was necessary that we give them an opportunity and
this opportunity in my view has now been understood by workers because
the workers belong to various political organisations and we did
not want to be seen as rocking the boat.
said on a number of occasions that as we approach the end of the
year and the beginning of the year, the workers have been made quite
clear that there are certain issues that we would want to demonstrate
again, particularly those that deal with the poverty datum line,
those that deal with employers' intransigence and those that
deal with the unfinished political business and we assure you that
come next year, come early next year we are putting everything in
place to demonstrate for our wellbeing.
a teacher based in Gweru, wants to know if the ZCTU has a relationship
with the unions that represent civil servants in the country? I
think his main gripe is that he feels that ZCTU is not very vocal
in supporting the demands for better salaries being made by civil
servants. Is that a fair criticism or a perception issue
basically like I've just said, people would want to understand
the ZCTU when it gets into the street, but I'll assure you
that we are in constant touch with the civil servants and let me
say that the ZCTU for the past seven years, we have been campaigning
for a trade union movement, within the public service, we have always
said that the public service association is not a union.
A public service
association remains a colonial set-up which has not changed 30 years
down the line and even the ILO has supported our position that what
these people need is an institutional framework for negotiations
and we hope that as we have put pressure on government, the minister
of Labour is quite aware, we have discussed this at our tri-partite
negotiating forum, both formerly and informally and the issue of
harmonising which is the first and foremost aspect that we need
We need to harmonise
the Labour Act
and the harmonisation is likely to be completed during the first
quarter of 2011, and once that happens, what it means is that they
will be, the public service association will then have a national
employment council to which they will make presentations during
And we have
never been quiet as such. We have supported the public service association;
in many cases we have released statements and we have been very
vocal about the issues that affect the public service members. But
it's not only the public service, lets make this very clear,
the rest of the working people in this country are still earning
salaries that are 50 per cent below the poverty datum line. And
this concern, I assure you, ZCTU is quite aware about that.
Let me also
say that even the minister of Finance, we did discuss with him in
regard to the salary structure of the public servants and well although
we are not satisfied, but because he has decided to make an increment
is testimony to our being vocal, it is in our view testimony to
the pressure that has been presented by both the public servants,
the trade unions and all other progressive democratic forces in
on that, you did briefly touch on the unity government - we
have a listener from Chipinge who wants to know your feelings as
a union towards the current unity government. Was it necessary and
if not, what would you have suggested as an option?
first thing that we need to appreciate is that there was no way
we could resolve the Zimbabwean political system without negotiations.
Even the armed struggle in 1979, the ultimate approach was to go
to the Lancaster House Conference and have negotiations.
were necessary, we accept that. The point is, was it the right time,
was it the right timing at the time? And perhaps that's where
the debate comes in because in politics, the moment you misjudge
your movement, you destroy everything that you have and our view
is that as much as we would have wanted to see an effective conclusion
to the political struggle, I think the timing was wrong and therefore
this is why we have got the current problem in the GNU and it's
going to take us even longer because of that political misjudgement.
Guma: What sort
of timing would have been appropriate Mr Matombo?
our view, that would be very strategic and may not be necessary
for us to get into that. But what I am saying is, I'll give
you just a simple analogy. If for example, OK let's go back
to the 1976 Geneva Conference. The British called for the Geneva
Conference in 1976 and it flopped, it failed because the white settler
colonialists were still very much active at the time.
But it was different
in 1979 because the colonialists understood that the time was out
and therefore they had to concede to the demands of the liberation
movement. So really that same analogy can be said in respect to
the timing of this political arrangement that came on the 15th of
Guma: We move
onto Karoi where Kelvin says the ZCTU gave birth to the MDC in a
sense but it seems the two have since parted company in terms of
strategic alliances. His question is, is this true and how would
you describe your current relationship with the MDC who are now
in this unity government?
It's true that ZCTU facilitated the formation of the MDC.
It's true that all along when MDC was in opposition it could
sing the same tune as we were singing and that was correct at that
particular time. But once they got into the government of national
unity and once we differed on the constitution making process, I
think some of the guys in MDC were quite equivocal claiming that
and the ZINASU
that were like dogs that were barking on a moving train.
We were given
names, not by junior MDC officials but by senior MDC officials but
for us we are used to these terms. We are trade unions and we are
used to it and we don't bear grudge with anybody. But what
we would is that MDC should also continue its original mandate,
that of defending the poor people in this country. But if it is
because they are now in government and that capital is now more
important than the poor who voted them in, surely what should we
I think it is
fair for ZCTU to remain consistent. We could have supported the
MDC through and through even with the constitutional issue, but
really I think the role of civic society, progressive civic society
is to make sure that they remain watchdogs of government, not appendages
of government, not surrogates of government. They should remain
Where they are
doing right things, ZCTU is there to praise them, where there are
wrong things, we are there to pinpoint at those areas, so really
it's the relationship as we would normally say 'hatinga
goni kuramba tichiita hushamwari hunosvika muna December'
we cannot continue to be relatives in that order when in fact things
are going asunder and this is the position of the ZCTU.
remain consistent, consistent to its values, consistent to its vision
and ZCTU should remain in touch with the people of Zimbabwe, listen
to the people of Zimbabwe what they are saying and that is what
we will pronounce. If we have to become elitist what is likely to
happen is that we will listen to the leadership of MDC and this
culture of believing that a labour movement is subordinate to the
political parties is wrong and we want this to be understood by
matter which political position they hold, this must be understood.
ZCTU shall remain to present the views of the working people of
this country, whether with or without some political parties and
that is what we believe in.
in the country have proved to be a very controversial resource and
this should not be the case. Sidney Jakachira wants to know whether
you still stand by your position that the controversial diamond
mining operations in Chiadzwa should be nationalised and his second
question attached to that is how can the country avoid the controversy
surrounding the way diamonds are mined and being sold right now?
on the first question I need to say that our position is not necessarily
the term nationalisation. Our position is control. What we are saying,
and then that will answer the second question, what we are saying
is that there should be a government policy in the respect of, not
only to diamonds but to special, what we term the precious minerals.
are supposed to benefit Zimbabweans. What we are merely saying to
government is that they should come up with a shareholding structure
between the investor and government. We are even against what the
AAG is saying because they are saying because we are Zimbabweans,
so we want a stake into that.
This is wrong,
this is greediness and for Zimbabweans what we are saying is let's
do it the way Botswana has done it. Let's have that share
holding structure between the private investor so that the Zimbabwean
government would own say 50 per cent and the private investor would
earn 50 per cent.
What we have
as a percentage we are just giving this as a hypothetical picture
but what we are saying is that the share holding structure should
be between the two people - government and the private investor
and then the policy framework in the mining industry should explain
how we can monitor the value chain from the extraction of the mineral
up until that value chain, the value system to the Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe, to the fiscus.
This is what
we want so that the minister of Finance will have access in all
this. When we listen to his budget he says well the platinum got
so much but what the government got was far, far below than what
they are supposed to have. I mean in a country that is so poor and
what it means is that these people are earning profits, profits
that will benefit their countries of origin. Why should it be like
We want Zimbabweans
to benefit out of this so that at the end of it all we will not
only attract skilled personnel in the civil service or in the health
sector, we will attract our own doctors who are outside Zimbabwe.
We will attract our skilled people outside Zimbabwe. We need civil
engineers, we need to develop our infrastructure and look, all these
things are supposed to be done by government and if you are going
to give your precious minerals to individuals, it's just as
good as taking it from Tom and giving it to Matombo and Matombo's
just become a fat cat, that does not benefit anybody, it doesn't
get us anywhere.
We will not
support anybody just because he is black, a black African -
no it has to go into the coffers of the fiscus, that is what we
are saying about the diamonds and the rest of the precious minerals.
This should be quite serious and simple. In fact the minister of
Finance should come up with legislation if the minister of Mining
cannot do that because ultimately it is him who should benefit on
behalf of the country on the inflows arriving from the precious
This is a serious
case and I tell you we are having sleepless nights; our civil servants
are not being paid because there is no money yet Zimbabwe is the
richest country, one of the richest countries in terms of its resources,
with the poorest people. This is wrong and this is atrocious.
Guma: Well we
are running out of time but maybe in one minute or so if you could
answer the last question - it comes from Lindiwe Masocha from Bulawayo
who wants to know the ZCTU position on the empowerment legislation?
I'm sure you've touched on it with regard to the mining
sector, but in general do you support current laws that indigenous
Zimbabweans should own 51 per cent of companies? In a minute or
so . . .
Yah in fact there are indigenisation laws across Africa to try and
correct the historical imbalances, but what this indigenisation
law in practice aims to achieve is to fatten some few well known
ZANU PF individuals, that's all what it is and therefore it
is not serving the purpose for which it was enacted. That's
pure and simple.
Guma: Well that's
the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Mr Lovemore
Matombo joining us on Question Time and taking questions from the
different corners of Zimbabwe. Mr Matombo, thank you so much for
are most welcome.
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