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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

ZCTU and the history of constitutional reform in Zimbabwe


By Blessing Vava

They left an indelible mark-former ZCTU leaders
Morgan Tsvangirai and the late Gibson Sibanda
In 1999 two historic processes occurred in Zimbabwe’s political landscape that shaped the political discourse of the country.  The processes, namely the first National Working Peoples Convention in 1999, as well as the first People’s Constitutional Convention.  The two processes led to the formation of a strong opposition political party the MDC, with the latter leading to resolutions that rejected the Presidential appointed Chidyausiku Commission draft constitution in 2000. All these processes were as a result of a strong, coordinated, principled labour union that massively contributed to blocking attempts by politicians to force a constitution on the people of Zimbabwe. The  trade union then was under the tutelage of Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda who fought fearlessly for a new constitution as a result of the flawed Lancaster House Constitution that was being systematically used to suppress the working class people and the vulnerable sectors of society. Hats off to that generation of trade union leaders for putting that much needed pressure, forging alliances with the students and peasants in bringing the constitutional debate on the political arena.
The working class people who gathered in Chitungwiza were fully cognisant that the writing of the new constitution should not and never be a prerogative of politicians. That is why they agreed that the process should be led by an independent  constitutional commission defined by and accountable to a conference of representatives of elected, civil and other social groups.

This is one of the principled as well as progressive stances that has always been associated with the workers of Zimbabwe in particular the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). With the economic scourge that closed down the industries and depleted the working class people, still the ZCTU had remained a critical voice in as far as the plight of the working class people, the economic and democratic revolution is concerned. That is why the ZCTU, continued being part of other revolutionary democratic processes that were to follow namely the 2nd Peoples Convention of February 2008 that authored the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter. The Zimbabwe Peoples Charter is a social democratic document that aims for a social democratic state. It has a bias towards the working class people and above all it clearly spelt out and re-affirmed what the working class people said in 1999 advocating for a genuine people driven constitution for Zimbabwe. It was not surprising that the ZCTU again joined the students and the NCA in July 2009 in resisting the politician driven process by COPAC and that meeting called for the abandonment of COPAC because the framework as enunciated through Article V1 of the GPA deviated from all these historical processes. The Chitungwiza Convention which the ZCTU leadership was part of agreed to this, ‘’If the inclusive government and/or parliament do not heed our call to cease forthwith the constitutional reform process as outlined in Article VI of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), we will actively seek a rejection of any draft constitution produced by the same process through campaigning for a No vote should that draft be brought to a referendum,’’and one wonders what has changed now.
The working class people clamoring for  better  remuneration 


 However as the processes unfold, with leadership renewal, infighting, factionalism and bankruptcy of the ZCTU, the labour movement has suddenly made a U-turn.  The once vibrant, principled labour union seems to have backed down on their earlier position of resisting a politician constitution and they have since endorsed the COPAC draft. Such inconsistency in application of principle has left me wondering what has really happened to the once principled ZCTU? Some media reports have it on authority that the union received a ‘paltry’ $US87 000 funding from a European donor organisation called 3Fs, the handout, which we are told was conditionally disbursed on condition that the ZCTU endorses the COPAC draft.    If the truth be told without fear or favour and without a pinch of doubt the ZCTU leadership is out of touch with its membership which did not participate in the COPAC process. This is a clear case of personal interest overriding principle. 
ZCTU secretary general Japhet Moyo  seating 3rd in the front row,
President George Nkiwane  standing 4th from left

The ZCTU leadership should be reminded that the workers of Zimbabwe are not dunderheads, they are not lifeless bodies, they are neither robots nor toys, they are breadwinners, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and family heads of many households and they are aware that this draft was fraudulently produced without their input, and does not carry their aspirations. Only two unashamed individuals, George Nkiwane and Japhet Moyo want to force their unpopular position on the working class people of Zimbabwe. It is very clear that the position to support the draft is not shared collectively by the working class people but rather it is a position of these two individuals, and their drinking partners disguising themselves as a ZCTU general council. These two individuals have clearly sacrificed principle on the altar of political convenience and cheap pieces of silver. The real workers want a people driven process; they said it in 1999, 2000, 2008 and they said it again in 2009, and there is absolutely nothing in that draft that will lift the aspirations of the working class people.

Minister and unionist in one-Lucy Matibenga
Its an open secret that the ZCTU is a now beleaguered union, led by career  unionists who are now serving interests of political parties especially the MDC-t at the expense of its membership, the workers.  The ZCTU has lost ground and does not represent workers; hence they only shout from their air conditioned offices at Chester House when workers are wallowing in poverty. It is now an empty shell of its former self in that like any empty vessels making a lot of uncoordinated noise aimed at massaging the egos of factional politics. They are busy bringing commissions to investigate internal feuds in the MDC-t and paying lip-service to collective bargaining. Spending time eating cakes and drinking tea with the minister of labour and that of public service while forgetting the bona-fide workers who are chasing after the blood of the same. What sort of a workers union that endorses a process where MPs were grossing $100 a day at  a time when majority of its membership are getting salaries way below $250 a month. A process, in which they never participated and still will be participating on the peripheries and still declaring to vote YES. A constitution that does not clearly carry the aspirations of the working class people. Shockingly in their leadership, still is Minister of Public Service Lucia Matibenga, as one of their Deputy Presidents.  Talk of corporate incest, this is what exactly they are doing. How does she act the boss and the servant at the same time? It doesn’t work. She has to be clear on what she wants and relinquish one of her posts. What is clear is that the workers are lacking leadership as exhibited by the guys at the helm of the ZCTU, whose ambitions for positions in an MDC-T led government should the party wins the next elections is now open. The workers union has to re-invent itself and rising above personal and egoistic interests and strive for the uplifting  of the livelihoods of the working class people. Zvazviri!



Blessing 'Vuvuzela' Vava is a blogger from Chipinge. He writes here in his personal capacity, the views expressed in this article are entirely his and not in any way views of an organisation. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com