Government has been accused of wantonly breaking labour laws by resorting to the use of political offices and unelected people to lead talks with its workers.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Japhet Moyo said in an interview yesterday that the use of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga or any other political office, including the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, to lead wage negotiations with civil servants was illegal as it was against collective bargaining through the tripartite negotiating forum or social dialogue.
“Since the ouster of Robert Mugabe in November of 2017, we have witnessed one sad trend: the use of those with military background or a political heavyweight to lead negotiations with state workers,” he said.
“We should have collective dialogue where all parties are represented and no one is threatened. We must go back to the tripartite negotiating forum and have social contracts there, not this idea of having a whole VP meddling in labour talks, no.”
Weeks after being appointed as VP, Chiwenga was tasked to mediate on behalf of government and striking nurses and he ended up firing them after they refused to budge to his command.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had to reverse the decision as the nurses refused to be cowed into submission. In 2018, Mnangagwa appointed Chiwenga to mediate on behalf of government with striking doctors, but the impasse has not yet been resolved. The VP ordered that the doctors be suspended and face disciplinary hearings while their December salaries have been withheld.
After failing to break the impasse, the first lady tried to intervene but with no success as striking doctors vowed to continue with the industrial action until government addressed their grievances.
Moyo said the military tactic that was being employed by government to force its workers into submission was illegal and exposed “the negotiating skills of some officials”.
“Right now we have First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa coming in; as who? What agreement can she make on behalf of the state? Why are we allowing ourselves to be a banana republic when we have all the laws that govern the conduct of both the employer and employees?” Moyo asked.
Opposition political parties said the first lady’s intervention in the health crisis was ill-advised since she was not a government official.
MDC-Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the first lady had no constitutional mandate to negotiate with government workers.
“There is no role in the constitution for a mother of the nation or a father for that matter. It is alarming that the president chose to sweep the street instead of working on an issue that costs lives. We have tried this first lady route before; it is disastrous. Soon she will be holding rallies,” said Mafume.
Prominent lawyer Fadzai Mahere said the first lady should not take over the role of an elected official.
“A politician’s wife is not your mother. She cannot take over the role of an elected official or speak for that public official in an official capacity. She has no official power. Always remember this,” said Mahere.
National Patriotic Front spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said: “It’s an illegitimate government, they can do as they please.”
The first lady met with representatives from the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association at State House on Friday, but failed to persuade them to go back to work.
— The Standard