The ZCTU severed ties with the two civic organisations whom it accused of backing the government’s constitution making process being spearheaded by a 25-member parliamentary committee. In a statement released on Tuesday, the labour union said its general council met on August 22 and resolved that: “The ZCTU should pull out of the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition over differences on the current constitution-making process. “This has been done to protect the interest of NANGO, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the ZCTU constitutions. ZCTU affiliates should continue to abide by the ZCTU constitution and resolutions.”
The ZCTU and the Lovemore Madhuku-led National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) are opposing the government constitution-making processing saying it was not people-driven but led by political parties in the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara. They are also opposed to the proposal to use the Kariba Draft Constitution crafted by Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations during talks that culminated in the formation of the inclusive government on February 11. The ZCTU and the NCA in July boycotted a two-day convention organised by NANGO and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition arguing that the two organisations were backing the government process. The ZCTU and the NCA are advocating for an all-stakeholders conference to come up with an independent commission to spearhead the crafting of the country’s new supreme law. Sources in the civil society said the split was motivated by donor funds as organisations jostle to outwit each other for money to bankroll activities surrounding the constitution-making process. The ZCTU, the surrogate mother of the MDC in 1999, has accused the Tsvangirai-led MDC of abandoning its founding principles for a people-driven constitution. NANGO spokesman Fambai Ngirande confirmed the withdrawal of the two organisations.
“They have formally advised us,” said Ngirande. “But we can only be in a position to comment at length later,” he said. Meanwhile, the ZCTU noted with concern the failure by government to address the issue of low salaries for civil servants, among them teachers, who have threatened to embark on a nationwide strike beginning today the start of the third term. Government and teachers’ unions were scheduled to hold crisis meetings last night to avert the strike. “It seems government is now in the habit of only trying to address concerns when a strike action threat has been issued,” ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibebe said. “If the strike action goes ahead, then education is doomed in this country.” The labour union backed the teachers’ demands for a monthly salary of about US$500 saying they were justified as they come against a backdrop of rising food costs. Teachers are currently earning $155. “Government has been making promises that salaries of its workers were to be improved since February, but nothing much has happened,” Chibebe said. “As we stated earlier, the token increments awarded a few months ago only served to pacify public service employees, but the tensions continued to simmer underneath. We demand that government stop taking its workers for granted and seriously consider the issue of awarding a living wage.”