AT Independence, the new majority Government set to reconfigure the labour market, expand labour rights and upgrade labour laws and harmonise worker representation. Thus, on February 28, 1981, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions came into being as a merger of six black labour bodies.
For the first one-and-a-half decades, the labour movement represented genuine worker interests until the secretary-general of the labour body since 1988, Morgan Tsvangirai, sold out labour struggles to become a political tool of the West who thrust him to the leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change on September 11 1999, our very own 9/11.The interests of the worker have been on the back burner ever since.
Former Editor of The Herald Charles Chikerema, himself a trade unionist, wrote a damning article on Tsvangirai’s betrayal on March 12 1998, which we republish ahead of Workers Day commemorations tomorrow.
We had hoped to stay away from it all. We had hoped we would not have to cross swords as it were with the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
Even as we do it now, we do so with reluctance. After all, we once sat in the General Council together and were quite a formidable faction with other colleagues.
Together we influenced the adoption of pertinent resolutions. Native to the requirements and consistent with the basics and fundamental tenets of Zimbabwe’s labour movement against the background of the war of liberation which had seen us achieve political power.
You were good in the meetings of the General Council those days. And there were times we wondered: “Where does he come from within the framework of the political traditions and trends of this country?” The truth is we are still wondering.
We recall in particular the congress in Gweru. We fought side-by-side, so you should become secretary-general.
Together we worked hard at resolutions that were adopted by the congress. We chastised the Government for what we regarded as dragging its feet on the land issue.
We would pressurise the Government to acquire land for the majority of the people and thus fulfil the expectations of the African people, so they could realise they had not fought a gruesome war and paid ultimate sacrifices in vain.
We would push the point that the policy of reconciliation had been misunderstood by the minority so much that they believed that economically speaking and as far as the land issue was concerned, matters should remain as they were.
We were to intensify the organisation of farm workers as they were among the most exploited in the country, yet were at the same time working for a handful of commercial farmers who made billions of dollars per year in agriculture.
Whatever happened to that programme, Morgan? We pushed it so hard with other leaders of the ZCTU. It was so popular no one could stand in your way for the post of secretary-general.
But what have you done to the programme? You will say times have changed both at home and abroad and that developments in the socio-economic order of societies are presenting the labour movement with new equations.
But could that explain it all? Why have you become the darling of the historical oppressors of our people both at home and abroad Morgan? How come now even the Western media, that never for once praised the heroism of our people in the liberation struggle now appears to regard you as the Messiah? What are you doing for them Morgan?
We will return to that later.
On March 9, 1988 you faxed to all and sundry a resolution the General Council had made to the effect that starting from today The Herald should not be read on Thursdays and Fridays until further notice.
The reason for this decree is that, as far as you and those who think like you are concerned, this paper “dis-informed” the nation regarding the two-day stay-away events. We did nothing of the kind.
Against this background of the rioting and violence that took place during the two-day labour-organised actions, previously, the big story during your two-day stay-away was the peace and tranquillity that prevailed, Morgan.
And that is what we said.
The whole nation except our enemies at home and abroad heaved a sigh of relief because there was no bloodshed, there was no looting and there was no smashing and destruction of business premises of struggling and marginalised black businesspeople.
The high-density areas were not turned into a burning inferno like the last time.
And that was the big story Morgan, not what you and your admirers wished to hear and read about yourselves.
And we reported it all the way it came. Where there were total closures, we said so. Where there were workers who turned out and found their workplaces closed by your new-found allies — the employers — were reported accordingly.
There are those who have accused you of crass opportunism Morgan and that you have virtually turned the ZCTU into storm troopers for the interests of the defunct Rhodesia Front along with all its shades and patterns of reasoning and idiosyncrasies. Could they have a point here?
Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that, of all the commodities and products basic and indispensable for the well-being of our people, the first item you call upon them to boycott is The Herald and not food items whose prices they cannot afford.
You have moved up in high circles over the years. You now rub shoulders and are familiar with all those charlatans and hypocrites who have perfected the art of talking about democracy and the need for diversity and pluralism without meaning a single word of what they talk about.
You have become one of them.
Otherwise, how do you explain, Morgan, the fact that with one side of your mouth, you speak eloquently about democracy, freedom etc, while with the other side of your mouth, you order your followers to boycott The Herald because the views expressed therein do not square up to your over-developed sense of self-esteem?
Which one is the true ZCTU spokesman?
Is it the fluent advocate of democracy, pluralism and diversity or is it the ruthless, calculating charlatan in the form of a tin-pot dictator in the making which you are fast becoming Morgan?
So you will order Zimbabweans as to which paper they will read and what they will not, and for what number of days?
If you start with The Herald, then which newspapers will be next? Which radio and TV station will be next?
Could someone not conclude that you have singled out Thursday and Friday as the days on which The Herald should not be read as a reward and gesture of appreciation to our competitors who publish on those days for having covered the two-day stay-away in a manner that pleased you? So you do love feel-good journalism after all?
So from now on everyone must tremble and write stories that make you feel good.
You wanted us to say the stay-away was a “resounding success?”
For whom? You were not alone Morgan. You came as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The industrialists were behind you. And we understand the history of the liberation struggle of this country enough to ever applaud you for a stunt like that.
And that brings us to a point we raised earlier on. We said we would return to it later.
It was to our amazement that all the forces that once oppressed the people of Zimbabwe now regard you as their last hope.
Now you never achieve that status by being a true spokesman of the toiling majority.
You never achieve that status by fighting for their dignity and well-being. In fact, you get bludgeoned to the ground for doing that.
But for you it’s different Morgan.
All the minority commercial farmers who own most, if not all, the fertile land in this country love you. Some of them ferry workers to join demonstrations.
All the industrialists or most of them “love” you. When you call for a strike, they close up their businesses in solidarity. And tell their workers that they will pay them even if they do not turn up for work.
What have you done for them? It is simple. You have been of great assistance to them. You have kept yourself aloof from the struggles of the workers against racism and for their dignity at their places of employment. But you have kept an eagle eye open for any problems involving the Government and its employees. Oh there you are sharp, Morgan.
You have kept silent where the farm workers are concerned. You have not thrown book, bell and candle at the commercial farmers for keeping their workers in a perpetual state of bondage since the days of Cecil John Rhodes and then throwing them into destitution when they are old and weary. When the workers have gone on strike, be it in Mashonaland Central, Chipinge and Matabeleland, you have kept silent.
And when the land question became a national issue with the international and national white community, including the South African newspapers howling and crying foul, you employed all the ingenuity at your disposal to divert the attention of the people onto issues thereby strengthening the hand of our traditional detractors in their efforts to thwart the country’s drive for land acquisition.
You have declared the Government as the enemy number one. And so have the landlords in England.
As we said earlier on, you move in high circles nowadays.
Never in the history of all this country has a labour movement so collaborated with employers the way you are doing and, believe us when we say we have seen quite a few treacherous labour movement leaderships come and go in this country over the years Morgan.
You do not have the interests of the workers at heart at all.
You are just using them and exploiting them the way their employers do.
And whatever the outcome, you should know better than to think we could regard you as a hero of the working class.
Never ever, Morgan! You are hero to the owning and exploiting class in this country.