Social Contract: ZCTU Pull Out and call for General Strike Now!
On 1 June 2007, the leaders of the unions led by the ZCTU signed the Incomes and Pricing Stabilisation Protocol with government and business. Also signing were APEX for public servants and the Zanu (PF) yellow dog “union federation”, the ZFTU.
The ZCTU says it only signed this protocol and not the other two or a social contract, but the protocol is the most important of the three, the very heart of the social contract that RBZ Governor has been pushing since March. The idea was to reduce inflation to 25% by year end from the then 3 700%; to stop the massive increases of prices of basic goods with businesses promising to increase prices of goods only within agreed parameters; stabilize the economy and give workers a living wage consistent with the Poverty Datum Line. National Employment Councils were supposed to do a one off collective bargaining bench-marked on the April PDL of $1.7 million per month and thereafter monthly collective bargaining based on the inflation rate, whilst government undertook not to tax employees earning below the PDL. The labour leaders in turn promised to ensure “industrial peace” for the six months duration of the protocol, i.e. stop workers from going on strike including the stay away in July earlier on resolved by the ZCTU General Council and affirmed only a week before and at May Day by militant ZCTU president, L. Matombo. They also surrendered their historic role as the leaders of the poor and downtrodden by signing an agreement that said nothing about them. Giving up their most powerful weapon even at a time their South African and Nigerian counterparts were executing huge strikes in defence of the poor.
But the Zanu PF regime and capitalists deceived the labour leaders. Less than three weeks since the signing of the social contract, there has been a huge wave of price increases of everything from transport to food to medicines that we have not seen in the last decade. Indeed the state is now frantically calling for an emergency TNF meeting to address the issues. In any case bosses had not really given much away, with the June PDL already over $3.5 million whilst there was no provision compelling the state to give immediate statutory status to the Protocol, leaving it as a legally non-binging set of promises by government and employers.
Considering the history of other countries in particular Italy, France, Spain, Indonesia and South Africa, the social contract theory - strategy has always been used by governments and bosses when their system of capitalism is in deep crisis and in danger of being overthrown by revolution from the poor to buy time, co-opt labour and the radical movements and later on launch vicious attacks against the working people when things stabilize. In Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, is now in a corner, battered and bruised by the general crisis of Gono’s neoliberal capitalism, sanctions and near collapse of the agriculture sector. There is real danger of a total economic collapse by December as predicted by the Group of 34 international NGOs in Zimbabwe, if not the 1 million % inflation rate predicted by the chief imperialist representative in Zimbabwe, US ambassador Dell. Such a situation creates ripe conditions for massive riots, strikes and revolts from below, which as we saw in apartheid South Africa, Argentina, Madagascar, etc can topple even the most intransigent and brutal of regimes. Already there are growing signs of uneasiness amongst the lower ranks of the army and police. The regime knows this, which is why it has imposed a virtual state of emergence in the main cities and towns.
But that will not be enough. To stop possible mass revolts, the regime will have to neutralize and co-opt its most potentially powerful enemy, organized labour under the leadership of ZCTU from leading general strikes in the next few months, that are likely to be joined by other sections of the urban and rural poor. In the meanwhile the political elites in government and opposition will try and sort out their current differences and problems, including the tricky issue of Mugabe’s succession and unity of MDC, to eventually create an anti-working people and western supported government of national unity accelerating the neoliberal programme already initiated by Gono. This is the real objective of this dangerous social contract, the Mbeki talks between Zanu (PF) and MDC leaders and the activities of the imperialist-funded and controlled Save Zimbabwe Campaign. This is what Mugabe meant when recently offering the opposition leaders bribes of farms and tractors -“Nyaya yekudya inyaya yedu tese, hapana asingararame nekudya. Kana toita politics dzekutunguna tinenge taguta.” (When it comes to eating the national cake, we eat together, and only engage in party politicking and insult one another after we are full).
Way Forward and our Demands
Well now that the capitalists and government have reengaged on their promises, labour must immediately pull out of the social contract and mobilize for action this July, taking a leaf from the unions in South Africa and Nigeria. The general strike must be accompanied by general demonstrations by all sections of the working people and poor.
But to succeed we need a campaign that unites the factory with the township, the growth point and school and college campuses; that unites the workers with the unemployed, housewives, youths, students, vendors, informal traders and combi drivers, peasants, the human rights activists, political party militants and revolutionary socialists and their different organizations and movements, such as those assembled under the Zimbabwe Social Forum. Thus this action cannot be unilaterally run and controlled by the ZCTU leaders alone as in previous stayaways if it is to succeed, but must be a genuine democratic united front with all these movements, including in the formulation of strategies, tactics and demands, even if organized labour remains the leading player.
We must have full scale mobilization through leafleting, posters, labour forums in industry as well as labour – residents forums in the townships and setting up joint labour-activists teams operating in the industries, colleges, and townships. Our demands must be comprehensive and holistic – a Working People’s Charter demanding:
· An immediate statutory national minimum living wage adjustable every fortnight consistent with the rate of inflation and pegged to the bread basket or USA dollar and which is tax free, with employment councils only negotiating top ups;
· Mandatory jail sentences for managers, directors and owners of businesses that unilaterally increase prices of basic goods and services or offload goods on the black market or violate the minimum wages;
· Immediate take-over of businesses and enterprises by workers of enterprises that violate minimum wage provisions or violate price controls or off-load goods on the black market;
· a special levy into a worker controlled fund, on all Stock Exchange listed companies, multinationals, pharmacies and large businesses like retailers like mines, OK and TM to fund our collapsing health, education, transport and peasant agriculture sectors as well as emergency food aid for those in need and the needs of the disabled and those infected and affected AIDS/HIV.
· Immediate stopping of harassment of vendors and informal trade and the right to trade in town centers and other desirable areas;
· The immediate lifting of the de facto state of emergency that the regime has imposed in our cities and towns,; repeal of POSSA and AIPPA;
· A new people-driven democratic and anti-ESAP constitution; free and fair elections under such constitution within six months and trial of those guilty of crimes against humanity and compensation for the victims.
The situation and timing has never been more ripe. The ZCTU leaders and militants today have a historic duty on their shoulders to provide leadership and call for and lead mass action without further delay – Failure to do so, history will judge them very harshly.
Shinga Mushandi Shinga! Penga mushandi ! Another Zimbabwe is Possible! Now is our time!