The sun was now overhead, as Felix Mubvumbi straightened his back, wipes sweat on his forehead with the back of his palm, he wonders why his toils have always yielded nothing.
For him, what makes matters worse is the feeling that his efforts have not been appreciated, he rarely recognizes that a day has been dedicated for people like him.
Mubvumbi has been working in the construction industry for more than 15 years, but could hardly make ends meet. “If only my efforts could be appreciated and rewarded accordingly,” he prays.
It’s May Day, but people like Mubvumbi say the Workers’ Day has lost its meaning for Zimbabweans, for yet others the day passed them by unnoticed.
For those who share such a school of thought, the country’s leaders addressed empty lines yesterday.
In his message, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa urged employers to pay their workers fairly.
“The importance of ensuring workers are rewarded fairly for their contributions cannot be overemphasised. In this regard, I implore all employers to deploy innovative reward strategies. Our economic growth must cascade to the workers with their quality of lives being uplifted.
“All workers have to look into the future with hope as evidence is on the ground regarding transformation that the Second Republic is making in all sectors of the economy. Brick upon brick we are building this country. Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo, ilizwe lakhiwa ngabinikazi balo, workers included,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said the economy is experiencing an unprecedented rejuvenation and growth despite the albatross of illegal sanctions on our country by some Western countries. In this regard, the projected economic growth of 3,8 percent is above regional average.
The President added that Government attaches great importance to the protection of workers’ rights as provided by the Constitution, the Labour Act and the respective collective bargaining agreements.
He said Government had also put in place measures to strengthen the Labour Inspectorate services as it provides the guarantee for the observance, enforcement and protection of workers’ rights at every work place.
However, his opposite number, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) president Nelson Chamisa whilst he also saluted Zimbabwe’s workers for keeping the wheels of the economy turning squares the blame on the government of the day for failing to do much for the workers.
“Workers are the wheels of change. Workers deserve a New and Great Zimbabwe free from poverty, corruption and oppression. Saluting all workers this MayDay,” he said.
He added that his party believes in the decent work agenda for all:
“We believe in the Decent work agenda -Employment opportunities and sustainable enterprises.
“-Labour standards and workers rights
-Inclusive Social protection -Inclusive Social dialogue.. collective bargaining.
“We understand that many workers are facing challenges such as low wages, job insecurity, and poor working conditions. These challenges have been exacerbated by the current economic climate.
“As a government in waiting, we promise to prioritize the improvement of workers’ conditions. We will work towards creating an enabling environment that promotes job creation, fair wages, and better working conditions.
“We believe that a thriving economy is one that prioritizes the welfare of its workers. We will work tirelessly to ensure that all workers in our country are treated with dignity and respect, and that they receive fair compensation for their hard work.
“On this Workers Day, we salute you, the backbone of our economy. We promise to work towards improving your working conditions and ensuring that your contributions to our country’s growth are adequately recognized and rewarded,” he said.
According to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agent (ZimStat) the total consumption poverty line (TCPL) of $33 044 represents the ‘total income’ needed for an individual (with all their income added together) as a minimum for them not to be deemed poor.
“The Total Consumption Poverty Line for Zimbabwe stood at $33 044,46 per person in April 2023.
“This means that an individual required that much to purchase both non-food and food items as at April 2023 in order not to be deemed poor,” ZimStat said in its latest cost of living statistics report.
“This represents an increase of 11% when compared to the March 2023 figure of $29 778,08.”
ZimStat produces the official Poverty Datum Lines, which are not comparable to cost of living indicators produced by other players in the market, says the agency.
In the past three weeks, the Zimbabwe dollar has, however, fallen to $2 100, against the United States dollar, from $1 000 on the parallel forex market as the local currency continues to lack adequate support structures.
Resultantly, the prices of goods and services have skyrocketed with some shops now strictly demanding US dollars for certain goods or services.
The World bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1,90 a day, and according to ZimStat’s latest figures the $33 044 indicate high levels of poverty.
Following ZimStat findings, economists argued that ZimStat’s cost of living for the month of April greatly differs from the what is prevailing on the ground.
“That is not realistic and a correct figure of what an average person would require per month to survive because just food alone costs more than that,” economist Prosper Chitambara, said in an interview.
“For those who go to work if you are going to buy a plate of sadza for a dollar it means for the month you would spend almost US$20 just on food for lunch, so that is not a correct and realistic figure.”
Meanwhile, renowned world economic analyst Steve Hanke is on record saying the local currency is on deathbed, and has gone past the stage being able to be resuscitated.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says a total 100 000 Zimbabweans lost their jobs in the first quarter 2023 alone with the majority of those remaining in employment experiencing working poverty.
Speaking to workers gathered at Dzivarasekwa Stadium to commemorate the 2023 Workers Day Monday, ILO Country Office for Zimbabwe and Namibia, Officer In Charge, Annamarie Kiaga decried rising unemployment and poor salaries paid to workers.
“Unemployment remains relatively high, and data indicates a lot of discouragement in the labour force as many are no longer looking for employment.
“Women and youth are disproportionately affected by overlapping crises, by unemployment, and by socio-economic insecurity, and face many barriers in accessing decent work.
“Informality remains significantly high, and many people are in working poverty as they earn below an equivalent of USD100.00 per month. Many are still losing jobs, with latest statistics indicating that over 100,000 people were retrenched in the 1st Quarter of 2023,” she said.
The ILO senior official called for the unleashing of greater investments in decent jobs, particularly in the green, digital and care economy, underscoring that such can only be realised through increased, coordinated, and coherent action.
She said harnessing such opportunities s requires working together to build a new, and inclusive, social contract that ensures that every Zimbabwean benefits from the progress and prosperity of the country.
“We need to create a momentum to leave no-one behind, and to ensure that social justice through decent work is prioritized in national policymaking and programmes, in development cooperation, and in financial, trade, and investment promotion and agreements.
“Building a new social contract requires a commitment to inclusive and broad social dialogue.
“Social dialogue helps ensure that our collective efforts through policies and programmes have broad acceptance and ownership. For example, wage negotiations that are bipartite or tripartite are far more effective in protecting the purchasing power of the most vulnerable in these inflationary conditions,” said Kiaga.
Her calls for social dialogue comes at a time when the country’s tripartite forces, Labour, Business and Workers have failed to arrive at any meaningful conclusion as suspicions bordered on political affiliation lines continue to dog the process.
May Day, also called Workers’ Day or International Workers’ Day, was first commemorated in 1889 and celebrates the struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement and is observed in many countries on May 1.