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Monday, April 22, 2024
Home#263ChatMinister Gumbo’s Comments On NRZ Workers Reveal Irresponsibility And Callousness

Minister Gumbo’s Comments On NRZ Workers Reveal Irresponsibility And Callousness

It was more than shocking – in fact, it was dumbfounding – to hear the minister of transport Joram Gumbo, last night on VOA Studio 7, say that the state-run National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employees – who are owed millions of dollars in unpaid salaries –  did not deserve to be paid.

This is a Zimbabwe government minister making such irresponsible and callous statements about workers who he is supposed to be in charge of, and therefore, protecting.

However, typical of this government, he has turned his back on the people and views them as mere slaves, who have no rights at all.

Is it then any wonder that Zimbabwe is on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference agenda – together with eight other African countries – for violating workers rights?

How can the minister of transport say that workers under his portfolio did not deserve to be paid for the work they had done?

And his reason being that the state-owned NRZ was no longer securing any business from its erstwhile clients – due to the prevailing lethargic economic situation in the country – and as such, was not making any money.

This shows that Gumbo is either being disingenious, or is simply arrogant, uncaring, and irresponsible.

To begin with, the Zimbabwe Constitution – which he is supposed to protect – in Section 65(1), guarantees that, ‘every person has the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage’.

At no point in this clause does it say something as: ‘within the limits of the resources available to them’ – as such, Section 65(1) is unqualified, and should be taken as it is.

Therefore, NRZ is bound by the Constitution – the supreme law of the land – to pay its workers, without fail, what it owes them.

Thus, instead of Gumbo defending his government-owned NRZ – when it is clearly breaching the Constitution – he would be better advised to ensure that it secures the finances to pay its disgruntled workers every cent of what it owes them.

Nevertheless, this behaviour by the government, although grossly vile, is not new, as it has lately been favouring companies above of workers – thereby, passing some grotesque anti-worker laws.

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These workers – who toiled and sweated for NRZ for years – are only demanding what they worked for, and nothing more.

They at least deserve that.

Based on documents provided to the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice) by NRZ workers, some of them are owed as much as US$22 000 in overdue unpaid salaries, unbanked part of salaries, liabilities, bonuses, and leave days.

Another worker, who was employed by the NRZ for 18 years, and was retired due to a back injury sustained at work, was awarded a lump sum payment of only US$200, and currently receiving only US$68 per month.

Can such treatment of workers ever be excused?

How are these workers supposed to sustain themselves and their families, especially under such a harsh economic climate – which the government, under which this same minister serves, presided over?

On top of that, the NRZ is no longer making money due to the government’s own mismanagement of the company and mishandling of the economy, so should the workers be the ones to bear the brunt?

Should it not be the government – which both mismanaged the company, and also oversaw the demise of the country’s economy – be the one to take full responsibility for these workers’ plight?

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Instead, what we are witnessing is downright dereliction of duty.

The minister suggested that the government’s solution was to inivite investors to take over the company.

As every Zimbabwean well knows, that is not much of a solution, as witnessed by the gross failures of such attempts at other state-owned companies, such as the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel).

This momumental failure – due to suspected government corruption – will always serve as a reminder never to trust such schemes.

After much funfair in 2010 – that was attended by both the president and then prime minister – thereby, raising the hopes of the Ziscosteel community that an investor had been finally secured, yet till today, nothing has materialised.

Therefore, it would be foolhardy for NRZ workers to expect anything different.

If they seriously want their money, they need to exert even more pressure on both the company and its major shareholder – the government.

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They should show them that they are not begging for any favours, but demanding what is righfully theirs.

The time for sweetness is long gone.

When one is owed US$22 000 – that he or she toiled for – yet, can not even afford to feed one’s family and send one’s children to school – then it is no longer time to be nice.

NRZ workers have to show that they have teeth, and they are ready to use them.

They can no longer afford to have the company and its major shareholder ride roughshod over them.

To make matters worse, they have a minister who really does not care at all about them, and is not empathetic to their plight – but would rather callously announce on radio that these workers did not deserve to be paid.

The workers’ representative on the same radio programme said they were prepared to accept part payments of their salaries, but all he got, instead, was a slap in the face.

This is the kind of arrogant attitude from the government that the oppressed and unjustly treated should unequivocally reject.

If the oppressed, especially workers, allow such treatment to prevail, they will forever be viewed with contempt by the powers-that-be.

If workers continue sucking up to employers – allowing themselves to be taken for a ride through useless and endless negotiations – then they will only have themselves to blame.

Workers should use all legal avenues available to them to demand their rights, including litigation, peaceful but crippling demonstrations, amongst a whole plethora of options.

Without such decisive action, workers should never dream of receiving what is due to them – as they have already witnessed that playing ‘Mr Nice Guy’ with a cruel and vicious employer, is akin to trying to befriend a wild Siberian tiger.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is Programmes Director at the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.com. Please ‘Like’ the ZimJustice page on Facebook for updates.

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Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.com

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  • My heart bleeds, as does that of all caring people, for the treatment of NRZ employees. But Tendai Ruben Mbofana is absolutely right when he says they will not escape the situation they are in unless they themselves take responsibility to get themselves out from under the yoke of repression.

    He uses strong and very direct words to support his argument, but he is absolutely right to do so because unless and until African workers get the message, nothing will change for them. There is an added reason for saying this. When you study the history of what are now the developed nations, you will find certain preconditions had to be in place before their citizens could go from poverty to affluence. But the crucial factor, and far and away the most important one, was that a critical mass of the nation’s own citizens had to be mobilsed into concerted action. In almost no case was it their government that instigated and led the move to take its citizens out of poverty and into affluence. There were exceptions, but only in special circumstances which do not apply in any African nation, and certainly not in Zimbabwe.

    To put it another way, the citizens of NO country have gone from poverty to affluence until a critical mass of its own citizens rose up and forced its government to do what was needed. Yet this has been ignored by every African or Western campaign organisation, every official aid agency (the World Bank, the IMF, the UN) and every NGO.

    In fact, EVERY solution to African poverty has relied on the official aid agencies and/or African governments to take action, despite half a century of history since the end of colonialism proving conclusively that this is simply a waste of time. Zimbabwe is just one of 54 African nations that in real terms are making little or no effort to get their citizens out of poverty.

    There is just one exception. Only one organisation has made the mobilisation of the citizenry an essential part of its strategy to take the majority of African citizens from poverty to affluence, and believe it or not, it is the AU, much vilified by many Africans (and probably rightly so). Yet its Agenda 2063 and accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2023 is the one plan – African or Western – that actually will work.

    First of all, its aim is not to eradicate poverty, its aim is to fulfil what virtually all Africans want, which is that African citizens “will be amongst the best performers in global quality of life measures” – in other words, they will have lifestyles fully up to Western standards.

    BUT IT MAKES IT CLEAR THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN UNLESS AFRICAN CITIZENS THEMSELVES GIVE AGENDA 2063 THEIR FULL BACKING. In fact, it is positively screaming out for African citizens to get involved in pushing it through to success:

    “The determination, participation……and solidarity of Africa’s peoples……are PRECONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS”

    “THE CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS ARE……ensuring participation……of citizens”

    “A CALL TO ACTION TO ALL AFRICANS……to take personal responsibility for the destiny of the continent and as the primary agents of change and transformation”

    Could Agenda 2063 be any clearer? So the AU has learnt from history and is asking all Africans to do the same.

    NRZ employees should know that their government (in common with every other African government) is a signatory to Agenda 2063, part of which is that all citizens should tell “all private candidates and political parties to use Agenda 2063 as the basis for developing their manifestos”. The converse being that, if any does not do that, no citizen should support them.
    So if NRZ employees insist on fair treatment as specified in Agenda 2063, they are only asking their government to implement and abide by a document it has signed up to.
    However, it is also in the interests of all supporters of the present government to insist that it implements Agenda 2063 to the best of its ability, not only because it has already agreed to do that, but because the whole point of Agenda 2063 is to focus all African governments and African citizens on getting themselves out of poverty and into affluence as rapidly as possible, and it has a very detailed plan for doing so.

    Many people throughout the world want to see Africans enjoying Western-quality lifestyles, but no one can do anything unless African citizens themselves take the lead. Tendai Ruben Mbofana is absolutely right.

  • Thank you very much “Ultrasound”. It’s nice to be appreciated. And also for your encouragement!

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