No To Salary Freeze – Tsvangirai

In a move that exposed the lack of coordination in the inclusive government and within the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday dismissed an announcement by Finance Minister Tendai Biti that the government had frozen all salaries. Biti, who is also the secretary general of Tsvangirai’s MDC formation, recently said civil servants salaries had been frozen because of the government’s high wage bill.

But Tsvangirai dismissed the announcement, saying the government currently did not have a policy to freeze salaries.

“The government did not announce a wage freeze,” Tsvangirai told scores of workers who gathered at Dzivarasekwa Stadium in Harare to commemorate Workers Day. “There is no government policy on wage freeze. If ever there is going to be such a policy, it must also take into consideration the price freeze. There is no government policy I know of on wage freeze.”

Workers representatives, through the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), raised a chorus of complaints against Biti’s announcement. ZCTU officials particularly lambasted the MDC for behaving like Zanu (PF) and forgetting that the party’s roots were in the labour movement, particularly the ZCTU.

ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo even warned that the move could backfire for the MDC, which he said had “disengaged too early from its labour roots”.

Addressing the same gathering, Matombo said the “survival of workers cannot be separated from politics”, and accused the government of unilaterally freezing salaries without consulting workers.

 “No one should freeze salaries. As workers we are not afraid of anything, we are prepared to take into the streets. Right now we have workers who earn less than US$30, these are people with families and children who are supposed to go to school,” said Matombo.

Matombo said they had given the government up to July to give workers salaries that are in line with the poverty datum line, which currently stands just below US$500.

The ZCTU leader also took a swipe at the proposed privatisation of some parastatals, saying the current plan would benefit only a few well connected individuals.

Representatives of various civil society organisations that gave solidarity messages to the ZCTU said the only way forward was for the country to hold fresh elections under international supervision.

ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe said the inclusive government had not delivered on a number of crucial promises to the workers.