Zim Government Official Infuriates Workers Over ZimAsset As Police Ban May Day Commemorations

Harare, May 1, 2014 – Zimbabwean workers on Thursday booed a senior government official after he touted the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio – Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), an ambitious economic blueprint, as a panacea to the country’s economic crisis.

Francis Mafuratidze, a representative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare incensed workers at commemorations organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to mark International Workers Day at Gwanzura stadium, when he flaunted the government’s economic blueprint as the magic potion to the country’s economic woes.

Mafuratidze had referred to ZimAsset as he delivered a speech on behalf of Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche stating that implementation of the economic blueprint is set to bring relief to the agony that workers are grappling with and help alleviate the economic crisis.

But the workers affiliated to the ZCTU led by George Nkiwane could not stomach Mafuratidze’s assurances and protested against him through booing and singing songs denouncing ZimAsset.

An attempt by ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo to plead with the workers to allow Mafuratidze to proceed with his speech fell on deaf ears forcing the government official to cut short his prepared speech and leave the podium to pave way for Nkiwane.

ZimAsset, a five-year economic plan aimed at improving basic services and rebuild the impoverished southern African country was launched in October 2013 and will run until December 2018. It was adopted from Zanu PF party’s election manifesto during the 2013 elections and it spells out an ambitious plan to revive the country’s comatose economy. Proponents of ZimAsset claim that it was crafted to achieve sustainable development and social equity anchored on indigenisation, empowerment and employment creation.

But critics say the ambitious plan will not succeed as it requires massive capital injection in a country shunned by Western governments and funding institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank because of its bad debtor status and a poor human rights record.

Already, companies are closing down with several enterprises retrenching workers.

In his address, Moyo said 9 000 workers had lost their jobs since July last year when the coalition government was terminated with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party’s victory in the elections largely condemned as not free and fair.

“Things are looking gloom for workers. Things are not okay. We need to take action,” said Moyo.

Civil society organisations gave solidarity statements while former ZCTU secretary-general and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai also addressed the workers.

Meanwhile, police on Thursday barred a breakaway faction of the ZCTU from gathering at Harare Gardens to commemorate International Workers Day.

In banning the commemorations organised by the ZCTU Concerned Affiliates led by Lovemore Matombo and Raymond Majongwe, the police claimed that the venue had already been booked for the current Harare International Festival of the Arts festivities.