Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

What stay away?

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A tour past Harare’s main commuter transport ranks, the city centre, suburban shopping centres and residential areas yesterday made things look very much like business as usual on the first day of a two-day stay away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

A statement from the ZCTU reported that “most ZCTU members heeded the call to stayaway from work. However most companies remained open but with only skeleton staff operating. We predict that so far this stayaway has been about 55 percent successful.” Some reports suggested that staff were going to work, but were not working once they arrived there.

As one Kubatana subscriber put it, with 80% unemployment, that means only 20% of the population even has work from which they could stay away. So a 55% successful stay away looks like only 10% of the population going to work? Plus of course the informal sector which just carried on as always.

A friend of mine in the repair business offered his workers a choice – they were welcome to stay away and they would not be peanalised or docked anything from their monthly wage, or they could come to work. When he got to work on Wednesday morning he found all his staff waiting outside for him to open up as they normally do. They would not have lost their pay if they’d stayed home. But they also wouldn’t have been served lunch.

Of course, the fact that most businesses remained open didn’t stop the police from harassing the ZCTU staff and leadership. On Monday, three ZCTU officials were beaten and arrested while distributing fliers for the stay away in Harare’s Workington industrial area. Police raided the home of ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo, and arrested his brother Kenneth when they did not find Lovemore at home. The ZCTU’s Bulawayo regional chairperson was arrested on Tuesday, released late that night and then instructed to report to the police again for further interrogation. Something about the level of action and the extent of reprisal isn’t quite adding up.

Kubatana subscribers continue to share their thoughts about the job action. Here are a few of their comments:

I personally think the reason these stay aways are not working is because we are never fully informed why we are staying away, I mean like what are hoping to achieve after the so called stay away who are we staying away from because frankly if it’s a way of bringing the country’s economy to its knees to get the govt’s attention they have already beaten us to that whether we stay away for the next 3 months the economy is already in ruins and the govt wouldn’t care less. I therefore strongly think and believe that what ZCTU needs to be doing now is massive voter education I think the ballot is the only way to beat the mugabe regime to cut the story short stay aways will not work end whether we all stay away end of story.

My personal conviction is that stay aways are an obsolete means to for expression in Zimbabwe. This method has been utilized countless times in Zimbabwe in the recent years with limited success. We need much more peaceful and proactive methods to express whatever sentiments are festering within us. Besides, we do not have to provide the excuse to trigger happy butter stick brandishing law enforcers, to get mercilessly on our people and provoke disorder. Even though the socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate, but let us save life and limb.

Meanwhile, the MDC looks set to allow constitutional amendments to sail through Parliament without any discussion or debate. Agreeing to these amendments will effectively see the MDC conceding that the upcoming elections will be free and fair. But with just six months between now and the likely election date, all the good will in the world could not miraculously transform Zimbabwe’s political environment into a level playing field with open, equal access and confident voters free of intimidation – and I sincerely doubt the ruling party has that much good will towards the process anyway.

I know my colleagues and I all see it. So what is the opposition thinking? What is in it for them? Like this Telegraph article puts it, the MDC is “contributing to its own demise.” The opposition might not mind forming some elite deal and getting swallowed by the ruling party. But what’s in it for the rest of us?

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