HARARE – The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions on Tuesday accused the government of interfering in trade union activities by involving itself in the selection of labour delegates to the International Labour Conference set for Geneva, Switzerland, next month.
ZCTU Secretary General, Japhet Moyo, said in an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) that the government, through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, was trying to smuggle its yellow union, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) to the conference to achieve their own political ends.
“It is not the first time the government of Zimbabwe have done that, some years back they did pick people whom we did not know and tried to smuggle them to Geneva as worker delegates.
“Fortunately they did not succeed at that particular time. We have seen them now doing the same thing again, that they extended an invitation to an organisation that has no legal standing to be part of the workers’ delegates. That is not the procedure, how government decides the composition of the worker delegates is a mystery to us because it is not their terrain to decide on behalf of the workers,” he said.
Moyo said the founding principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicated who should be represented at the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).
“The most representative organisation has been organising organised labour delegates over the years. It has not changed but we have seen government putting up its fingers on our business and that is interference.
“They invited an organisation called ZFTU, and no one knows who was going to fund them, but obviously we suspect that government is funding them,” he said.
He said it was surprising that although ILO statutes provided that the government should fund the entire labour delegation, it had refused and decided to fund just one person, whilst at the same time finding the money to fund other people.
Moyo said the ZCTU had written to the ILO to inform them of the development and urging them to block the ZFTU delegation from attending the Geneva Conference.
“There are procedures to be followed and we have alerted the ILO structures responsible for accreditation that this is what the Zimbabwean government is doing and they should be able to deal with that.
“We have merely alerted the ILO that government seems to have interfered with our selection and chosen their own people to be workers’ delegates. Therefore the ILO should make sure those people are not accredited,” he said.
Moyo said the move by government to invite the ZFTU to the conference was politically motivated as they had always wanted to prop the union up, despite the fact that it did not have any members to talk about.
“It is a political motive in our view, it is meant to dilute the influence of the ZCTU for political gains.
“You are also aware that Zimbabwe is likely to be in the final list of countries which have failed to comply with the international Labour Standards Conventions and this federation has never said one word about those things, so by taking them to Geneva they are trying to increase their numbers as government to fight these allegations,” he said.
ANA has it on authority that the government had to drop two of its delegates, Francis Mafuratidze and Tariro Cynthia Jongwe, in order to accommodate ZFTU Secretary General, Kennias Shamuyarira and another person from the ZFTU.
Shamuyarira, confirmed receiving an invitation from government but said his organisation’s inclusion in the labour delegation was above board.
“By design, the ZCTU was the first to be registered and must represent the Trade Union movement as the most representative union. But as we moved on, the ZFTU was registered and now has almost double the number of members of the ZCTU and in the absence of a survey; it is difficult to prove that the ZCTU is still the largest, so the Minister invites us all.”
He said the ZFTU attended the conference as advisors to the ZCTU, adding that it was wrong for the latter to say that the minister had no right to invite them as it was obliged to invite them all.
Shamuyarira dismissed claims by Moyo that they wanted to fight in the corner of government to stop Zimbabwe from being on the final list.
“We have always been moving together as labour but it appears they are now in political lines, it is up to them if they want to take the position of the MDC. We have a constituency back home and there is no way we can be on the side of the government. They must stop distorting information and confuse journalists,” he said.
Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Services, Priscah Mupfumira said she was surprised that the ZCTU was now raising the issue in the media when they had agreed on the way forward during a pre-conference meeting held on Monday.
“We agreed on the way forward and what we want is to bring everyone on board. We need an amicable resolution on issues being raised by the two unions. The ZCTU is the most represented body in terms of old statistics and those have changed now.
“The civil service has the number of workers now but the APEX council, which is the representative body of civil servants, has been left out,” she said.