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Zimbabwe shutdown, a noble cause but many things went wrong!

by Nomazulu Thata
23 January 2019 | 2594 Views
Demonstrations are planned and must be planned, how do you demonstrate without prior due diligence. What is the purpose of the demonstrations, what can go wrong and what the eventualities are? The shutdown was expected because there was so much dissatisfaction in the civil service: the doctors demonstrated for 40 days. The teachers were demonstrating: they were walking hundreds of miles to Harare to make a point to the Finance Minister that they are getting peanuts and they are not monkeys to be given peanuts as piecemeal: peanuts that Minister Mthuli Ncube is not getting himself.

The timing of the demonstrations was spot on. The Trade Unions did the rightful and honest thing to shut the country down so as to force the government to think. With all the pain that the civil servants were subjected to, the government doubles the prices of fuel making it almost impossible to go to work in the first place. A Zanu PF is as insensitive as it was yester year, nothing has changed. President Mnangagwa; Mugabe mark 2, has doubled the airtime in those most expensive charter planes he travels on with together with half his cabinet inside it. It is inconceivable how they use a golden bowl to go on a begging spree.

It is the planning that went wrong in this January #shutdown demonstration in several ways. The trade unions were talking to the 10% of the population that is formally employed. They planned that they should stay away from going to work for three days. They went even further, they said “say away in your homes and don’t go to the streets because the government army and police will harm you. That was a good tactic to avoid bloodshed that went wrong in August 1st done by the MDC-Alliance. Demonstrating in the streets has the danger of not being able to control the demonstrators and some of those idle citizens who just decided to join the demos to get something to do at that time and place. That’s what went wrong in the planning resulting in destruction we all witnessed.
Mistake number one!

The trade union leaders’ voice went to the workers in the formal sector only. They forgot or failed to address the informal sectors; the vendors. The trade unions forgot to address the 90% of the citizens who are not employed at all. That was a big mistake and a grave oversight on their part. Indeed most of the civil servants heeded the call to stay away. But because the unemployed were not given any instructions whatsoever how they could assist in the shutdown, they took the law on themselves and used the "opportunity" to do whatever they wanted: looting. The unemployed did not feel part of the trade unions or are they part of the government. There is no organisation operating on their behalf, talking on their behalf: who is there for them in their absolute dire straits? Where is their position in such a country-wide stay away and shutdown demonstrations? Curiously the ZCTU did not define that clearly.

The unemployed are at the mercy of economic meltdown, nobody cares for them. In a nutshell, an unemployed person has nothing to lose but only his/her life, a life they are capable to put on the line forced by the helplessness of our political and economic situation. If they collapsed in the streets because of hunger and thirst, not even the Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube will recognize it because Zimbabwe is a crude capitalist country and empathy is not in the vocabulary of the ruling elite. In a nutshell the trade unions should have spoken to the unemployed people to be part of the demonstration for it to be a success: they did not.
Mistake number two!

It is inconceivable that a big internationally recognized organisation like ZCTU can be hijacked by failed politicians like Pastor Evan Mawarire so easily. ZCTU have been voicing the coming of the demonstration as early as last year. We listened to their voice of wisdom and we recognized their cause, why they want to demonstrate in the first place. The salaries they get are unsustainable, far below the poverty datum line and it is for this reason that they needed to #stay away and never give their services for a salary “too little to live-on and too much to die-on” leaving everything in-between. Seeing ZCTU President Peter Mutasa standing together with Pastor Mawarire as the first speaker to announce the stay away removed all the authority President Mutasa had.

 It was Evan Mawarire now introducing the President of ZCTU to the workers at large,  telling the people to stay away, was already a cause no longer in the hands of the trade unions but on political prostitutes like Pastor Evan Mawarire who has failed politically and was now seeking a political lifeline that he got in abundance. Pastor Mawarire is now sentenced for treason. This is exactly what Pastor Mawarire wanted and he got it, he is now back to business, he will get the limelight he craves; it had slipped away from him for some time after losing the July 30th  harmonized elections. In hindsight we wish the President of the ZCTU could have done it differently.

Mistake number three
With all due respect for Chamisa, we wish he should have refrained from politicizing the January #shutdown. His written message gave all and sundry that MDC-Alliance was part of the demonstration. Given the disputed elections of 31st July and the subsequent violent demonstrations on the 1st of August, MDC-Alliance should have acted differently. There was no need to politicize this noble demonstration because the dynamics can bring about all sorts of negative results and that has already happened. The government is now putting almost all the blame on MDC-Alliance because of the letter Chamisa wrote to the workers prior to the demonstrations. It can sincerely be said that the MDC-Alliance hijacked the #shutdown January demonstrations. With such carnage and destruction caused by demonstrations country-wide, it is easy to blame on MDC-Alliance. How is it possible to demarcate destruction done by hard-core criminals in our midst and the government crack down on MDC-Alliance supporters?  
So many interests were at play in this noble #shutdown, stay away demonstration that was supposed to bring about positive results. The results were, in no uncertain terms, to tell the Zanu PF government that the salaries are unsustainable, the wages are not liveable ones: the rise of fuel prices is unsustainable. Surely it cannot go on like this, the workers cannot be told to sacrifice and yet the top servant in the land: President Mnangagwa is not in a position to do the same sacrifice. They are travelling with expensive private jets begging for money in countries whose presidents cannot afford such a luxury of a private jet they fly around with. We need to think and imagine how that money; about 25 million US dollars, could have been used in the civil service if the President did not make those unreasonable journeys to Eurasia.

A demonstration must be thoroughly stage-managed and nothing should be taken to chance. Simulate and play out all eventualities; address the workers and find solutions from them first. But a country with 90% of the working force unemployed, the unemployed citizens must be valued,  must be included in the equation and they must feel as part of the bigger picture. The unemployed must feel they are formidable stakeholders in the scheme of things. Political parties should respect such bodies as the trade unions and let them articulate their positions and duties without any political interference.  MDC-Alliance failed dismally to recognize this aspect of the shutdown demonstrations last week. In hindsight it is the unemployed who should have been deployed t make sure the demonstration is a success to all stakeholders.

We ask the President of ZCTU, Mr. Peter Mutasa to be a man of himself, and never to be pulled by the nose by the moulds of Pastor Evan Mawarire, a political malcontent. Pastor Mawarire spoiled the broth by attaching and rubbing himself to our workers President Mutasa, usurping his powers as leader of the workers movement. Pastor Mawarire got what he wanted, is now back in the political fray: whereas our President, Mr. Mutasa is nowhere to be seen and heard, if that is not disturbing enough. The workers have not got what they demonstrated for. It was a lesson learnt and never to be repeated I hope.

What is worrying most is the lack of empathy on the part of the ruling elite towards the citizenry, Minister Mthuli Ncube included. Beating, shooting maiming, raping the people electorate the way they did is barbaric but last. This should actually scare the likes of our overly educated Mthuli Ncube. That CNN interview at Davos with Quest is regrettable. It is inconceivable to understand the thought processes of a smart and  educated bootlicker. When Professor Welshman Ncube lashes out we should understand where he is coming from. 

ZCTU MDC-Alliance Zimbabwe shutdown

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Source: Nomazulu Thata


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