(eng)Zimbabwe General Strike Call

The Anarchives (tao@lglobal.com)
Fri, 22 Nov 1996 17:10:06 +0000 (GMT)


/** headlines: 105.0 **/
** Topic: Zimbabwe General Strike Call **
** Written 11:08 PM Nov 15, 1996 by josue in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 2:14 PM Nov 15, 1996 by labornews@igc.org in labr.global */
/* ---------- "More On Zimbabwe Gen Strike Call" ---------- */

From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org>

AFRICA
[=========]

Unions call for national strike

------------------------------------
Zimbabwe's unions call for a two-day
general strike in protest against the
sacking of striking doctors and nurses
last month. By Pedzisai Ruhanya in
Harare.
------------------------------------

ZIMBABWEAN trade unions and civic groups called for a two-day general
strike on Monday after an attempt to stage a demonstration against the
government's handling of a health workers' strike was thwarted by the
riot police.

As would-be demonstrators gathered here for Monday's protest, riot
police fired tear gas at the small crowd of about 400 people,
scattering them before their leaders could get a chance to address
them.

The demonstration had been organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU), the Public Service Association (PSA), Zimbabwe Teachers'
Association (ZMTA), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimrights
(Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation) and a group of striking health
workers.

Its aim had been to protest against a decision by the government to
fire nurses and junior doctors for going on strike and to urge the
government to improve Zimbabwe's ailing health system.

The doctors and nurses, who have been on strike since October 21 to
press demands for a 20% increase on their cost of living allowances,
were dismissed on October 30 by acting Minister of Public Service,
Labour and Social Welfare, Nathan Shamuyarira.

Since then, the ministry has advertised their jobs and is now said to
be trying to recruit expatriates to replace them.

Before scattering the protesters, the police arrested Morgan
Tsvangirayi and Isaac Matongo, the ZCTU's secretary general and vice
president respectively. They were released shortly afterwards.

''There are no charges pressed against us, but I can tell you that we
can be arrested again and we are prepared to be arrested for a
justifiable cause,'' Tsvangirayi said at a press conference late Monday
afternoon, at which, speaking on behalf of the six groups, he made the
call for a nationwide strike.

In a petition to President Robert Mugabe, released at the press
conference, the six proposed that ''a sustainable solution (to the
crisis in the health sector) can be worked out''.

They said this could be done by ''restoring the operational capacity of
the hospitals'' and ''reconvening a national negotiating machinery that
has legal status to earn the respect of the parties.''

They also called on Mugabe to ''Reconsider your unilateral decisions
over matters that are within the (ambit) of the public sector
negotiating forum thereby undermining the negotiating process, for
example, the staggering bonus payment into 1997.''

This last was a reference to a decision by the government to pay a 60%
wage increase it offered public servants last year in three tranches
between 1996 and 1997 -- state employees went on strike in August to
press the government to pay the increase immediately but failed.

The petitioners added: ''We will not be responsible for the chaos that
will follow if the above suggestions are not taken seriously and acted
upon urgently.''

Plain English

The ZCTU, which is co-ordinating the computing protest action, told the
press that, for the next two days (Tuesday and Wednesday), state
employees country wide would stay away from work to force the
government to solve the health crisis.

''Threats are not going to help solve this problem,'' Tsvangirayi said.
''Our organisation is going on a national strike for two days in order
for the government to respond. Every worker is going to stay home for
two days.''

''This action will bring a speedy solution to the problem,'' he
claimed. ''It will be reckless on our part if we stand idle while
people are dying.''

Referring to the fact that Mugabe was leaving Harare Monday night for
Rome to attend the World Food Summit, Tsvangirayi called on the
president to cancel his trip and concentrate instead on resolving the
health workers' strike.

''If he knows where his bread is buttered he should stop his trip to
Rome and solve this issue,'' he said. ''We are prepared to go the grave
talking the truth.''

''If it wants its legitimacy the government must solve the issue,'' he
added. ''How can the government be so callous as to concentrate on
firing the strikers when people are dying in hospitals?''

On Sunday night, Shamuyarira had said that the health workers had no
reason to go on strike since they were already earning more than most
other state employees. He said junior doctors ''receive on average a
salary of 12,500 dollars (US$ 1,190) a month'' while the nurses'
monthly wage averaged 5,500 Zimbabwe dollars (US$524).

However, on Monday, PSA Secretary-General Frank Chamunorwa charged that
the statement was a political ploy to create division between the
health professionals and the public.

He told IPS the average net salaries were 1,800 to 2,000 Zimbabwe
dollars for nurses and 3,400 to 4,100 Zimbabwe dollars for junior
doctors.

Shamuyarira had also charged that the call for a demonstration on
Monday was politically motivated. ''All the known opposition parties
are supporting and helping to organise it,'' he charged. ''The
organisers are seeking a political objective.''

But Tsvangirayi said the ZCTU had no motive but to bring back normality
to the health situation, which he described as pathetic -- operations
at hospitals here have been severely affected and there have been
reports that people have been dying for lack of attention.

Tawanda Mutasa of the ZCC said the whole issue was an indication of the
crisis of governance in Zimbabwe. ''By sending the police to disrupt
the peaceful gathering, the government is inciting the people to
participate,'' Mutasa told IPS. ''I come from the church and people are
angry out there.''

''The more fascist the repression is the more angry people will get,''
added Mutasa.

** End of text from cdp:headlines **

***************************************************************************
This material came from PeaceNet, a non-profit progressive networking
service. For more information, send a message to peacenet-info@igc.apc.org
***************************************************************************