COSATU President, Zingiswa Losi’s Address to the 9th Ordinary Congress of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)

27th – 29th October 2021 – Monomutapa Crown Plaza Hotel, Harare.

President of ZCTU, Peter Mutasa

Members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ZCTU

Ministry and Officials of the Zimbabwean Government

Executive Secretary of SATUCC, Mavis Koogotsitse

SATUCC CEC members present here today

Fraternal Organisations and allies,

Invited Guests and Partner organisations

Esteemed delegates and participants to this important National Congress

Comrades and friends

Fraternal Greetings

On behalf of the NOBs of COSATU and the entire membership, please receive warm and fraternal greetings, dear comrades.

COSATU is honoured by the invitation to participate in this very historic gathering of the working class of Zimbabwe, the 9th Ordinary Congress of the ZCTU. We are also honoured by the assurance that we are not just guests, we are part and have been part of this important movement for years now.

We have been arrested together, deported together, marched together, fought together in ILO, SADC meetings and wherever the battle lines called for our joint action and solidarity.

ZCTU is our movement, our trusted ally and comrades in the trenches for a democratic and just Zimbabwe, as well as for a new, equitable and democratic SADC which we shall never stop fighting for.

This journey together began during our shared struggles in the trenches against apartheid and colonialism in the region, we worked together to mould a movement of the working class to resist and fight against any and all forms of injustice, oppression and exploitation. This we must underline, as there are tendencies to assume we only fighting for democracy and workers rights during post-colonial times as if we are “peace-times revolutionaries”.

The role of the working class in the defeat of colonialism, apartheid and now undemocratic rule, is indispensable in each of our countries and throughout the region. This is both a commitment and a duty to workers and the future generations of Southern Africans.

The recently held Mid Term Conference of COSATU, the Central Committee (CC), which was on the 20th – 23rd September 2021, underlined a critical point that the SADC region is undergoing the most profound changes in political and social terms, since the end of apartheid and colonialism. It further underlined that it is a region in motion and creates a solid basis for a true regional solidarity movement, in which we envisage the working class as the principal force, key organiser and leader of that momentum.

This is our common duty and task dear comrades. From Zimbabwe to Eswatini, from Botswana to the DRC, from Angola to Mozambique, From Lesotho to Zambia, from Seychelles to Madagascar, from Tanzania to South Africa, this is the size and scale of our mission.

This region is orphaned without us playing our indispensable role to clean off all and every element of oppression, exploitation, abuse of women and children, corruption, patronage, underdevelopment, poverty and unemployment. This means the battle for the industrialisation of our region to create jobs and develop local skills and value chains that empower our people and youth in particular.

That we shall not do if we do not clean despots and self-interested leaders who abuse power and public resources for their own ends.

Towards this end, the situation in eSwatini has been our common baby comrades, as has been the situation here in Zimbabwe. We offer no apologies that we are proud Africans and remain unwavering in our determination that a better life is our mission and for it, all and everything to the battle-front. The leading detachment of this driving force for change is you, is us, is workers.

We stand to lose more from the continuation of the status quo and the perpetuation of poor governance, looting of public resources and hunger as we currently see and experience it. Who feels and experience hunger, poverty and abuse more than all others? It is workers and the poor, women, children, vulnerable communities, people with disabilities and the elderly.

This is the crux of the matter and the reason why it’s not a choice for us to stand by and make idle comments in a sea of misery and suffering.

We have a king eSwatini, who thinks he owns the country and the people like his private property, who loots without apology and who abuse and murder his own people as wild animals. The abuse of our traditions and cultural values as Africans to protect and reproduce parasitism must end.

We must support TUCOSWA and the people of eSwatini for democratic change and freedom from oppression. This will send a message to all and every one of our leaders about the indispensability of workers’ rights, freedom of association and democracy

SADC must stop know towing to despots and oppressors. We said the same when the Zimbabwe situation was on the SADC table, that the people and workers must come first than self-serving elites, who are not in any way advancing Africa, but their selfish interests.

COSATU is concerned and decisively calling for the ratification of Convention 190 to fight the scourge of Gender-Based Violence and all forms of abuse and harassment, particularly against women and LGBTQI+. Gender justice means more equality, not less, more freedoms for all, more access to opportunities and more development for everyone. It should never threaten any comrade or person. We all must fight against it as workers and leaders.

Solidarity with the working class of Zimbabwe during hard conditions of the COVID pandemic

We are living through a difficult time of the COVID 19 pandemic and the permanent crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequalities in most of our countries. This disproportionately imposes further burdens on workers and their families and communities.

According to the World Bank Report on Zimbabwe, titled; “Zimbabwe Overview”, released on the 23rd of March, 2021, “The pandemic and its impacts disrupted livelihoods, especially in urban areas, and added 1.3 million to the extreme poor. Estimates suggest the number of extreme poor reached 7.9 million in 2020—almost 49% of the population. Surveys indicate that nearly 500,000 households have at least one member who lost their job in 2020, causing many to fall into poverty and worsening the plight of the existing poor.

It went on to say, “In 2020, gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have contacted by 8% for the second year in a row as COVID-19 halted economic recovery”. 

Though it ends with a glimpse of hope, when it says, “After facing an economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Zimbabwe’s economy is set to rebound by 2.9% in 2021, supported by the recovery of agriculture and due to base effects. Expected bumper harvest and continuation of rule-based monetary policy will stabilize food prices and improve food security. However, disruptions caused by the pandemic will continue to weigh on economic activity in Zimbabwe, limiting employment growth and improvements in living standards”.

This is the story of all workers in the different countries of our continent and beyond. This is the lesson of how our state of readiness for pandemics, health crisis and social emergencies are critical to protect and save lives, jobs and livelihoods. This call we have made several times in various SADC platforms and international representations on the urgency of advancing decent work and people-centred development.

This makes the case for building worker solidarity, particularly with the informal and very vulnerable workers, particularly migrants, women and youth.

In this regard, we extend solidarity to all workers, particularly on the African continent and other parts of the global south, who are facing these hard and painful conditions we are all going through.

Beyond lamenting, this picture says one message above all, that building and renewing our organisations, strengthening our ability to service workers and defending their rights is an absolute duty and priority for our organisations.

Building SATUCC is what this Congress must be seized with too

ZCTU is a proud founder member of SATUCC and therefore, has a disproportionate responsibility in the building and strengthening of our regional organisation.

In our last Congress of SATUCC, held in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, we made a set of commitments to building and renewing the trade union movement in the SADC region, strengthening our solidarity work, capacitating our office in Gaborone and placing SATUCC at the centre of regional change and transformation.

We said, gone are the days when employers and governments in the region, would subject workers to job insecurity, abuse and exploitation. We went on to say, we are the masters of our own destiny and suffer from poor policies and governance practices.

We adopted several resolutions in Tanzania, which comprehensively covered matters of the transformation of the economy for an inclusive, developmental and job-creating trajectory. They also covered climate change and the urgency of food security and the building of the manufacturing capacity of our individual countries and the region collectively.

Towards this end, we have welcomed the AcFTA as a step forward in that direction but made it clear we still need tighter regulations on the sources of origin, to avoid flooding our markets with imports that kill our local industries.

We also adopted an Organisational Renewal and long-term sustainability Resolution and Plan to determine the proper funding model of SATUCC and our national federations themselves. This Plan must be taken to new levels, but meanwhile, let us all do our part to strengthen our regional body.

Therefore, as we prepare for the next Congress of SATUCC, we must honestly answer the question, how far are we with our commitments and plan to change and strengthen our organisation.

With these few words dear comrades, we wish this Congress all the best in your deliberations and look forward to the productive outcomes that shall help us answer the real and pressing issues facing the workers of Zimbabwe and the whole region.