By Tererai Karimakwenda
10 October 2012
An estimated 150 members from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) participated in a cleanup of outdoor markets in Bulawayo on Wednesday, to commemorate ‘World Day for Decent Work’.
But an official from the umbrella labour union said in addition to the cleanup campaign, they will be submitting a petition to the Ministers responsible for Trade and Industry, Water Resources Management and Labour and Social Welfare.
Reason Ngwenya, chairman of the ZCTU Western Region, told SW Radio Africa that the petitions are meant to highlight the critical water shortages that have crippled Bulawayo and the high rate of unemployment caused by daily company closures.
Ngwenya said they chose to sweep and cleanup the outdoor markets because they are central locations where many people meet to buy food, exposing them to the risk of contracting cholera and other waterborne diseases.
“Bulawayo has been so dry this year and the Minister has made no plans. We are in a crisis and need water without fail. They must speed it up,” Ngwenya said, adding that people are being forced to drink from water sources that are not safe and this has gone on too long.
Ngwenya said the petition will also highlight the company closures that government promised to address by providing loans to businesses and individuals in need, through the Distressed Industries and Marginalized Areas Fund (DIMAF).
“Our businesses are shutting down day in and day out. There has been talk about this DIMAF for nearly two years now. We don’t know what industries have benefitted but our industries are closing. Unemployment is so high in this city, which is not acceptable to workers,” Ngwenya explained.
The activist blasted the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare for failing to provide health and safety clothing and equipment in order to protect the workers. According to Ngwenya, fatal accidents on the job have increased by 25% from last year’s figures.
The ZCTU petitions are separate from the demands being negotiated by workers’ representatives in the umbrella Apex Council, which met Wednesday to decide whether to go on strike over the same issues. By the end of Wednesday there was no news about whether the strike will go ahead.