Hollow victory for ZCTU

After more than six months of squabbling the government and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions have finally met and it appears they have reached some form of truce.

President Robert Mugabe who had accused the ZCTU leaders, secretary general Morgan Tsvangirai and president Gibson Sibanda, of having political ambitions, vowing never to talk to them, finally succumbed and had discussions with the ZCTU leadership on July 2.

The ZCTU has been pressing from December for the cancellation of a 2.5 percent increase in sales tax which now stands at 17.5 percent. They also wanted the 5 percent development levy scrapped as well as the tax on pensions.

But it appears that the major victor was President Mugabe who has been facing his biggest political challenge in his 18 years in office, and has been besieged by a host of problems-poor tobacco prices, poor cotton prices, poor maize prices, falling currency, declining economy, lack of investment, rising unemployment, peasants taking the law into their own hands and resettling themselves on white-owned commercial farms, and his own lieutenants openly telling him his time is now up although he still has four more years in office.

The only victory for the ZCTU is that they forced the government to meet and discuss with them, nothing else. Even the scrapping of the 2.5 percent sales tax being touted by the mainline media is no victory because the government is not giving in. The tax is simply expiring.

But on the wage front, the ZCTU seems to have won a major victory obtaining salary increases averaging 33 to 46 percent. This will, for the time being, pacify the workers.

But the ZCTU will have to come up with something if it is to maintain the image it regained in December. The December demonstrations resulted in the scrapping of the war veterans levy as well as the fuel price increase.

The Food riots, which were spontaneous and not organised by the ZCTU led to subsequent price freezes and ultimately to the gazetting of prices for maize meal. But the two-day mass stay-away in March did not yield anything and since then the ZCTU has not won any concessions for workers.

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