THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has resolved to mount peaceful resistance against poor salaries and skyrocketing cost of living which have reduced their members to “slaves”.

In a message to workers, the labour body’s president Peter Mutasa said 2020 will be a year of mounting resistance to ensure that slave salaries and wages are removed while prices of basic commodities become affordable.

“Workers have no choice but to resist; we have been given a mandate by the workers to lead and mobilise peaceful resistance against this modern-day slavery, which has taken the worker back to the Rhodesian era. We are, therefore, going to resist like we did under the (late Rhodesian Premier Ian) Smith regime,” Mutasa said.

ZCTU said it will take the route of peaceful resistance because it was satisfied that the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) set up under the law was not being respected by government and, therefore, not bearing any fruit.

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“The government does not respect constitutionalism. They have rendered the TNF obsolete. Instead of putting emphasis and energy on making legally established institutions to work, they are busy pouring money into things like the Political Actors Dialogue,” he said.

Mutasa said the prevailing situation was terrible to the point that it would be a struggle for workers to send their children to school.

“It’s a nightmare. Many can’t buy uniforms. They won’t even pay school fees for the opening of schools because there is a disproportionate gap between prices and earnings, never mind fees. Many are being evicted from their homes right now for failing to pay rentals. We are back in Rhodesia,” he said.

MDC secretary for education, Fadzayi Mahere, said 2020 was not promising bright prospects at all, especially as parents grapple with back to school requirements for their children, which are way too expensive.

“The outlook is not positive at all, the crisis in the education sector cannot be divorced from the national crisis. As long as the economy remains in the doldrums, the shocks will be felt in education, school fees are too high, yet teacher remuneration remains very low. A number of schools have poor infrastructure and insufficient educational materials,” she said, pointing to a tough academic year ahead.

A pair of school shoes is selling for $500, a blazer is going for an average $800, while a girls’ dress costs anything from $400, bringing a modest cost for school uniforms to about $2 000 at a time the majority of Zimbabweans are earning less than $1 500 a month.

School fees have been hiked at most schools with most government primary schools having sought and received permission to hike fees from an average of $120 to $500 per term while boarding schools are demanding a minimum of $6 000 per term.