REMARKS MADE BY THE SATUCC PRESIDENT COMRADE ZINGISWA LOSI AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE SADC MINISTERS OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL PARTNERS MEETING IN WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA ON 7TH MARCH 2019.
Monday, March 11th, 2019
Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation of the Government of the Republic of Namibia
Ministers from SADC states & Senior Governments Officials
President of the SADC Private Sector Forum
Fellow SATUCC Leaders and affiliated unions
Directors of the ILO & IOM
Dear Comrades and colleagues,
We are meeting here in the capital city of Namibia in this third month of the year 2019 which marks 100 years since the birth of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The theme ” Coordination of development programs to maximise employment creation and productivity”
It is once again, a special honour and privilege to stand here on behalf of the working men and women of our region, the most exploited and whose labour has built the best hotels, highways, industries and produced all the food we eat.
We must always cherish their invisible contribution, even as we sit comfortably around boardrooms and well conditioned spaces. They are our real wealth and source of value, they are our source of happiness and more than anything else, their labour is the future of our people and society.
To the miners, domestic workers, farmworkers, cleaners, security and transport workers, receptionists, factory workers, health and education workers, public service and community workers, we are forever grateful to you, therefore, your issues shall always be our agenda wherever we are.
But maybe, we must take the time to exactly calculate in monetary terms how much their contribution costs or make for us as the privileged layers of society who are in this meeting and wherever we are, while they and their children suffer from hunger, diseases, grinding poverty, illiteracy, abuse and lack of basic needs to live decently. This is the prime question before us now and here.
Remarkably, 2019 also happens to be the year in which the SADC Decent Work Programme is finally coming to expiry just a year before the life span of the Revised RISDP also comes to an end.
We further note that efforts are already underway within our SADC/ELS to review and brainstorm on new policy instrument to give effect to the Decent Work Agenda from now moving forward and globally we are engaging on the Future of Work having clocked 100 years after the formation of the ILO.
Last week on Friday, our SADC region hosted the launch of the “Future of Work” report of the ILO Global Commission on the future of work which took place in South Africa as part of the ILO centenary events.
However, as trade unions, our question remains to say:
At this juncture, what is it that the SADC region can showcase to have achieved with respect to addressing decent work deficits having implemented the SADC Decent Work Programme for the past years and having clocked first centenary of the ILO?
From where we stand, the picture doesn’t look exciting and leaves us with little to celebrate amidst the expiry of the SADC Decent Work Programme and 100 years of the existence of the ILO.
In 2018, for instance, the ILO released the annual report on World Employment and Social Outlook Trends. The report states that the entire Africa including the SADC region, now has the highest rate of vulnerable employment globally at around 66 per cent.
The report further mentions that the challenge of working poverty is even worse for young people, as Africa including our SADC region is now home to the highest youth working poverty rate, with nearly 67 per cent of young workers in sub-Saharan Africa living in poverty as of 2017.
As the SADC Decent Work Programme is coming to an end this year and as we clock first centenary of the existence of the ILO, the SADC region continues to face one of the highest rates of informality outside the agricultural sector.
It is no exaggeration to put it that the challenge presented by informality in SADC region is severe and persistent, especially as the informal economy is frequently characterized by high levels of poverty, inequality and decent work deficits.
The prevalence of informal employment in SADC region is therefore acting as a constraint not only to improving employment conditions, but also to growing labour productivity and increasing economic development in the region.
What I have just briefly captured so far, is the state of affairs in the SADC region pertaining to decent work deficits at the time when SADC Decent Work Programme is expiring and undergoing review and globally as we clock first centenary of the existence of the ILO.
We therefore propose that the new instrument that the SADC ELS will produce to replace the current SADC Decent Work Programme must depart from business as usual and instead it should be designed in such a way that we are able to make significant strides to effectively root out the decent work deficits highlighted above by the time its own life span comes to an end.
Not only that, but at this juncture when the SADC Decent Work Programme is expiring this year and as we clock first centenary of the existence of the ILO, we continue to receive appalling reports on human and trade union rights situation in some of the SADC countries particularly pertaining to Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, Convention, 1948 (No. 87); Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
For example in January this year, the workers and citizens of Zimbabwe went on a national stay away and protests in the streets against the increase in fuel prices by almost 100 percent.
While we bemoan the violence that erupted thereafter leading to injuries and deaths of people, we also strongly condemn the Government of Zimbabwe’s brutal response towards the armless and defenseless protesters.
We particularly condemn the unleashing of the military by the Government of Zimbabwe on the workers and citizens who were essentially exercising their right to express themselves.
In addition to this, we received reports that a number of trade union leaders and workers and activists were being targeted for arrests for allegedly inciting public violence while some trade union leaders were arrested and are currently facing trial.
We further find it unacceptable for a government that claims to have been elected by the people to wage a war against the very same people who are unarmed as it happened in Zimbabwe last January. This in our assessment, is tantamount to crimes against humanity.
We therefore urge the Government of Zimbabwe to hear the valid demands by citizens which were the grounds for the stay away and the protests, consider those demands and respond accordingly with restraint. The charges levelled against the trade union leaders and activists in this regard must be dropped.
As the SADC Decent Work Programme is expiring this year and as we clock first centenary of the existence of the ILO, another sad development pertaining to human and trade union rights in SADC region, happened a week ago in Zimbabwe when our comrade Kwasi Adu Amankwah the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)-Africa was picked from his hotel in Harare and detained at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Comrade Kwasi was on a mission to visit ITUC-Africa affiliate the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) following the recent arrest and persecution of its leadership as highlighted above.
It is within the mandate of continental and regional trade union organizations such as ITUC-Africa and SATUCC to visit affiliates especially when in difficulties and repressive situation such as what ZCTU has continued to endure from the President Mugabe tenure and now under President Mnangagwa.
Again, we strongly urge the Government of Zimbabwe to stop interfering in trade union work and criminalizing trade union activities and actions.
Finally, as workers, we are appealing to all SADC member states through you honorable ministers gathered in this house to engage the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold the principles and values of the SADC which are underpinned by respect for human rights and rule of law.
I thank you