NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Zimbabwe: Put yourself in a Zimbabwe worker’s shoes

16 August 2005, Posted in News

Gone are the days when South African drivers would nip across Beit Bridge to fill up with petrol in neighbouring Zimbabwe because petrol was cheaper.

Now if you can find petrol, it is on the black market where the going rate is about R55 per litre.

If you are a worker, just getting to work is a challenge. Workers start queuing for transport from 6am and if they are lucky find it around 11am . Others resort to hitchhiking.

If you want to feed yourself, it’s another test. Basic commodities are unavailable or very scarce. People queue for hours for sugar, maize meal, flour, cooking oil and bread. Rumours abound that salt will soon run out.

In Zimbabwe , workers are millionaires. Their average wage is around 1 million Zimbabwe dollars (about R680). But unlike their counterparts in the rest of the world, these millionaires are living way below the poverty line. Zimbabwe ‘s own statistical services estimate this poverty figure at around Zim$3.5m per month.

Workers are sceptical of May’s official inflation rate of 144%. But through their trade unions they have managed to secure wage negotiations every quarter. Workers in the metal related sectors have put their demand for September’s round of wage negotiations for $3.5m per month with allowances like housing, transport, food, education added on top of that.

With the recent demolition of squatter areas and backyard shacks, rental prices have soared from Zim$750 000 to Zim$1m.

But workers know that these negotiations will be tough. Think of the excuses that your employers make. And now look at the excuses that Zimbabwe employers use: “We can’t give you higher wages because of a shortage of spare parts and machinery, a lack of foreign currency and a shortage of fuel.”

Workers are the lucky ones. Unemployment is estimated to be between 70-80% but this is likely to jump as many of the structures that were destroyed recently in “Operation restore order” housed the 3 million informal sector workers’ hawking businesses.

Compare your wage with those of your Zimbabwean counterparts:

Sector

Wage per month (Zim $)

Rands per month

Electricity

$2m

R1400

Motor

$800 000

R544

Engineering

$900 000

R613

Mining

$1.2m

R817

Ferralloys

$1.35m

R919

Iron and steel

$1.2m

R817

Electronics and communication

$890 750

R606

Now look at some of their monthly expenses (Zim $):Rental $750 000Food $1.5mTransport $600 000