By THE PUNCH Reporter
Government must stop politicising matters concerned with workers’ jobs as was displayed by President Edgar Lungu when he fooled the people of Kabwe with a fake ‘reopening’ of Mulungushi Textiles and must also look into the plight of the workers at the liquidated Kabwe Industrial Fabrics Company – KIFCO who have not been paid for over five years.
The strong worded caution was sounded by the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions – ZCTU vice chairman for Kabwe district Peter Nkhuwa during the commemoration of the poorly attended labour day at the civic centre today.
“Guest of honour, we demand that politicians must stop politicising matters of labour and become serious because this impacts on people’s lives, Kifco workers have not been paid for over five years. We also demand for answers over the continued closure of Mulungushi Textiles. We saw the factory ‘reopened’ by President Lungu during campaigns but was again closed after 8 months,” charged Nkhuwa.
In the run up to the elections, Lungu staged a ceremony for the reopening of the giant textile industry, saying that it was now taken over by the newly formed state owned Industrial Development Company – IDC through which government will recapitalise the firm. He said that the reopening would create more than 3,000 direct jobs and later management requested for applications from excited youths but most of these ended in dustbins placed at the gate. The few that were ‘employed’ were later laid off about five months later with some not paid their dues.
Since then there has been deceitful statements claiming that the factory will reopen. It was once linked to the Japanese Marubeni company but Marubeni refuted the lies. Some equipment in the factory has since been removed and taken to an unknown place which PF cadre Kennedy Kamba said was being moved by a company that was engaged to clear the plant in readiness for Marubeni take over.
On the other hand, Kabwe Industrial fabrics Company KIFCO has also been liquidated, with most of the company’s assets undervalued while workers’ dues have remained unpaid. Kifco was also another company which Lungu said was placed under IDC and would be recapitalised to revamp production and sustain jobs. But Minister of health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, who was guest of honour reiterated that Mulungushi Textiles would be reopened. He said that both Mulungushi Textiles and Kifco were matters close to the PF leadership.
“This government has unwavering resolve to create descent jobs in line with the theme for this year. I can speak to you that there are plans for the reopening of Mulungushi Textiles and even Kifco is close to our heart as government,” said Dr. Chilufya.
Meanwhile several towns this year recorded one of the poorest turnouts in labour day celebrations, kabwe particularly recorded very low turnout which angered provincial permanent secretary Chanda Kabwe and guest of honour Dr. Chilufya. Kabwe Mayor Prince Chileshe threatened to sort out the organisations that did not allow their workers to attend the May day, even the presence of Pf cadres who marched alongside the workers could not create any significant numerical changes.
This year’s commemoration held under the theme “Building partnerships for sustainable national development through decent job creation and social justice’ saw only a pocketful of attendees from some organisations and was held at the Civic centre away from the traditional Godfrey Chitalu stadium.
“I want to express my displeasure with the low turnout here. There are some employers who know that even when this is supposed to be a day for the workers, but they have kept their premises open and thereby denied the workers chance to attend. To the organisers I want you to take stock of whoever is here and those that have absconded (tukesa pwishanya fye bwino pa Wednesday)We shall sort each other on Wednesday,” said Chileshe. Dr. Chilufya and PS Kabwe echoed Chileshe’s concerns.
THE PUNCH OPINION: WE HAVE NO WORKERS TO ATTEND LABOUR DAY
REALITY seems to be catching up with PF on not being sincere and serious about running the affairs of the country. This will continue but looking at the thickness of the matter that PF is made of, it won’t be easy for the signal to be received.
We are surprised that Mayor Chileshe, PS Kabwe and Dr. Chilufya, a well-read medical doctor and cabinet minister can be surprised that the labour day was poorly attended. We are further surprised by the busy body behaviour of Chileshe who has threatened the ‘employers’ for not allowing their ‘workers’ to attend their day, labour day. Bemba has a good teaching which was mostly used by the PF founding President, the late Michael Sata, Umutaba weshilu baukombola elyo lipenene. The empty threats by Chileshe fit into that category.
Chileshe, as Mayor of Kabwe must know better than anybody else as to how many companies are operating in Kabwe. Does Chileshe really call those shops overlooking the Civic centre and selling auto spares, manned by three people as companies that would attend the labour day celebrations? Just from where the labour day was being held, along Freedom way, how many companies are there and how many members of staff do they have?
The truth to the labour day poor attendance is that there are no companies from which people can come so that they attend a state function which is now politicised as was seen by the introduction of the PF choir group which was invited to come and sing praises songs. Those women who were winding, shaking their waists, how many are employed? How many have childen who have completed school but cannot go into college or let alone find an odd jobs?
The few vendors who used to add colour to the functions of this nature have also been dislocated, they are angry and hungry. The few shops that have three to four workers cannot afford as the cost of business is continuously rising, imisonko shafula and as such the little money residue that they remain with is used to meet their unending demands.
PF must reflect about this boycott signal because even some government departments were nowhere to be seen. Where was the Drug Enforcement Commission – DEC? Where was the Anti-Corruption Commission – ACC? Where was NAPSA, ZSIC?
The solution to increasing attendance lies in the PF making deliberate efforts to make this day attractive by making the labour market conducive and by making job creation a reality and not the rhetoric as the Mulungushi Textiles story or even the 500,000 jobs for youths according to the gospel of Lungu in 2016.
To all the workers working under harsh conditions, bravo and happy labour day. Amandhla…. Awetlu! Amaka….Yesu!!
Pictures: 1,2: Peter Nkhuwa stresses a point, 3,4,5: Workers sit on bare tarmac as minister and the invited guests relax in the marquee