By Admore Marambanyika
The Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trades Workers Union (ZCATWU) recently held its 8th national congress; largely retaining the previous executive while calling for unity and commitment in the face of emerging challenges in the world of work.
The congress re-elected Phanuel Makuwaza as its president, Fortune Sithole as the new deputy president, Sibangani Magudu as the national treasurer, and nine other National Executive members.
Held under the theme ‘‘As ZCATWU, We Can Be Influential Enough to Engineer Change That Promotes Members’ Interests and Rights”, from 21-22 September in Harare, the congress drew delegates from the union’s branches from across Zimbabwe and invited guests from within and outside the boarders.
The union adopted amendments, resolutions, and a new strategic plan for the 2024-2028 period that includes a focus on climate change and occupational health and safety.
In his acceptance speech, incoming President Makuwaza urged all members to unite and strengthen the union,
“We have just held the congress and I urge all of us to move from election mode and start working on our mandates. There are no winners or losers from this event. We have a task to build the union through robust organising to increase our membership, strengthen our leadership capacity to negotiate better living and working conditions” he said.
The ZCTU, represented by its 1st Vice President Valentine Chikosi urged ZCATWU to be geared to fight foreign employers who are ravaging the construction industry by their blatant disregard of local labour laws.
“Your sector has been bedevilled by a number of challenges some threatening even the future existence of the union. You are victims of wage theft. The challenge of Chinese employers trashing local labour regulations is a gross concern for the whole labour movement. These problems affecting you are a result of political decisions. As ZCTU we understand the nature, form and character of the Chinese scourge and therefore calls upon you to complement our efforts to address the vice and vice versa.
Working conditions in your industry are under threat, safety and health is being seriously compromised by employers. That exposes you to workplace hazards; however, you continue to soldier on despite such pathetic conditions. Decent work is lacking in your sector, which is a challenge. There are also a number of issues that need your undivided attention at this juncture and I hope this congress will deliberate on that.
Broadly in the labour movement we are faced with an economy a comatose state. We have reached a stage where the government has openly declared war on workers. Over taxation, high prices, labour market flexibility and all unfriendly worker policies have been packaged into austerity to milk the worker,” he said.
Solidarity messages were also delivered by local sister unions in the food industry (FFAWUZ), agriculture (GAPWUZ), transport (TGWU) and furniture (ZIFTATU) industries. They all rallied around redefining the trade union to make it relevant and appealing to workers in their statements.
Building Workers International Assistant Regional Representative for Africa and Middle East Garikanai Shoko congratulated ZCATWU for holding a well organised congress while expressing the global union’s continued support and solidarity to ZCATWU.
3F International, represented by Susan Christensen also committed to continue working with ZCATWU.
“I am impressed by the manner in which you held your congress. I have attended several of our partners’ congresses and witnessed serious tensions and disagreements but I have not witnessed that today. I urge you to work towards strengthening the union. You are operating under difficult conditions hence the need for unity and commitment to the cause,” she said.
ZCATWU General Secretary Nicholas Mazarura congratulated the new executive and emphasised the work ahead.
“You have a constitutional mandate to execute and I urge you to stick to your mandates and avoid interfering with other union structures. We will take the union forward if all structures work according to their mandates. You also need to respect and consult the members in all processes so that we come up with collective and wholly owned decisions in our tenure,” he said.