Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bureau—
THE government will this year launch a national building society to cater for low income earners who cannot afford the high interest rates on loans and mortgages being charged by financial institutions, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said yesterday. VP Mnangagwa, who was the guest of honour at the Workers’ Day commemorations at Rufaro Stadium in Harare yesterday, said the government was also working on modalities of establishing a National Health Insurance Scheme to ensure universal health coverage for both the formal and informal sectors and other vulnerable groups.
“Turning to the housing challenges, the prevailing high interest rates on loans and mortgages make it virtually impossible for low income workers to own decent accommodation,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“In response, government will during the course of the year, launch a National Building Society, which will improve accessibility to affordable housing for low income workers.
“It’s therefore our hope as government, that this initiative will go a long way in easing accommodation woes, which have troubled many low income earners.”
VP Mnangagwa said these initiatives were taking place when the country’s economic environment was facing serious challenges particularly in infrastructure, a liquidity crunch and the negative effects of climate change that have affected the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
He said despite the challenges, the government was committed to working hand in hand with social partners to turn around the economy and address the challenges facing workers and the country.
“Our government has in the last 16 years battled the scourge brought about by the cruel, deleterious and illegal economic sanctions.
“As a nation, we’ve together endured the challenges, burdens and pains experienced during this period, which has been characterised by a protracted attack on every sector of our economy extending even to the moral and ethical fibre of our society as a whole.
“You workers of Zimbabwe, weren’t spared. You endured the pain of going without adequate food, medicines and school fees for your children and decent housing, coupled with dwindling incomes.
“Let me assure you that your government has never been blind to your fate, an ill fate designed by detractors and architects of the illegal sanctions to cause immense suffering whilst confessing that their intentions are contrary to this,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He hailed workers for their “vigilance, perseverance and for staying the course”. VP Mnangagwa said the government has always been alive to the need to address labour law gaps evidenced by the several amendments since independence.
He cited last year’s amendments to the Labour Act prompted by the Supreme Court ruling that triggered job terminations on three-month notices. VP Mnangagwa said after the massive job losses, the government committed to addressing the plight of affected workers through facilitating their empowerment.
To that end, he said, the government has to date disbursed $5 million to Small and Medium Enterprise Development Company to provide capital to affected workers.
He said the government as a signatory to the International Labour Organisation Conventions was committed to improving workers’ conditions of service and rights as evidenced by provisions of the Constitution.
Some of the strides he cited include the right to maternity leave, the right to join a trade union of one’s choice and right to fair and safe labour practices. VP Mnangagwa said while the country endeavoured to attract foreign direct investment through attractive policies, the government would always take the interests of workers into account.
He bemoaned the fact that some companies discriminated workers on the basis of their HIV status which was in violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
VP Mnangagwa said it was important for the country to fight corruption. “Now’s the time to stop the talk about corruption and begin to aggressively fight against the scourge of corruption,” he said.
“Every citizen of Zimbabwe has the onus and burden to root out, expose and annihilate corruption in all its facets, wherever and in whatever form it occurs by whosoever, irrespective of a person’s office, a person’s status or a person’s standing.”
The government organised the commemorations that were attended by the Apex Council, Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, Harare Municipality Workers Union and the Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union, among other worker representative bodies.
Several government ministers, among them Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira; Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere as well as Minister of Sports and Recreation Makhosini Hlongwane attended the May Day celebrations.
Also present were Minister of State in Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s Office, Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Tapiwa Matangaidze and several Members of Parliament.