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Speech by Sithokozile Siwela, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions at the TUC Congress in Brighton, 12 September 2007
President, General Secretary, delegates and visitors.
I bring greetings from the Zimbawe Congress of Trade Unions, and apologies from my President Lovemore Matombo for not being able to attend. He has asked me to deliver his speech to you.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is pleased to have been invited to this Congress by the British TUC.
To us Zimbabweans, the invitation speaks volumes about the relationship that exist between the ZCTU and the British TUC.
The British TUC has been a major supporter of the ZCTU in its time of need. You have supported us financially, materially and morally in our times of need. We are always indebted and grateful to you for this most invaluable assistance.
I am sure that most of you are aware of the situation in Zimbabwe. It needs no introduction.
But we Zimbabweans cannot tire of telling our friends of our predicament as long as you lend us your ears.
The Zimbabwean story has been quite a long one that some people and organisations have begun to tire.
So it gives us solace to know that there are people and organisations out there who are still prepared to listen to us and the British TUC is one such organisation.
It is a tragedy that Zimbabwe has been plunged into the horrors of hyperinflation through ill-conceived economic and political decisions.
Conservative official government figures put the inflation at 7,600 percent - the highest in the world.
However, independent analysts say this figure has more than trebled and the International Monetary Fund predicts that by the end of this year, Zimbabwe's inflation will hit 100,000 percent!
The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe has shot up to nearly 80 percent in recent years, leaving just one in five adults in formal employment. The rest have been absorbed in the informal sector.
Poverty afflicts 90 percent of the population. While the poverty datum line stands at 8.2 million Zimbabwean dollars, most Zimbabweans earn less than 2 million.
There is no fuel, no water, no food, no electricity and no transport.
Virtually everything is in short supply.
After twenty-seven years of independence, we are back in the stone age!
In response to the economic and political crisis, Zimbabweans have left and are leaving the country en masse.
Today, on the streets of London, you will not be surprised to hear a Zimbabwean speaking in vernacular language.
That is the reality we are facing.
Millions more have left the country to neighbouring South Africa.
Believe you me, no one is happy to live in a foreign land. We know they all want to come back home and stay with their families.
As the labour movement, we are doing our best to fight repression and we will not get tired.
Our only weapon is to withdraw our labour.
Although we realise that we are confronting a regime that has vast state machinery at its disposal, we also realise that we have no one to liberate us but ourselves.
As we speak, we have resolved to embark on a national protest next week on 19 and 20 September - next Wednesday and Thursday.
We seek your support and solidarity during the action. As always, we know it will come.
As secretary of the women's advisory council of ZCTU I do wish to add that whilst all Zimbabweans are suffering women in Zimbabwe bear great burdens and have specific needs.
Thank you for your support for the Dignity Period! Campaign ZCTU with the support of ACTSA has so far distributed 3.5 million products.
The crisis in Zimbabwe continues. But international solidarity and practical support gives us courage and hope. It makes a difference.
I will take back to Zimbabwe your messages of support.
On 19-20 September ZCTU has called for a 2 day stayaway. I hope you may find ways on those days to share and demonstrate with us.
Your continuing support is deeply appreciated.
Let me take this opportunity, on behalf of the ZCTU and all workers in Zimbabwe, to wish you a successful Congress.
Issued: 12 September, 2007