REMARKS MADE BY THE SATUCC PRESIDENT
COMRADE ZINGISWA LOSI AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 16TH CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM, 18TH AUGUST 2020.
Leaders of the Apex Alliance Partners & Their Affiliates
Dear Comrades and colleagues,
On behalf of the workers in the SADC region, I would like to appreciate the diverse representation of the civil society organizations, trade unions, churches and other formations at this 16th Civil Society Forum (CSF) despite the critical challenges posed by COVID-19 that have not enabled us to interact physically as it has been in the previous years.
It is disheartening that we are holding this 16th CSF this year at the critical time the workers and entire population around the globe are facing a huge health and economic challenge because of the COVID-19 outbreak which now records over 20 million confirmed cases, over 13 million recoveries and over 670,000 deaths.
This is indeed a serious concern to the workers for a number of reasons which I would like to highlight and present as food for thought as we continue our engagements at this 16th CSF.
Firstly, COVID-19 pandemic emerges at a time when most millions of workers in SADC region and beyond, do not have access to paid sick leave, and many do not access affordable quality health care.
These are men and women who face the greatest health and economic risks from the spread of COVID-19.
The grim reality is that if such workers become infected by COVID-19, they will in line with health requirements stay at home and self-isolate to protect fellow workers and communities. Yet for the millions of informal, contract and casual workers in the region this entails loosing pay hence making it extremely difficult for them to settle their bills.
Unless there is continuity of pay or some form of social protection for these circumstances, there is a risk that people will continue to work while ill for their and their families’ survival. This is a public health risk that cannot simply be put on the shoulders of the poorest workers.
Secondly, studies confirm that frontline health-care workers are significantly more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general public. Studies also reveal that the health-care workers are further exposed to psychological pressure such as stress and fatigue as well as high rates of psychiatric morbidity.
According to the International Labour Organisation, this is partly because the workload of emergency response health-care workers increases drastically with a probable reduction in staff as several of the health-care workers may fall ill or placed in quarantine.
Thirdly, infections and deaths recorded for COVID-19 pandemic globally have also occurred among health-care workers. For instance, recent statistics indicate that in Italy and Spain, health-care workers account for more than 10 percent and 13 percent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.
As such, due to the increased risk of exposure to coronavirus, frontline health-care workers fear that they may contract coronavirus in the course of duty and further infect their family members or relatives at home.
Against this backdrop, as workers we bring forward the following proposals for the SADC and the Member States to consider:
Lastly, while we are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a critical political matter in the region that is exceedingly troubling. I will not do justice if I don’t speak to it now.
SATUCC, together with the international community joined the citizens of Zimbabwe to celebrate the resignation of President Robert Mugabe in November 2017 and the taking over of leadership of the country by President Emerson Mnangagwa with the hope that the era of gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe which characterized President Robert Mugabe’s reign, had finally come to an end.
It is a pity that all those hopes appear to have been shattered with the developments obtaining in Zimbabwe.
We are particularly dismayed by the recent pronouncement by Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU-PF that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZiCTU) and other CSOs in Zimbabwe are terrorist organizations.
This followed various incidences of arrests and harassment by state specifically targeted at trade union and civil society activists for merely expressing their right to peaceful assembly and association.
We would like to reiterate that trade union is a legitimate, transparent and democratic entity whose formation and operations are provided for in the national statutes and international labour instruments to which the Government of Zimbabwe is a signatory.
As such, a trade union can never be a terrorist organization. SATUCC, therefore, vehemently condemns the labelling of ZiCTU as a terrorist organization alongside other CSOs. We further bemoan the continued arrests, hostile treatment and intimidation of trade unionists and civil society activists’ by state security agents in Zimbabwe.
It is our anticipation that apart from the COVID-19, this 16 CSF will also come up with strong messages for the SADC and particularly the Government of Zimbabwe that this appalling conduct by the Government of Zimbabwe against its own citizens it claimed to have liberated from colonial fetters, is not acceptable and should not be condoned.
I thank you.