By Gershom Ndhlovu
Recently, African Union forces backed Comoro Islands troops to drive out a rebel leader, Colonel Mohammad Bacar, from the island of Anjouan where he had declared independence from the rest of the country.
Incidentally, this is the treatment that would befit Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe who, really, has taken over power by illegitimate means after losing last month’s elections.
He, like Bacar, deserves the Africa Union boot following his failure to pass on the presidency to Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai who beat him hands down. This is not a matter for speculation if the action of Mugabe’s henchmen at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to delay the release of the results more than two weeks after the poll is anything to go by.
Mugabe’s position is untenable in many ways but particularly with regards to the pre-election statements by the heads of the army, airforce, police and prisons who said they would never salute anyone other than Mugabe. This is probably the group that engineered the “unannounced” coup d'etat which has seen him desperately cling to power.
South African president Thabo Mbeki should also be blamed for Mugabe’s recalcitrant position because of his actions long before these elections and after. Had Mbeki done what he was charged to do by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the rest of the world to help solve the crisis in that country, all this would not have been witnessed.
But, anyhow, what does anyone expect from Mbeki who himself failed to read the mood in his own backyard in the ANC when he stood for the party presidency for which he was challenged and defeated by his former vice president Jacob Zuma?
Even now he has failed to see the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe and wants to gloss over it when Mugabe is unleashing his military and political thugs to beat up and maim members of the opposition. The pictures that are turning up on the internet on the unfolding campaign of terror in that country are disturbing, to say the least.
Anybody who doubts Mugabe’s capacity for violence needs their heads examined including that of one Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki who would probably need a bed at Bulawayo’s Ingutsheni Hospital for turning a blind eye to it all.
Back in the early 1980s, Mugabe’s chilling declaration of war - for that is what it was - when he unleashed his Korean trained brigade on the people of Matabeleland in the Gukurahundi (the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains) campaign in the early 1980s, zvino chigoborayi ziguswa (now is the time to get rid of tree stumps) should make anybody sit up with goose bumps to think about the terror that is unfolding at his behest.
Over 20,000 people, mostly Ndebele, died in that campaign for the simple crime of not supporting his ZANU PF at the time the late Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU was active. Nkomo himself fled Zimbabwe disguised as a woman to escape the wrath of his freedom fighter partner who was getting inebriated with power from early on.
Mugabe can afford to thumb his nose up to his fellow SADC leaders who called for a meeting to try and resolve the electoral impasse but surely he should not be allowed to do it to the people who voted him out and is refusing to vacate the seat.
Of course the SADC chairman, Levy Mwanawasa, was being sensible to call for the meeting but he has been abused by Mugabe before for trying to make him see sense when his thugs battered Tsvangirai to pulp sometime last year.
I wish that Mwanawasa did not withdraw his statement about Zimbabwe being a sinking titanic because this is now very evident. It, in fact, is beyond salvage.
It is now time for genuinely democratic loving SADC countries joined the countries that have imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies so that even the little maize that is coming from countries such as Zambia stop crossing the Zambezi.
It was, to say the least, shocking to hear that some mine owners want unions to be abolished for allegedly being indifferent to collective bargaining. If government gives in to this outrageous demand will be like throwing the sheep to the wolves.
That the mine owners want the unions outlawed only means that the workers’ bodies indeed keep these selfish wolves on their toes. Without the unions, even the little that they mine owners give reluctantly will be taken away.
As it is, the issue of safety in most of these mines is nothing to write home about. Daily we read stories of miners dying in rock falls and other accidents which could easily be prevented with the strict enforcement of safety laws, rules and regulations.
During privatisation, government had to concede a lot by allowing the new miners to cede supporting social amenities such as schools, hospitals that miners used to enjoy under ZCCM. One cheeky bidder even declared that the company was in the business of mining and not football.
I doubt if the new mine owners even sponsor people like ZCCM did for studies abroad because they are themselves busy employing people who are trained through the apprenticeship system after their GCSEs in their countries who then superintend over highly trained Zambian miners.
Labour Minister Ronald Mukuma should not just moan about the non-compliance of the country’s labour laws. He should punish those employers, local or foreign, who flout them. The business of pampering investors by conceding to them each and everything that they demand will just expose Zambian workers to all sorts of industrial risks.
It is high time investors came into Zambia at our own terms and those that flout them should face the boot. Zambia should not be one big sweatshop where the workers are paid pitiful wages for working under appalling conditions.
I was shocked a few weeks ago when I saw pictures of a worker at one engineering company in Lusaka using an arc welding machine without protective goggles and even worse, he was wearing tattered trainers which could not protect him in case a heavy piece of metal fell on his foot.