Name of author withheld on request
The saga currently taking place between MMD/ ZCTU and the Mineworkers’ Union of Zambia (MUZ) is a morality and intellectual spark to ignite constructive reasoning and analysis by every responsible, passionate and noble citizen with a heart or concern for the welfare, plight, rights, future and interests of the Zambian worker particularly a mine worker.
Of course it is common knowledge and sense for any lay-man to interpret the current political situation where there is rampant interference by the ruling party due to election fever to use state machinery and corrupted imposter labour unions including the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President to destabilize credible institutions that are built on good labour principles meant to protect or safeguard labour rights and interests.
A classical example is that of that of recent unjustified attacks and unsubstantiated allegations against the Mineworkers’ Union of Zambia (MUZ) due to President Mbulu’s intentions to contest the ZCTU Presidency in an effort to resuscitate the original mandate of the labour movement to effectively represent the Zambian worker.
RAYFORD MBULU’S CALIBRE AND POTENTIAL
Surely, by all standards and in all fairness there is no leader union leader at national level, branch or ranch and file who can match or surpus the intellectual, wisdom, passion, academic and ability to handle labour matters with the achievements that Rayford Mbulu has achieved or toiled for in his career. No wonder he has ascended to international positions of leadership/ authority such as being the African President of the ICEM (International Federation for Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions), and Global Vice President of the same credible labour Federation.
His extraordinary and explicit leadership skills are there for everyone to see, and the call for his vacation from office as MUZ President by both government/ MMD and some few elements within the labour movement are totally unjustified and should be RESISTED at costs because he committed no disciplinary offence by contesting the ZCTU presidency, and his abrupt termination of employment with Chambishi Metals was politically doctored, motivated and engineered.
This is complete and pure victimization and unjust conduct. In any case, the world’s interest groups are watching and following every phase of events as they unfold. Most importantly, the almighty God of hosts and justice is also watching and shall avenge, and pay those propagating for any unjust or evil actions very well and handsomely.
Indeed there is no perfect or righteous human being under the sun, and hence “every inclination of his heart is evil or subject to make mistakes from childhood” (Genesis 8:1). Therefore at one point or another every human being is prone to make a mistake and the first step to handle or institute any disciplinary action should be that of educational and NOT punitive, aggressive or evil action.
However, we don’t think it was wrongfor Mr. Mbulu to contest the ZCTU presidency because what was wrong was the way government/ MMD and ZCTU through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security handled the whole situation in blocking the intellectual Mbulu.
Anyway, whatever the outcome, we can NOT robe Mr. Mbulu of his God given gift of wisdom or personal achievements. “Infact, what these national politicians and anti-labour union opponents have not so far realized is that, they are making a big name for Mr. Mbulu or making him a hero thereby pushing him closer to his ultimate destiny of higher national/ international offices of authority, responsibility and interests for the benefit of the less privileged or marginalized society in due season”.
In conclusion, everything happens for GOOD to them that love the Lord, God Almighty. Furthermore we shall ensure that adequate support, and international solidarity is mobilized to ensure that justice prevails in this crucial and sensitive matter as it borders on a noble labour leader that has a passion for the many mine workers whose turmoil, blood and contribution towards Zambia’s political and economic development has never been recognized by MMD/ government and foreign investors.
Furthermore, we shall rally behind the mighty, and vibrant MUZ because an “INJURY TO ONE, IS AN INJURY TO GOD”. Therefore “AN INJURY TO RAYFORD MBULU, IS AN INJURY TO EVERY MINE WORKER”
Finally, let us NOT be blinded or divided as mine workers by the MMD’s Joe Malanji’s Led Copperbelt Task Force election campaign strategies and tactics by destabilizing MUZ through formation of “INCOMPETENT AND TOOTHLESS SPLINTER UNIONS”. We shall not be corrupted this time around. Quite alright, we shall eat the MMD campaign money and other subsidized commodities BUT we shall still VOTE WISELY and SECRETLY.
The choice therefore squarely lies on every citizen and tax-payer to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on Government, Union Congress (ZCTU), Yellow/ Sprinter unions (NUMAW, UMUZ etc…) to ascertain the real motive behind the current attacks on MUZ.
JUSTIFICATION FOR THE FORMATION OF
MULTIPLE/ SPLINTER OR YELLOW UNIONS
There is NO justification whatsoever, for the formation of multiple unions in one industry that are politically or tribalistically motivated apart from weakening or fragmenting the workers’ voice (Labour Movement), promoting ‘Divide & Rule’ among the workforce and empowering the capitalists/ investors and government by gluttonous or greedy leaders with NO passion for the mine workers in Zambia.
The only effective way of improving the workers’ welfare is to promote the philosophy of ‘One Union, One Industry’ as it was in the days of the Zambian first Republican political dispensation.
It is obvious even under the current set-up that the only purpose of forming NUMAW was to robe the integrity of the affected mineworkers by investing their subscriptions in creating personal wealth of its national union leaders as can be evidenced by the Toyota Prados plus other chain of vehicles, exorbitant salaries/ allowances, personal fat accounts, houses and other businesses.
Furthermore, these unions have no administrative structures and rely on the experience, administrative structures and human capital in MUZ which is the most preferred union with a track record of massive contributions to Zambia’s social, political and economic development.
Even, the recently formed UMUZ is no different from NUMAW or other government sponsored unions with the aim of destabilizing and weakening the workers’ voice. Even if they promise government subsidized 25kg mealie meal at K20, 000 per bag, these are only temporary campaign strategies aimed at corrupting the minds of mine workers that cannot be sustained for long.
The only solution is therefore to put things in order through appropriate structures and internal administrative tools like the union Constitution and Standing Orders rather than forming multiple toothless splinter unions that only promote personal selfish ambitions.
Let us therefore stand together in solidarity to fight back government tactics, and rebuild the mighty MUZ by putting the house in order through an ‘Emergency Supreme Council’ to address and redress grey hairs in MUZ.
Even if a hundred labour unions were formed today, nothing will improve until we check the caliber of union national/ branch leaders, and ensured that administrative rules, regulations and policies are designed to promote the welfare of workers within existing/ established institutions like MUZ and NOT opportunistic and impassionate leaders that promote the formation of splinter unions.
This principle is similar to national politics. You can only improve the welfare of citizens by voting credible leaders into administrative governance structures of the Country, and perfecting the Republican Constitution.
‘WHAT IS THE LOGIC OF HAVING MULTIPLE UNIONS IN ONE INDUSTRY AND YET SIT ON ONE NEGOTIATING TABLE WITH ONE MANAGEMENT, AND ONE ‘COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT?’
Let us remind ourselves of our union slogan that, “UNITY IS STRENGTH”, and “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL”
BUILDING GOOD ORGANISATIONAL LABOUR PRACTICES, AND
REDRESSING TRADE UNION ORGANISATIONAL INSANITY
This is a wakeup call for all those given to execute the mandate of others in the fight for decent work at every level. As a starting point, it is important for every one of us in the rank and file, leadership or concerned citizens to first pause for a moment, and ask ourselves some of the questions below in shaping MUZ administration;
- A. ORGANISATIONAL CREDIBILTY, INFLUENCE OR
LABOUR UNION SOLIDARITY
- The first question would be that if our vibrant and visionary leaders who at the time of the colonial aftermath managed to sacrifice their lives at the expense of the Zambian mine worker, and managed to build the mighty Katilungu House/ other investments, why can’t the current national leaders especially those from splinter unions do much more?
Let us therefore, take stock and critical analysis of our national leaders one by one especially those holding the offices of the National Treasurer or General Treasurer who should be responsible, accountable and answerable to any allegations or justifications for financial mismanagement or misappropriation. Besides, there is something fishy surrounding their massive personal financial investments from both MUZ and NUMAW (i.e. Richard Musukwa and Terry Simbeye) which calls for immediate intervention to carry out a holistic accounting audit of revenues, expenditures and debts in the NUMAW and MUZ Books of Accounts.
- What is the root cause of the current problems affecting labour, and why are splinter unions collaborating with government in destabilizing labour or becoming toothless bull dogs in pursuing the standard or better labour practices
- Do the current national union leaders have the workers’ interests at heart or they have misplaced priorities/ mandate that service personal interests at the expense of the worker, or may be the current leadership has lost the mandate or have become incompetent to cope up with challenges affecting labour
- Is it really necessary to form many labour unions (divide & rule) or maybe we just need to do a few in-house keeping within our credible labour institution (MUZ), or rather what guarantee or conviction do we have that the new/ splinter unions will improve the status quo
- Do we have reference or are there lessons to learn from the past practice, other sectors or better still from other countries like South Africa’s NUM or COSATU.
- What are the Institution’s Constitutional provisions regarding the organizational administration, financial/ investment regulations and membership service delivery
- B. FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT OR
- Why is it that the labour unions such as MUZ with vast membership subscriptions, infrastructure (David Mwila House rentals, Katilungu House rentals, Mukuba farm operations, Chimpimpi Guest House and Mindolo Dam activities) cannot overcome the financial or liquidity problems, and continues to neglect its own active or deceased full time staff with dilapidated infrastructure, no departmental/ functional vehicles for effective service delivery which is directly in conflict with the MUZ constitution.
- The other serious problem is why labour unions should continue to borrow money (cash advances) against membership subscriptions from mining companies without consultations from a wider membership e.g. the recent borrowing by NUMAW of K80, 000, 000 from Mopani Copper Mines, and other huge amounts we cannot mention to safeguard our colleagues. What about the membership subscriptions? What is there monthly wage bill or operational costs? What organizational investments apart from personal investments have they embarked on since formation of the union?
Why should an upright Board consider buying luxury vehicles for part-time Board members when full-time staffs heading critical functional departments (Directors) have no vehicles which is a constitutional and administrative matter? The selfish union national leaders selfishly buy vehicles for themselves which are later sold to themselves at awkward asset depreciated book values. As if that is not enough, they even scrap off mileage for private vehicles used on official assignments.
“THIS IS UNEXPECTABLE, AND WE SHALL NOT RELENT UNTIL SANITY IS RETAINED IN OUR LABOUR UNION (MUZ), AND ANY INCOMPETENT ELECTED NATIONAL OFFICE BEARER OCCUPYING THE DECISION-MAKING SEAT SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED TO COMPLETE THE UNION’S MEMBERSHIP MANDATE AS IT WAS WITH COMRADE ANDREW MWANZA AND ERNEST MUTALE.”
Secondly, do we question the financial irregularities in our institutions for instance how much debt was contracted in hosting the last MUZ Quadrennial Conference and what was the actual expenditure?, Why did it have to take the entire MUZ General Treasurer to travel to South Africa to just procure T/shirts, caps and bags?
- Every institution has hierarchy structures, thematic/ sub-committees and routine meetings for decision making or monitoring mechanisms such as; Supreme Council, NEC, management (Departmental Heads)/ Board monthly meetings, Staff and Establishments Committee, Tender Committees and Housing Committees.
Unfortunately in MUZ, there is complete chaos as such meetings are none existent, no wonder there is irregular allocation of houses like 59D Mukuba Natwange, Kitwe, illegal supply contracts with Chikwelete, irregular lease of Chimpimpi Guest House and National Bar, irregular transactions with Chimanga Changa and unnecessary debts with mining companies.
- What are the current punitive measures or penalties for those national leaders misappropriating the hard-earned subscriptions meant for membership service delivery, investment, administrative and other developmental ventures? Or rather are there adequate safeguard measures or the system is porous?
- In the recent past there have been reports of financial misappropriations of membership subscriptions at Kansanshi, Maamba Collieries, Chambishi NFCA involving multi-millions of kwacha. And it seems these malpractices were jointly facilitated by Head Office (General Treasure’s Office/ Accounts Dept.) with respective Branch Officials in most cases. The question is; Were was the General Treasurer/ Accounts Dept. for these financial malpractices to take effect? Were investigations carried out? How accurate were they? Who were the culprits? What has been done to redress the situation or avoid recurrence?
- There have been massive calls for cost saving measures at Katilungu House particularly cutting down on unnecessary trips by national union leaders, cutting down on fringe benefits for national leaders inherited from ZCCM Conditions of Service such as exorbitant household furniture, unjustified or unnecessary hefty allowances such as for talk-time, responsibility allowances or unsustainable gratuity allowances.
- How are Departmental budgets formulated? Who initiates the process, and who is involved? Is the MUZ budget approved by the appropriate structure, and is it abiding? Is the union (MUZ) expenditure monitored or controlled at appropriate intervals?
- Lastly what have been the benefits in the last four years arising from suspension of the MUZ Bi-ennial Conference and introducing the Quadrennial Conference with regards to debt servicing or financial investments? On the other hand, did the Quadrennial Conference provide for administrative policy amendments or it was just pre-occupied with election campaigns and voting?
N.B: These performance/ operational benchmarks or yardsticks in view of the above possible deficiencies ARE NOT only aimed at assessing MUZ, but rather are meant to provoke all trade union leaders and members to scrutinize national leaders in all labour unions as these highlighted issues are prominent among most trade unions.
- C. MEMBERSHIP SERVICE DELIVERY/
FULL-TIME STAFF MOTIVATION
- In a labour union, the most critical and important element is an ordinary worker in the rank and file, and then full-time staff. Those elected at national or higher offices are merely servants to execute the mandate of the members and motivate the full-time staff.
Regrettably and visibly, some of the current national leaders have no regard for members and Head Office Staff because they have grown big-headed with so much arrogance, and are only busy servicing their personal interests/ investments at the expense of those that gave them the mandate.
It is unacceptable for them to perceive or transform the public offices they are currently occupying into private offices.
- In terms of service delivery, what tangible initiatives do we have in place to appreciate our members such as long-service awards, educational scholarships, subsidized essential commodities at competitive market retail prices, hardship allowances (such as funerals, unfair dismissals or unemployment), workers education or even reasonable branch retention.
- MUZ has a limited number of staff but with a lot of human resource deficiencies or discrepancies in job evaluation/ notch differences, back-log of salary increments, denial to commute excess leave days, undefined conditions of service or administrative grievance/ disciplinary procedures, no cash advances, lack of job descriptions, delayed or deferred monthly transport allowances and lack of departmental vehicles etc.
N.B: It is also necessary to narrow the gap between the Management level (Heads of Departments and Board members (national union leaders) as the discrepancy or salary margin between a Director and the Deputy General Secretary is slightly over 100% i.e. grade or notch difference should NOT exceed 25%.
Furthermore there is a huge liability for those that have been separated from employment by various modes and commitment to pay off need to be accelerated.
All these are recipes for legal implications which are potentially huge cost for the organization.
- What about human resource development at Head Office? How many employees has MUZ sponsored for career upgrading in their specific field? What is being done for retired or redundant staff at Katilungu House? Why can’t MUZ employ young and energetic staff if we really want to engage in aggressive membership recruitment?
- The other issue that has brought about staff discontent is the criteria being used to allocate institutional houses to staff. The recent case being that one involving House no. 59D Mukuba Natwange, Kitwe to one of the recent junior employee at the expense of long-serving, hard working and senior employees. This calls for investigations and redress.
WAY FORWARD/ CONCLUSION
ü Convene an Emergency Supreme Council as requested by a number of Branches with the following tentative agenda;
- MUZ Presidency in view of the recent developments
- State of the Union (debt, business ventures, Mindolo Dam, Chimpimpi Guest House, National Bar, Mukuba Farm, membership recruitment drive etc…)
- Eligibility and credibility of the MUZ Executive Board particularly the General Treasurer & General Secretary responsible for financial and administrative mismanagement respectively
- Adoption of the MUZ 2010 to 2014 Strategic Plan
ü Conduct an independent audit on MUZ/ NUMAW financial status by governments and/ or other interest groups
ü Concentrate on consolidating or rebuilding one credible mine workers’ representatives preferably MUZ which has established infrastructure, broad administrative structures (i.e. functional departments of Research/ information, Recruitment & Organisation, O.H.S.S, Administration & Public/ International Relations) developmental track record, experience, maturity, national and international solidarity.
ü Assess or conduct a performance appraisal of all national union leaders against the union Constitutional provisions in determining or justifying their competence in executing union members or organizational mandate.
ü Formation or resuscitation of various MUZ thematic or sub-committees such as the; Tender Committee, Recruitment Committee, Housing Committee, Staff and Establishments Committee, etc…
ü Urgent improvement of membership service delivery, and staff-motivation particularly technocrats/ management staff whose conditions of service and salaries cannot compared with the two largest mining employers (MUZ & KCM)
ü Draw a THICK demarcation line between national political campaigns (such as the MMD J. Malanji led Task Force/ and politicized splinter trade unions), from industrial relations or safeguarding the welfare, interests and rights of the Zambian worker
ü Embark on massive or robust educational programmes to sensitize mine workers on the MMD led Government’s propaganda to destabilize the credible MUZ by populating the mining industry with toothless and inexperienced splinter unions that are used as campaign tools in view of the 2011 national elections
NOTE: The views or contents of this article are merely meant to stimulate public debate in reshaping and strengthening trade union solidarity, influence and membership service delivery by propagating for transparency, good governance and accountability within the labour movement.
Further this is just a personal opinion or perception of the author based on past and current labour practices which is subject to public scrutiny.
Concerned Labour Activist
19th January 2011