Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter—
Government has stimulated employment creation and preserved existing jobs through the promulgation of laws protecting local industry, promoting the ease of doing business and attracting Foreign Direct Investment, giving hope to thousands of employees as the country joins the rest of the world in celebrating Workers Day today.Workers converge at several centres across the country to commemorate May Day with the main celebration set for Chinhoyi where Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira is expected to deliver the keynote address as guest of honour.
In an interview yesterday, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha said workers had every reason to celebrate today owing to several intervention policy measures by Government which saw some firms recalling retrenched workers while saving jobs that could have been lost had such measures not been introduced.
The measures, said Dr Bimha, include Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 which restricts certain imports, legal instruments and regional protocols that promoted investment and ease of doing business.
“This year is much better than last year and there is every reason for workers to celebrate given what Government has done to grow the economy so as to create jobs and preserve existing ones,” said Dr Bimha.
Statutory Instrument 64 was promulgated last year with the objective of restricting certain imports in order to protect local industry.
“Many companies were closing or were about to close because of cheap imports. When we regulated it, it helped local producers to realise increased demand and market share. Several foreign companies that have been exporting their produce here had to come and set up plants in the country thus creating thousands of jobs,” said Dr Bimha.
“Some companies had reduced working days per week while others had retrenched or were about to retrench but because of our intervention as Government, the firms had reverted to normal working days while recalling those retrenched.”
Dr Bimha said the legal instrument also assisted downstream industries, particularly small to medium enterprises like those in the packaging business.
He said there were also several laws like the National Competitiveness Bill before Parliament that sought to make industry competitive and other legal instruments aimed at improving the ease of doing business.
Dr Bimha said another Government objective was to ensure value addition and beneficiation.
Other initiatives that have resulted in the creation of formal and informal jobs include the signing of mega deals giving birth to infrastructure projects, digitisation in broadcasting, agriculture support and the clearing of debt arrears to the International Monetary Fund.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Busisa Moyo concurred with Minister Bimha saying with various measures, workers should celebrate.
“SI 64 has done a lot of wonders on preserving jobs that could have otherwise been lost. Manufacturing industry employs about 20 000 workers, not to talk of downstream industry and a big chunk of that number could have been lost had Government not introduced that legal instrument,” said Mr Moyo.
Mr Moyo said Government was going in the right direction in saving jobs.
“It (protection of local industry) is happening everywhere including in America but when that happens in Zimbabwe people want to criticise,” said Mr Moyo.
He said Government had done a lot in ensuring that capital went to indigenous hands.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions secretary-general Mr Kennias Shamuyarira urged workers to attend the celebrations in their localities and converge in reflecting what Government had done for them.
“We have a Constitution that recognises the right to collective bargaining and right to embark on industrial action. Government has also done a lot in creating National Employment Councils and social dialogue platforms. All these are positives that our Zanu-PF Government has done for us,” said Mr Shamuyarira.
He, however, urged the expeditious alignment of labour laws with the Constitution and addressing the issue of land tenure to create certainty among those owning farms so that they could access finance.
Mr Shamuyarira commended Government for Command Agriculture saying it had created employment.
Command Agriculture has created hundreds of jobs in the agricultural industry including millers, seed houses, farmers’ unions and agro-processors.
Zimbabwe expects to receive 80 centre pivots worth over $6 million from Spain to aid irrigation under Command Agriculture, as Government moves to adopt new technologies and strengthen infrastructural development in support of the successful import-substitution programme.
Negotiations are underway for another facility worth $60 million for bigger equipment from the same country.
Government has indicated that the ongoing broadcasting digitalisation programme will create about four million jobs and earn more than $1,5 billion per year for content producers, through setting up 12 television channels.
Some of the measures made by Government include conclusion of several mega deals with China and Russia embarking on infrastructural development activities such as road rehabilitation and the Tokwe Mukosi project.
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative in education is expected to see Zimbabwe being a hub of manpower for both local and foreign industry.