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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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Tell us the answer
July 31, 2010, 1:47 pm



Dear Family and Friends,

After my letter last week in which I mentioned the enormous disparity between the daily amount being given to constitution outreach technicians (70 US dollars) compared to the daily wage of a civil servant (5 US dollars), I got a very angry email from a company owner.

"I don't know why you keep on about the workers, the employers have it much worse, " the lady wrote.
"You must tell us the answer," she said, referring to her situation as an employer and then describing the dire position her business is in.

Struggling to turn over 3,000 US dollars a month, her company employs 7 people who, in her words, "come to work late and go home early."The monthly wage bill alone is 2,400 US dollars. The company owner does not draw a salary herself because there is no money left after paying the seven wages, electricity, water, rates, rent, fuel.

The anger and despair of this company owner is being repeated all over the country as most businesses remain barely functional while Zimbabwe remains in a perilous economic state.  Property rentals, utilities, wages and costs go up but there is not a corresponding increase in income because people just aren't spending money on anything except essentials. Many companies describe never having had so little work and so few customers since they started operating twenty or even thirty years ago. As absurd as it may sound, employers can't afford to retrench a portion of their workforce either as the exit packages are so high that it will bankrupt the whole company to lay off a few.

Wages are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to employing people in Zimbabwe. Aside from the pay envelope there is the uniform and shoes, the transport, housing and light allowances, the appeals for a meal at work, for school fees, medical assistance and so it goes on and on - desperate workers looking to even more desperate employers whose companies are on the verge of collapse.  

Enter into all of this the pending compulsory 51%  indigenous shareholding of companies and the waves start flooding in over the edge of the floundering boat. Last weekend the Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, threatened to close down 9,000 companies because they hadn't yet submitted indigenisation plans to his ministry. Apparently only 480 out of 9 557 companies had put in the paperwork that effectively gives control of their companies to complete strangers.

I haven't got an answer for the angry company owner, or for the desperate employees whose wage doesn't get them to the end of the month. There's no answer either for the university graduate who has unsuccessfully applied for 50 jobs in the last five months or for the neighbour who recently lost his job. 

Companies, families and individuals are all in the same position as we start August 2010. We are living from hand to mouth, hoping and praying that we don't have an accident or get sick, that nothing gets broken or stolen and that we can just make it to the end of the month. For all of us there is really only one answer and that is a return to good governance, law and order, property rights and real democracy. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy 



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