By Nevers Sekwila Mumba President-MMD
It is amazing how the story of our country, Zambia and the story of the fight for the worker’s rights cannot be separated.
It is the same story year in year out. The cry of the common Zambian worker. The demand for a fair wage, better working conditions, better opportunities to invest in housing, better medical schemes and dignity in the workplace.
Nonetheless, the Zambian worker has come a long way. From the establishment of the first union by the likes of Goldwin Mbikusita Lewanika and Lawrence Katilungu whose collective action and organisation among African mines workers validated that African miners were already aware of a common interest and could organise united resistance against employers.
The Labour Movement was also instrumental as far back as the struggle for independence when the labour movement constituted an active ally of other nationalist movements.
By 1990/1991, the labour movement had reached its peak in popularity and supported the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in the struggle to re-introduce plural politics in Zambia. The formost labour leader of the time, Frederick Chiluba defeated Dr. Kaunda and his UNIP to become the second Republican President.
In 2011, It was the rapport that late President Michael Sata had developed with the workers of Zambia with his values of “Lower Taxes and More Money in your pockets” that saw to the MMD-PF regime change.
Today, we again face a changing economy. With inflation standing at 15.7%, Fuel per litter and the Exchange rate all racing towards K20 per unit, and the entire world embroiled in a war against an invisible enemy, the dreaded Corona Virus (COVID-19), It seems the Zambian worker is once again, at the epicenter of the coming change.
Although it is undeniable that we have come a long way since the days of Lawrence Katilungu, we still have a number of challenges as a nation and as workers. We seem to be rushing headlong into the worst economic crisis since 1991. At the same time, too many Zambian families feel like even when the economy had been in better shape, they didnt’t feel like they got their fair share, and much less now. Because of this, that Zambian workers need a voice now more than ever.
If this is going to happen, our labor unions will need to be the driving force for raising that voice. Over the past decade, its almost as if the labour movement has auctioned its very soul, while membership in Unions has fallen, and inequality has risen.
As long as the workers’ voice remains divided, it will continue to be dismissed. When workers come together, and when it’s not just one voice but a chorus— it becomes impossible to ignore.
As we commemorate this year’s Labor Day, most of our workers are at home. Not because its May Day, but because we are all on partial lock down due to the break out of the Corona Virus.
We have a chance as a nation to fully appreciate our workers, to miss the water because it is gone. To appreciate some of the most mundane task workers, and to highlight one category of workers, the frontline health workers who continue to fight for us from the front even through this pandemic.
It is time for the Zambian worker to take up this fight. I have no doubt that Zambia will one day be a nation where if you work hard you can get ahead and build an even better life for your children regardless of your tribe, gender, religion or the color of your skin. That’s why I am running for President —and it’s why I believe in you.
God Bless Zambia
Zambia Shall Be Saved