By Masuzyo Chakwe

NEVER trust politicians 100 per cent but at most give them 60 per cent while holding on to 40 per cent to avoid frustrations and hypertension, says GEARS Initiative Zambia executive director MacDonald Chipenzi.

During the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions and civil society organisations’ leadership workshop held in Lusaka on ‘promoting and protecting the democratic civic space, freedoms and rights in Zambia’, Chipenzi said it was time to unite in advocating review of the current legal regime that impedes and potentially threatens democratic and civic space, freedoms and rights in Zambia.

He said the initiative by the ZCTU and Solidarity Centre to forge partnerships with the civil society in promoting trade unions and civil society coalition building had come at “no better time than now when the opposition political parties are weak after the 2021 general election outcomes”.

“With the former ruling party [Patriotic Front] being in opposition with teething issues such as corruption and abuse of office, the partnership between trade unions and civil society will be key in offering credible checks and balances to the new dawn government,” Chipenzi said.

He said the coalition building would go a long way in ensuring the new dawn government does not to sleep but always alert in doing what is good for the common man and woman.

Chipenzi said civil society were and had been ready to protect and promote the democratic, civic space, freedoms and rights in Zambia.

“The civil society and trade unions coalitions is not new as it was demonstrated during the campaign for a people-driven constitution and on Bill 10. The declining democratic spaces in other parts of the world does not mean Zambia is immune from the same but alert trade unions and civil society through these coalition building initiatives are key to stop any slide to undemocratic tendencies,” said Chipenzi. “This initiative will help build a strong voice on identified common problems, causes, for the common man. The use of NGO forums in provinces and districts under the auspices of the Council of NGOs in Zambia will be key to achieve the intended objectives of the initiative.”

And ZCTU secretary general Cosmos Mukuka said although the two organisations pursue different agendas, both champion the improvement of mankind and society as a whole.

“It is our considered view that through our combined strategic efforts, we can score a lot of successes and contribute positively to the livelihoods of the people we strive to represent. This workshop marks the beginning of our journey towards building and strengthening partnership in tackling priority areas of common interest,” he said.

Mukuka said the trade union movement was convinced that the relationship would go a long way in protecting the democratic space in the country and promoting the participation of workers and ordinary citizens in the various areas of governance.

“While we have a duty to consistently defend the welfare of our members, socially, economically and politically, we are also aware that the civil society on the other hand has generated a large variety of voluntary organisations seeking to advance public interest issues, in part, as a response to social problems created or aggravated by globalisation,” he said.

Mukuka however, said cooperation between trade unions and civil society organisations would depend, in the first place, on shared objectives and equally importantly, on the way the organisations approach issues of legitimacy, transparency, accountability and management.

He said in a globalised economy and society, it was imperative that social movements form partnerships to effectively tackle issues, such as dealing with transnational corporations, the growing informal economy, advancing a broader social and political agenda among others.

Mukuka said it was a foregone conclusion that cooperation between trade unions and the civil society world, would jointly lead to a powerful impact on social and political events.

He said there was need to restore the protection of those who had been weakened by transnational capital flows and ensure equal redistribution of public services and social programmes.

Mukuka said trade unions had realised that women represent a growing share of the labour force and the issue of introducing affirmative action programmes sits high on the agenda of some civil society organisations which are championing women’s rights and empowerment.

“This is one area the two will relate very well so that trade unions can continue to introduce affirmative action programmes within union structures and moving women’s demands to the top of the bargaining agenda,” he said.

Mukuka said the coalition between trade unions and civil society organisations would enable them tackle broader social, economic and political concerns which they would otherwise neglect as being “someone else’s concern”.

He said issues that were traditionally under the labour movement, such as employment, conditions of work and wage levels were concerns of a multitude of civil society organisations.

“Today we pledge that as a combined force, we are going to take our advocacy campaigns to a whole new level,” said Mukuka.


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