Labour Day’s soulful prayer

By Albert Kwangware and Patrick Munyaradzi Chirombo


LABOUR Day’s silent, painful and soulful prayer is not just about today’s wages and prices but also about leadership and social integration.

A day that is meant to celebrate human ingenuity ha

s been reduced to an ordinary day in the labour history of Zimbabwe.

Labour is facing numerous challenges associated with deteriorating economic conditions, a situation that is putting a lot of emotional pressure on the workforce and thereby reducing the creative genius of the young nation. The wheels of any economy in the world are oiled by the innovation of its people.

Labour has suffered generations of pain from the days of slavery where they worked under the direction of leaders whose tools were whips, to the colonial age where corporate leaders of the time partly used whips and fully utilised racism.

Now in the post-Independence era, labour suffers from post-colonial systems of management that have replaced the whips of the slavery and colonial era with autocratic systems of corporate leadership, making life unbearable for the nation’s labour force.

The situation becomes worse when there is a polarised and fragmented labour representation like what is currently obtaining in Zimbabwe with both the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) representing labour.

The ZCTU and the ZFTU have to find common ground, as continued infighting reduces capacity for collaboration and adequate representation in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF). A fragmented and polarised representation reduces unionisation power which research has shown to lubricate employer-employee relations
The pathway to our hope lies in the three groups that represent the TNF —  labour, government and employers.

While the three groups have become weak under the weight of economic recession and endless finger pointing, we believe there is light at the end of the tunnel as the high degree of rivalry between labour, government and the employers will only serve to feed poverty rather than create a foundation for collaboration. Integration amongst the three parties is a critical ingredient for national prosperity.

Why can’t labour, employers and government work together when our culture is based on hunhu/ubuntu through communalism? From where have we imported self-seeking tendencies? Communalism‘s focus is on individual character, building community and participative leadership.

This nation desperately needs a framework that will form the basis for the innovation efforts of our work force. We propose an approach that is premised on two concepts: the creation of a nation of servant leaders and social integration.

Social integration is a delicate art that entails harmonising systems, processes and people of a nation into a functional unit that will deliver greater value to the stakeholders than they would ordinarily receive and deliver on a stand-alone basis. 

Integration brings in the value of trust, which any healthy socio-economic system strives for and is pinned upon.

Trust increases social capital which is shared knowledge, understanding and patterns that a group of individuals bring to any productive activity. This form of capital would allow reciprocal behaviour amongst labour, employers and government.

Servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader. The nation of servant leaders concept is meant to revitalise our institutions based on the philosophy of servant leadership and communalism.

While the motivation of servant leadership is to serve the good of the follower, the motivation of communalism is to serve the best interests of the community, its members and associates.

Our vision of a nation of servant leaders is captured in Robert K Greenleaf’s argument that if a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.

Communalism and servant leadership revitalise leadership within and across the TNF groups while social integration allows reciprocal behaviour amongst the same groups.

* Albert Kwangware and Patrick Munyaradzi Chirombo are Harare-based servant leadership practitioners. You
can contact them on albertinzim@yahoo.com