Shakeman Mugari/Conrad Dube
THE Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Paul Mangwana is a firm believer in his own statistics. He believes Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is only 9% instea
d of the widely accepted 70%.
Mangwana also believes the troubled National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is the “best run” parastatal in the country. He even believes millions of Malawians will soon trek back to Zimbabwe like they did during the colonial era, to be employed by new farmers.
The minister made these extraordinary claims this week at a press conference on the preparations for the East, Central and Southern Africa Employers’ Conference to be held in Zimbabwe in January. The Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) is hosting the conference. The conference will be held in Victoria Falls from January 26 to 28 and regional labour unions and employer organisations are expected to attend.
But it was Labour minister Mangwana who stole the show with his eloquent but far-fetched responses to questions from the media. “I don’t believe that the unemployment rate in this country is 70%. In fact it’s a lie. If that was the case it means 70% of the country’s population would have been dead by now,” Mangwana remarked poetically.
“Therefore the correct rate of unemployment rate in this country is 9%, that is the correct figure that I am using. That is the figure that I was given by the Central Statistical Office (CSO),” Mangwana claimed to the surprise of everyone present.
The minister was however bogged down by his mathematical errors when he said that 1,5 million people or about 30% of the employable labour force were gainfully employed out of the five million who are economically active — thus confirming that only 30% of the economically active are employed.
He strained credibility further when he said about 1,8 million people were contributing to NSSA — a wide 300 000 above the 1,5 million he had early stated. A mathematical error perhaps. But the minister was not finished yet.
He said all allegations of mismanagement against NSSA were unfounded.
“I came into office earlier this year. I immediately went into NSSA to verify these allegations and found nothing.
“Really I found nothing amiss. In fact NSSA is the best run parastatal in Zimbabwe. In any case why are we not asking questions about private pension funds?” said Mangwana without indicating what independent enquiry he had employed to reach that conclusion.
This is despite the fact that a parliamentary public accounts committee had earlier this year grilled NSSA officials and board chairman, Edwin Manikai, over the state of the authority’s accounts and investment portfolio.
But the circus was only just beginning, as the minister was to pull another shocker from his bag of startling revelations. “And mind you Zimbabwe is short of farm labour. So we might find ourselves trekking to Malawi for farm labour.”
The Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions (ZCTU) immediately lashed out at the minister saying he has little knowledge of labour issues.
ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibebe said the figures Mangwana was “selling are coming from a legal expert who is however not well versed with labour issues”. Mangwana is a lawyer by profession.
“The minister is easily excitable and does not concern himself to research to verify his claims,” said Chibebe. He said government figures on employment contradict CSO figures which show that the unemployment rate is between 65% and 70%.
Chibebe said there was no need to view “people earning slave money as employed”.
“There is an element of employment, underemployment and unemployment which the government is not considering in the calculation of employment rates.
“However, the figures the minister is using are for political expedience and cannot be relied on. If South Africa which has a vibrant economy has an unemployment rate of between 30% and 40%, how can Zimbabwe have such low figures when industry is going down?”
About 40 companies have closed down this year alone, throwing many workers on the streets. More than 400 companies have closed down since 2000.