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How are workers in our country fairing?

IN the intervening period, I have been reflecting on how workers in our country are fairing – both in the private and public sector.

This reflection has been prompted by the sad account of one of my neighbours – who has told me what is happening to one of his children.

According to my neighbour, his daughter is employed in one company in the private sector. It is the third year now his daughter takes off early mornings to report to work in a private company downtown in Dar es Salaam.

But when he asks his daughter to show him her letter of appointment in that company, she tells him there is none!

“Third year now and you have no letter of appointment?” - he recounted to have asked his daughter. Her response was there was none!

What does this scenario mean? It means simply that some private companies simply have no obligation what so ever with their respective employees – it is simply hire and fire by the wave of the hand!

On reflection of this story, one is bound to ask: Is this plight of my neighbor’s daughter unique or a general reflection of what is happening generally in the growing private sector of this country?

Who is taking a hard look on the blossoming private sector in this country? Does this country have trade unions? If we have, what are they doing? Let us address these questions in the last leg of this perspective.

But it is also an opportunity to reflect on the concrete situation on the ground on the condition of workers both in the public and private sectors at national level.

In doing so, the state of the national economy should be the focus: how are we fairing today? How did we fair up at the launch of this country’s independence especially when we embarked on the socialist road of development during the reign of the founder President and Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere?

How are we fairing today? People reading this column will agree that we have a serious problem: almost every household has young people, albeit educated, who are jobless, looking for jobs, which are nowhere to be found!

But at the moment in time, as everyone can see, the fifth Administration of President John Magufuli offers higher hopes for young people and all the people generally given the initiatives of the President to recover the natural resources of this country.

But what could be the road ahead for the President Magufuli Administration is to look at the past, especially at the founding Mwalimu Nyerere Administration where this country had a strong public sector which had taken care of all needs, especially jobs.

Those who were around in the seventies and eighties during the founding Administration of Mwalimu Nyerere - including myself - will coincide the point that school leavers those days were actually assigned jobs right from college graduation either in public services or factories around those days.

We had an emerging industrial economy - as could be seen with the blossoming textile factories then including leather ones. Hence Friendship, Mwatex, Sunguratex and so forth in various spots of our country fed from our own home grown cotton.

I have forgotten what we did with our sisal then, as we equally grew it in abundance. But the industrial agenda was there from the word go!

Actually, I remember those days when most of our people especially our women had immensely adored our own home made dresses made from our own cotton such as “kanga” and “vitenge” – even we had shirts made from our own textile factories.

We had no trouble searching for our country’s national dresses – as they were there – without anyone declaring them as much!

Most of our leaders were happy and comfortable with home grown “vitenge” shirts, which they proudly donned.

This is just one line of our industrial initiative then. We had others – when we had to do something about our abundant leather given the fact that our people have domestic animals in abundance. So really the industrial initiative was there from the word go – a few years after our independence.

Had it not been for the war brought about by the invasion and occupation of parts of our country by the then military dictator Iddi Amin of neighboring Uganda, which had obliged us to empty our national treasury to fight off the invasion, we would have been very far in terms of both agricultural and industrial development.

Given this downfall, successive post Mwalimu Nyerere administrations had difficulty to recoup the industrial initiative because of western donor countries pressures to undo the socialist agenda which essentially prioritized the public sector – or a higher stake ownership of factories and industries and other enterprises then in state or public hands.

But successive administrations also lacked the courage to recoup the lost initiative of founder President Mwalimu Nyerere in favor of the predominance of the public sector in the national economy of the country.

Instead, an economic motto arose to the effect that privatisation was the “engine of economic growth”. But the nature and characteristics of privatisation was not appreciated then – as goes the logic of private capital: the fewer the workers, the better.

Under privatisation, as enticed at the launch of this perspective, there is no humane honour for workers - as they are recruited by a wave of hands and as they are dismissed by equally the wave of hands of the owner of a given private enterprise!

Now where do we stand today? Clearly this is a huge question. As pointed out earlier at the launch of this perspective, we seem to have thousands of jobless young people. To my mind, the reason is the loss of the earlier initiative by our founder President in favor of the public sector as the engine of our national economy.

Fortunately, we have a new leader, Dr. John Magufuli who is clearly courageous - as he has shown of late to put a halt to the looting of our mineral wealth - which were being shipped out of the country with wanton abandon. But the question now is: what is the road forward?

Again as he has shown courage in ensuring that our national Airline, Air Tanzania does not die. He has brought it to life admirably.

The way forward for our President would seem to me is to revive the public sector so that it is there competitively - and not to put all the eggs in one basket – that is the basket of the private sector. No!

We need the creation of public or state owned enterprises of our well-known strategic natural resources such as minerals and others, going in partnership in terms of equity shares by foreign firms wishing to come along as “investors”.

It is one thing to invite investors to come along as partners with the public sector as represented by state institutions, it is another for them to come along as “win all and take all”!

By reviving the public sector, workers in this country at all levels will be assured, not only of their job security but their honour as nationals of this country.

In a public sector, as we had earlier experienced, one is recruited by a formal letter of appointment, indication of probation period, permanence status and retirement benefits not like what we are seeing now – private employers choosing to have no commitments what so ever with employees they hire.

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Author: MAKWAIA WA KUHENGA

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