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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
May Day - celebration or lamentation for Africa's workers?

May Day is traditionally recognised as a day of celebrations for workers. But do workers in Africa have much to celebrate?

News and Information for Africa
In Nigeria President Obasanjo chose May Day to announce a 100% increase in the minimum wage, bowing to pressure from the unions.

But in Zambia the President of the Zambian Congress of Trade Uninions, Fackson Shamenda, said that May Day has become a day of lamentation rather than celebration.

Shamenda said with slave wages, job insecurity, retrenchments, and non-payment of terminal benefits, Zambian workers have nothing to be proud of.

Is he right? And if he is, whose fault is it? Governments, Trade Unions, workers themselves? Tell us what you think.


Your reaction

The answer to the above question is emphatically no! African workers have no cause for celebration on May Day but grief instead, over the despicable and barbaric exploitation of their labour and sweat by their employers/masters.
OB Silla, a Gambian living in the USA

Most workers in Africa appear to be working on a slave farm - their financial future is unpredictable. And their governments do not see fit to raise the standard of living of these hard working people. Africa has a lot of manpower that needs to be developed and better equipped to face the ever-changing global economy. Technology is moving fast and our workers deserve to be part of this. I am glad workers are unionising and putting pressure to bear on their government to effect long needed changes.
Sika, USA



What are the celebrations for when the leaders of African countries are corrupt and stashing away millions of dollars in foreign banks while the average worker earns less than a dollar a day?

Shinkurtkit, USA
What are the celebrations for when the leaders of African countries are corrupt and stashing away millions of dollars in foreign banks while the average worker earns less than a dollar a day?
Shinkurtkit, USA

The system of divide and rule that favours some workers and subjects millions to abject poverty makes it very difficult for workers to carry out any meaningful protest against capitalists and government officials who perpetuate the bad condition of the African workers. In any case, the way I see things, we are only a few steps away from an African version of French revolution. Tell the oppressors to begin now to make amends in concrete terms.
Chikwendu Anyanwu, UK

I heartily congratulate the workers who walked out during the May Day celebrations in Nairobi. Workers in the Kenyan government have nothing to celebrate with the stressful economic situations in the country which are all due to corruption and poor governance of national resources by a few greedy people who have forgotten that Kenya belongs to all Kenyans with no distinctions. Does the national cake belong to a few greedy rich? Where have our African values of sharing gone?
Placida Awuor, a Kenyan living in the Philippines

African workers have got every reason to celebrate. The fact that millions of them are still alive today, that is something worth celebrating. We must rejoice that the Lord our God has given us this day to celebrate and praise Him. For this reason alone, we have every cause to say a big thank you to the Most High God who has continued to provide for us regardless of our everyday disrespect to His person.
Izu Imoh, Nigeria

African workers should indeed celebrate! At least they have a job. What about the millions of their country people who haven't? Small salaries are of course a cause to lament, but one has to ask himself where the money is coming from when most of the economies aren't working. There are our governments to blame, but it's not only them. There is more to it than just management!
John Buka, Rwanda



Being able to feed or support your family is everything to an African worker, therefore African workers have a lot to be proud of.

Kassa, Canada
I don't care much about Mayday. But I'd like to assure you that African people have a lot to be proud of their workers. Unlike Western countries, one African worker feeds or supports ten family members. Being able to feed or support your family is every thing to an African worker therefore African workers have a lot to be proud of. How on earth are the workers responsible for his own slave wages, job insecurity, retrenchments, and non-payment of terminal benefits, etc? I wish best of luck to all African workers.
Kassa, Canada



Congratulations to workers in Africa especially the courageous journalists working under such difficult conditions.

Godwin Nwaogwugwu, Nigeria/USA
I appreciate President Obasanjo's goodwill gesture to Nigerian workers, because "half bread is better than none". Yet another popular saying has it that "Do not give a beggar bread, rather show a beggar where to find bread". I think the later is more appropriate in African situation.
African governments should work towards creating enabling environments that will promote private sector participation and encourage foreign investments. This will create more jobs and also the much needed economic empowerment. A major threat to this is general insecurity, instability, lack of press freedom, and tribal politics that is dogged to finality often leading to crises and wars.
Meanwhile congratulations to workers in Africa especially the courageous journalists working under such difficult conditions. I think other workers should borrow a leaf from these journalists whose selfless sacrifices to the African struggle cannot be equated to the meagre salaries they get. I am not a journalist, but they are my heroes. I wish there is a special day set out for journalists in Africa.
Godwin Nwaogwugwu, Nigeria/USA

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