President Robert Mugabe bemoaned the economic challenges faced by Zimbabwe as he spoke during the country’s National Heroes Day commemorations in Harare on Monday, reports said.
“We are still grappling with the task of transforming our economy,” Mugabe said, according to a BBC report.
Mugabe’s remarks came as the southern African country’s economy continued to deteriorate, with thousands of people having lost their jobs in the last few weeks.
Struggling Zimbabwean companies continue to lay off thousands of workers, particularly after the country’s Supreme Court passed a controversial ruling last month that gave employers the leeway to terminate job contracts by giving workers just three months notice.
Previously, employers had to follow laborious procedures and pay hefty severance packages before they could fire or retrench workers.
Mugabe recently slammed the wave of job losses and said laws would be amended to protect workers, according to a News Day report.
“If the law is going to create problems for the people, that law must be amended… We do not want to see people on the streets and do not like people being fired from work. We are going to look at the law because the law is an ass,” Mugabe was quoted as saying.
State media organisations the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and Zimpapers, the publishers of The Herald, the Sunday Mail and the Chronicle newspapers, have not been spared from the retrenchments.
Zimpapers moved to lay off dozens of journalists and other support staff last week, in an exercise that insiders said could see up to 150 staff members losing their jobs by the end of this week, the Daily News reported.
It was also understood that up to 400 other ZBC staff could face the chop by month-end, the report said.
Zimbabwe’s main labour union recently warned that workers would take to the streets to vent their anger and displeasure over what it termed “senseless” job losses. But an attempt to do so over the weekend was blocked by police, according to an AFP report.
“The police besieged our offices when we were about to stage our demonstration and they decided to arrest the leadership,” Japhet Moyo, secretary general of the ZCTU was quoted as saying.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this year said Zimbabwe faced a “difficult” economic outlook.
Laws which require locals to hold majority stakes in all firms are also blamed for scaring off foreign investors.
Mugabe, however, hinted during the Heroes’ Day celebrations that his government was ready to establish a body that would spearhead the repealing of laws scaring away investors, according to a state media report.