Workers' dreams turn into ash in crisis-torn Zimbabwe
All that is gone - swept away by six years of a bitter economic recession that has pauperised the majority of Zimbabweans and those still lucky to hold on to their jobs.
About 70 percent of the country's labourforce is unemployed, according to conservative estimates.
Now while the rest of the world takes a break to reflect and celebrate the achievements of workers, Jele, from the poor suburb of Rugare in Harare, says he has absolutely nothing to celebrate.
"Why should I celebrate when I am battling to raise money for food and school fees?" says Jele.
"My two children right now need about Z$5 million each for fees before schools reopen for the second term next week. Where do they think I will get the cash?
"But God looks after his own people," he says revealing a deep-seated spiritual conviction that should certainly be more than useful for one to remain sane in Zimbabwe's maddening crisis.
"Otherwise, this country would have been reduced to a cemetery given the level of suffering and desperation over the past few years," he adds.
Zimbabwe is battling a severe economic crisis described by the World Bank last year as unprecedented for a country not at war.
Food, fuel and almost every other basic survival commodity is in critical short supply in the country with inflation currently standing at 913.6 percent one of the highest such rates in the world.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and major Western governments blame Mugabe for ruining what was once one of Africa's strongest economies.
But Mugabe denies the charge insisting the crisis is because of sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
With a salary of Z$12 million a month, Jele says he can hardly survive. The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says an average family of six now needs about Z$35 million a month to survive.
"It's a miracle how I manage to get to work and feed the family," says Jele.
Economic commentator Erich Bloch says workers have been hit hardest by the economic crisis, suffering a progressive decline in wages and living conditions that has each year left them worse off than they were in the previous year.
"The worker is worse off than he or she was during the same time last year," said Bloch. "There's no cause for celebration," he added.
With no political breakthrough to the crisis, economic analysts say the plight of Zimbabwean workers is set to worsen over the coming few months as the economy reacts to last week's massive 300 percent salary increments to soldiers and teachers.
The cash-strapped government is expected to print money - and increase inflationary pressures in the economy - in order to finance the salary hikes that observers have dismissed as an attempt by Harare to buy off security forces ahead of mass anti-government protests planned by the opposition in the winter.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general Wellington Chibhebhe told ZimOnline that however hard their present situation, Zimbabwe's long suffering workers have no option but to gird up their loins for an even tougher battle ahead to assert their rights.
"The predicament of the Zimbabwean worker is well known. The onus is on the worker in Zimbabwe to confront the government in order to ease the plight of the workforce," said Chibhebhe.
"The government is squarely to blame for all the problems facing Zimbabwean workers," he said.
The ZCTU has lined up several activities across the country today to "celebrate 26 years of workers' unity, resilience and determination."
A pressure group fighting for change in the country, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, says Mugabe must be held to account for impoverishing Zimbabwean workers. The group said the veteran Zimbabwean leader in power since independence from Britain 26 years ago, was in violation of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights which says all people have a right to economic, social and cultural development.
"Unfortunately, the workers remain an alienated group from the national cake, which remains in the hands of a few," said Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in a statement.
For Jele and many other workers in Zimbabwe, the true meaning of Workers' Day will only be realised when they are able to enjoy the fruits of their labour. But given the hopelessness engulfing the country today, that dream appears a distant mirage.