ITUC objects to ZANU PF calling ZCTU a terrorist organisation

Zimbabwe nationals and activists picketing outside the embassy in Cape Town against police brutality and political violence in Zimbabwe. Archive Photo by Mzi Velapi

Ongoing human rights abuses in the country have reminded Zimbabweans that the regime did not change when Mugabe was ousted in 2017.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has written to Zimbabwe President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, objecting to the labeling of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) as a terrorist organisation by the ruling Zanu PF party.

The Zanu PF acting Secretary for Information and Publicity, Patrick Chinamasa, speaking during a press conference in Harare said the ZCTU and the opposition MDC Alliance are terrorist organisations which want to destabilise the country.

In a letter addressed to President Mnangagwa, the ITUC secretary general, Sharan Burrow, said the government should publicly dissociate itself from the Zanu PF allegations and confirm that the labour body is a legitimate social partner which engages with government in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).

“In as much as your government is attempting to re-engage with the international community to help build up a better Zimbabwe, we are surprised that its actions on the ground are contrary to its obligations prescribed in the human rights instruments adopted by the same international community through the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the African Union and others,” she wrote.

Burrow urged the Zimbabwean government to stop hunting down trade unionists and release all those persecuted for exercising their freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

The ITUC boss said the organisation has been observing persistent attacks on workers’ rights and freedoms by the Zimbabwean state as so many attempts to silence critics who have genuine demands.

“For example, on 6 June 2020, thirteen nurses went on strike demanding better wages and personal protective equipment and twelve leaders were arrested and are facing criminal charges.

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“On 12 July 2020 the ZCTU president, Peter Mutasa, had his home broken into during the night by armed personnel in an attempt to abduct him; when they failed to locate him, his car’s tyres were deflated by sharp objects and no one has been arrested,” she said.

Burrow noted that the government is abusing the covid-19 pandemic to issue decrees with the intention of stifling basic freedoms. “This is contrary to the COVID-19 guidelines pronounced by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association,” she wrote.

ZCTU secretary general, Japhet Moyo, said the accusations against the labour body by the ruling Zanu PF party are off the mark as all the socio-economic issues raised by the union federation were of public interest and had been raised at the TNF.

“We cannot be a social partner during the day and play a terrorist fellow at night on the same issues. While Chinamasa can try to set the labour movement and its activists against the apparatus of the state, we are not going to abandon our mandate to represent our members,” he said.

Moyo said the scourge of corruption, coupled with poor wages and salaries made the lives of workers difficult, and justified speaking out against it.

“It is only in a primitive society where messengers are shot at instead of dealing with the message. Unfortunately for him, we will keep on delivering the same message that he doesn’t want to hear – that his administration is killing us with corruption and that our wages and salaries have been eroded by his administration’s economic policies.

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Moyo said the Zanu PF government had dismally failed to resuscitate the country’s economy and was now looking for scapegoats. “We also note that the Zimbabwe Republic Police has put the ZCTU President Peter Mutasa on ‘a wanted persons’ list. We strongly object to the criminalisation of trade unionism. We are unapologetic about our work and no amount of intimidation will deter us,” he said.

Moyo said Mnangagwa’s regime is not different from that of the former president, Robert Mugabe, in terms of human rights abuses as it continued with the arbitrary arrest of opposition party members, trade unionists and journalists.

“The country is still stuck in its dark days where citizens could not enjoy their constitutional rights. The reforms that ED made noise about when he dethroned Mugabe have not been seen and that obviously dents our chances as a country to be in the league of democrats and attract the much needed investment,’” he said.

Moyo decried the government’s use of state institutions, that are supposed to serve the people, to arrest citizens who express dissent.

Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba was not answering his mobile phone when contacted for comment.

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