THE ZIMBABWE Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has vowed to continue mobilising workers to protest until the government addresses their legitimate grievances.
In a statement on Sunday, ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said the ZANU PF-led government is now behaving like the racist Rhodesian and Apartheid governments by seeking to kill and jail union leaders.
Mutasa slammed the brutal attacks by security forces on citizens linked to the Friday July 31 protests.
Mutasa said: ‘Until workers get a fair deal, unions will continue to carry out their legitimate roles. These include mobilising workers for strikes and other lawful means of protests.
‘The demands of workers are genuine and the call for action is legitimate. Instead of seeking to kill and jail trade union leaders, the government must address the genuine grievances of workers and citizens.
‘It is a pity that in a supposed independent Zimbabwe, the police and military is being used to horribly suppress citizens. This is only equal to colonial Rhodesia or South African apartheid and it’s a sad indictment on our yesteryear liberators,’ said Mutasa.
The ZCTU leader, who is on a police wanted list for being one of the ringleaders of the foiled July 31 protests, wrote: ‘Our message to government is that it should respect people’s freedoms and listen to the cries of the suffering citizens.
‘For workers and trade unions, we have no choice than continuing to push for better conditions.
‘Almost all workers have been enslaved and struggling under extremely poor working conditions reminiscent of colonial era oppressive conditions.
‘lt is ironic and depressing that freedom fighters and trade unionists were called terrorists by the colonial government and today the Zimbabwean government uses the same narratives.’
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s president vowed to ‘flush out’ his opponents as anger with his government grows over alleged corruption and economic mismanagement.
Attempts by ‘a few rogue Zimbabweans’ to destabilise the country in ‘league with foreign detractors’ will be overcome, Emmerson Mnangagwa claimed.
More than 20 people have been arrested since last Friday when an anti-government protest was blocked, lawyers say.
Images of security forces beating civilians have prompted global outrage.
#ZimbabweanLivesMatter has trended on Twitter, with celebrities – including South African rapper Kiernan Forbes, who is popularly known as AKA – supporting the campaign.
Award-winning Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, a nominee for this year’s Booker Prize, was among those detained for taking part in last Friday’s protest in defiance of a police ban.
She was released on bail after being charged with incitement to commit violence and for breaching health regulations introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono is still in detention after being arrested and charged last month with inciting public violence.
He had exposed alleged corruption in the health ministry during the purchase of medical supplies to tackle the virus.
In a televised address on Tuesday, President Mnangagwa condemned the ‘machinations of destructive, terrorist opposition groupings’.
It was an unexpected early morning address by President Mnangawa on Tuesday, with some saying it was an attempt at damage control prompted by growing fear of revolution.
Mnangagwa’s tone was part conciliatory, calling for patriotism, claiming that political and economic goals are on course and part threatening, warning of a step up of state violence.
‘Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win.
‘The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil,’ he said.
Mnangagwa added that his government had faced many hurdles since taking office following the ousting of long-time leader Robert Mugabe in 2017, but it would remain resolute.
‘We will defeat the attack and stop the bleeding of our economy.
‘We will overcome attempts at the destabilisation of our society,’ he said.
Last month, the World Food Programme (WFP) said nearly two-thirds of the population will need food aid by the end of this year.
The WFP said the Covid-19 lockdown has led to massive unemployment and rural hunger as urban migrants are returning to their villages, where there is little to eat.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa’s spokesman Patrick Chinamasa last Friday branded trade unionists ‘terrorists’.
However, BWI (Building and Wood Workers International) General Secretary Ambet Yuson expressed his alarm and concern over the remarks made against their trade union affiliate.
‘Trade unionists are not terrorists,’ he insisted.
‘BWI and its 12 million members worldwide strongly condemn the terrorist-tagging of ZCTU and the persistent harassment and persecution of trade unionists in Zimbabwe.
‘We express our serious concerns over the disturbing political and economic developments in the country, which we think is increasingly becoming unfavourable to democratic trade unionism,’ Yuson said.
BWI said that ZCTU is not a terrorist organisation. The global union said that ZCTU is legitimately recognised by Zimbabwe’s Constitution, with its missions and operations in accordance to the country’s Labour Act and international labour standards.
BWI said that ZCTU’s terrorist-tagging is not only a clear violation of ILO Convention 87 ratified by Zimbabwe itself, but also an unveiled threat and act of intimidation against trade unionists and civil society activists in the country.
BWI called on Mnangagwa and his government to denounce Chinamasa’s statement against ZCTU and take concrete measures to ensure that labour and human rights are fully respected in the country.
Health workers have also vowed to proceed with their job boycott despite the recent plea by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for them to return to work.
In an interview with a local publication, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general, Norman Matara, urged government to first pay health workers a living wage, provide adequate PPE and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment to end the industrial action.
‘The government should simply meet its end of the bargain, pay health workers a living wage, provide them with adequate personal protective equipment, and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment.
‘If they do this simple task, health workers will happily return to work and do their job of saving lives.
‘The government wants health workers to act in the nation’s interest and exhibit a sense of responsibility, yet the same government is not meeting its end of responsibilities,’ said Matara.
‘Health workers cannot work on empty stomachs and without protective clothing simply because they save lives,’ added Matara
Enock Dongo, of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association reiterated Matara’s sentiments, calling on government to address health workers’ grievances for them to return to work.
‘We heard what the president said, but we also want him to hear and listen to what we are saying. First, he must respect our work and we will also do our part,’ Dongo said.
‘We want the president to look into our issues. If he acknowledges our issues which are genuine, then he must address them.
‘No way can we go into such a dangerous environment without wearing protective gear in the name of national interests. That will not work.
‘Right now, many nurses are being evicted from their lodgings because they failed to raise rentals, which are now US$40 to US$70, but salaries are below US$30.
‘Even if they say we are not acting in the national interest, we have families to look after,’ said Dongo.