Zimbabwe rulers brand ZCTU unions ‘terrorist organisations’

Zimbabwean police confiscating ZCTU materials from their head office

THE UNI Global Union has condemned ‘in the strongest terms’ the labelling of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) as a terrorist organisation – and is demanding an end to the persecution of trades unionists and activists in Zimbabwe.

ZCTU was branded a terrorist organisation by Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa last week, along with the main opposition party, the MDC Alliance.

President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has vowed to ‘flush out’ opponents in the country, and international union UNI is calling on the government to guarantee the safety and freedom of trade union leaders and activists, including ZCTU President, Peter Mutasa.

Mutasa, who is also General Secretary of UNI affiliate, the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union, has been forced to go into hiding after being included in a ‘wanted’ list of opponents by the government.

Keith Jacobs, UNI Africa Regional Secretary, in a statement on Monday said:

‘Only recently, security agents visited Mutasa’s home, slashed his car tyres and attempted to abduct a member of his family.

‘Scores of trade unionists, activists and opposition members have reportedly been arrested, abducted and mistreated by security forces as the government attempts to crush protests against its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the dire state of the economy, and widespread corruption.

‘UNI is also alarmed that the government is using emergency decrees to fight the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to crack down on civil liberties, including the right to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly.

‘UNI Africa is extremely concerned for the safety of trade union leaders and activists in Zimbabwe, and particularly Peter Mutasa as a member of UNI and president of ZCTU.

‘We call on the government to allow trade unionists to carry out their work free from fear and interference and to cease the needless and brutal repression of its citizens.’

UNI is demanding the immediate release of all political opponents and activists in Zimbabwe, and that the government retracts its labelling of the ZCTU as terrorist.

UNI General Secretary, Christy Hoffman, said: ‘Calling ZCTU a terrorist organisation is farcical, desperate and dangerous. As the government attempts to silence and arrest anyone who dares to voice opposition, it is yet another sickening blow to human rights in Zimbabwe.

‘We demand an immediate return to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Zimbabwe has a struggle on its hands, but it is not with its own people.’

Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trades Unions (SAFTU) has also issued a strong statement on the Zimbabwe crisis titled: A Tale of Betrayals and Repression!

‘Trade Union leaders, including the President of the ZCTU Comrade Peter Mutasa, and General Secretary Japhet Moyo are under constant surveillance. Over the last few years, both have been subject to arrest and detention, harassed, bullied and deprived of their basic rights.

‘Fake charges against them have repeatedly failed to secure convictions. Other comrades continue to be “detained” and kept incommunicado. Women comrades in particular have been arrested on the feeblest of charges, and subject to appalling treatment including sexual assault. This is well documented and cannot be denied.

‘There can be little doubt that the regime is increasingly being pushed into a corner by events, including the worsening of the economy, and its inadequate response to the Covid19 crisis. When this happens, the regime will lash out first at its domestic retractors, in an attempt to forestall any opposition. We must be ready to defend all those who are subject to state violence in all its forms.

‘Support the People of Zimbabwe : Down with Divisiveness!

‘This is why supporting calls for democratisation, for an end to repression, corruption, and for an end to all the measures that prop up a wasteful and selfish elite is so important.

‘We need to let the people of Zimbabwe know, and especially our dear comrades in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the unemployed masses in both urban and rural areas, the workers in the survivalist economy that they are not alone, and that we are with them.

‘We especially align ourselves with those health workers forced to take industrial action at this critical time, because to continue to work normally would have been life threatening for them, their patients and their communities.

‘We send warm solidarity greetings to all those who have courageously marched, who have summoned up their human dignity to say, “enough is enough”, who have braved the threats and baton charges. You are the real heroines and heroes of Zimbabwe. It is you who deserve our utmost respect.

‘We also align ourselves with all those Zimbabweans that have had to flee their own country in order to support their families, to escape repression, and to try and eke out a living where they can. We do not blame them for doing so.

‘The history of the world has been shaped by populations having to escape repression, or poverty or the complete lack of opportunity. Zimbabweans in South Africa are our sisters and brothers, and comrades. Those who seek to divide us are playing into the hands of the ruling class who seek to exploit us all!

‘Xenophobia is a weapon to divide us which is why we completely reject it. Support the People of Zimbabwe: “No Ifs or Buts!’

‘For our part we shall continue to put pressure on the South African government to break from its one sided and misguided approach. The people of Zimbabwe have paid a terrible price because successive South African Presidents have bypassed and ignored the expressed needs of the people in Zimbabwe in favour of maintaining support for corrupt and repressive regimes.

‘If President Mbeki had not thrown a cover over the rigged elections that declared Mugabe the winner against Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, and who later bullied the MDC into accepting a hopelessly compromised Government of National Unity; if President Zuma had not cozied up to Mugabe when he was at his most brutal to the people of Zimbabwe and covered his bloody tracks in the SADC Region and beyond.

‘If President Ramaphosa was not in the pockets of the mining and multinational companies, and if he continues to remain silent when they deliberately exploit desperate workers, and stay quiet when they see barbarism at play.

‘The truth is that successive ANC governments have consciously placed the needs of the South African and Zimbabwean ruling elites before the needs of the Zimbabwean and South African people. The accumulation of private profit has been put before democracy time and again despite the rhetoric of the IMF, the EU, the USA and yes, China too.

‘That’s why we say, No Ifs or Buts’. Now is the time for the utmost of solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. To help them rebuild their community organisations and trade unions. To help them speak as one and to raise their pressing and completely legitimate democratic demands. To help them counter the brutality of the regime and its armed cadre and expose their crimes to the world. To help them to begin to take control of their own economy and if necessary, from below.

‘Zimbabwe is not a poor country, and yet most of its people are impoverished. Its wealth can and must be shared for the common good. Because the people of Zimbabwe do matter.

‘We call on the working class and the poor of Zimbabwe to join hands with their counterparts in the continent and indeed the whole world in intensification of a socialist Zimbabwe free from exploitation and oppression! Amandla!’

Issued by SAFTU, 6th August 2020