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Chibebe wins international award

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Wellington Chibebe, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general, has won an international award for his efforts in fighting for the rights of workers in Zimbabwe.

IndustriEnergi (IE), a Norwegian energy and chemicals affiliate, awarded its first Arthur Svensson International Award for Trade Union Rights to Chibhebhe, at the opening of IE’s congress in Oslo, Norway, last week.
Chibebe scooped the award as one of Zimbabwe’s leading trade unionists.

The award is named after a long-time leader of Norsk Kjemisk Forbund, the Norwegian Chemical Workers’ Association.

Chibebe told African radio upon winning that Zimbabwe’s unions must continue fighting for their rightful “democratic space” in the economy.

The global significance to the award, said Chibebe, is that the world now knows that Zimbabwe has appeared before the International Labour Organisation Standards Committee every year since 2002, “culminating in the commission of enquiry which came to Zimbabwe last year and a report that moved the government to address the problems that have been facing unions”.

Chibebe and others in Zimbabwe have been effective global voices against the trade union abuses that occur in the country.

In May 2008, he and ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo were locked up and charged with an absurd “communicating falsehoods” complaint against the state. In September 2006, Chibebe was beaten in police custody after being one of some 200 trade unionists seeking satisfactory work rights. He began his trade union career in 1988 as an apprentice railway worker. He became president of the railway union and then joined ZCTU in 2001.

In praise of Chibebe’s award last week, the Congress of South African Trade Unions said in a statement that he has “courage, passion, and firmness of principle.

We believe the African trade union movement in particular and the global trade union movement in general has an asset in him and we are yet to see more of his outstanding contributions as we intensify our struggle for justice”.

The Arthur Svensson International Award for Trade Union Rights comes with a cash prize of 500 000 Norwegian kroners (€60 000).

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