ZCTU bosses bemoan erosion of democratic space

Outgoing Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Wellington Chibebe and former first vice-president of the labour body, Lucia Matibenga, have bemoaned the erosion of democratic space through what they termed State-sponsored human rights violations.

Presenting his report during the labour movement’s seventh elective national congress in Bulawayo on Saturday, Chibebe said what used to be celebrated as independence in the country has become a laughing stock as the majority of workers are wallowing in poverty while their rights are violated at will.

Chibebe, himself a former liberation fighter, said workers’ rights were the most violated by the government.

He said workers’ tax was pegged at 30% higher than their employers’ 25%. This was despite the fact that most workers’ salaries were below the poverty datum line.

“It is sad that some of the leaders we thought are on our side could turn against us. Minister of Finance Tendai Biti recently proposed at the Council of Ministers meeting that there should be protection of employers from what he called vagrant undertakings saying employers are struggling to operate. It appears the workers do not feature in his thinking,” Chibebe said.

Matibenga also said: “In September 13 2006, many workers and the ZCTU leadership were severely assaulted by the police when they were peacefully demonstrating against deteriorating working conditions and high taxation. Some of the attacked members suffered permanent injuries while others died as a result.

“When workers demonstrated against cash shortages, the only response we got from government was that of State-sponsored attack on workers in 2008 and even now the cases are still pending in the courts.”

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