Outrage over ITU official’s detention

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says it is embarrassed on behalf of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, following the detention for 11 hours without charge of an international labour activist on Tuesday.

International Trade Union Confederation (ITU)-Africa secretary-general Kwasi Adu Amankwa was on Tuesday dragged out of his hotel room in Harare by State security agents, held incommunicado for 11 hours without charge, before being released.

Amankwa, a Ghanaian national is in the country for meetings with local labour activists and was supposed to meet government officials following violent protests in January organised by the ZCTU that left 17 people dead after the deployment of the military to quell the protests.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa yesterday said the federation was at a loss of words.

“It’s an international embarrassment. This is an international trade union leader, with a seat at the global table of workers, where business and investment is discussed. This is a man with a permanent seat at Davos, but we allow him into the country only to harass him in this manner.

“We are ashamed on behalf of the government that we could not allow a fellow African brother into the country, detain him and deny him food as well as access to a lawyer. We did not charge him,” Mutasa said.

The ZCTU leader added: “What we have done is to show everyone, including doubting Thomases, that we are barbaric and do not respect the rule of law. We have just showcased to the world that we do not respect human rights. It flies in the face of our pledge for an open society.”

According to Mutasa, Ghana embassy officials in Harare were sent from pillar to post as they tried to get Amankwa released.

“Its was embarrassing to see a whole embassy running around like that. An African embassy at that,” he said.

The US embassy in Harare also reacted with anger at the harassment of the trade unionist.

“Harassment and targeted arrests of civil society leaders damage Zimbabwe’s reputation and economic future. We call on the Zimbabwean government to uphold its Constitution, protect human rights and foster an environment where all can contribute to the nation’s progress,” the Americans said in a short statement on their Twitter handle.

The opposition MDC weighed in with spokesperson Jacob Mafume saying Zimbabwe was an unmitigated pariah State.

“The detention of an international labour practitioner of that stature is senseless, pointless and indicates that Zimbabwe is a pariah State.

“This is someone who represents workers the world over, including those that detained him. They say they are open for business, but they turn around and detain visitors for hours on end,” Mafume said.

“In other countries he is met by the leader and government for them to explain their labour policies, but in Zimbabwe he is arrested instead. This administration is creating problems for Mnangagwa and the country, because they are doing things the old way. Our country keeps applying for pariah status and gets it with flying colours. We have to change.”

Government officials claimed they picked Amankwa to “verify” his credentials.

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