BY RICHARD CHIDZA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, desperate for international respite regarding the country’s image and human rights record, was yesterday thrust into the global limelight after a visiting top international labour unionist was arrested before being released several hours later.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) reacted angrily to attempts by the government to deport International Trade Union Confederation (ITU)-Africa secretary-general Kwasi Adu Amankwa, who was dragged from his hotel room yesterday morning.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said authorities had been carrying out verifications before Amankwa was released.
“We have released him. Government was doing verification and it’s important for national security,” Mangwana said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member, Obey Shava also confirmed that Amankwa had been released.
“He has been released and I am with him now. We, however, have gone ahead and filed a chamber application seeking an order to have his detention declared unlawful,” Shava said.
“We also want to set the record straight and make sure that if ever the ZCTU invites other trade unionists, they will not be treated in this manner.”
Shava said no reason had been given for Amankwa’s arrest.
Amankwa was in the country for an international solidarity meeting with the ZCTU, whose leader, Peter Mutasa said arrangements had been made for the unionist to meet Labour ministry officials.
“His papers are in order and we had actually made arrangements for him to meet government officials. It seems there was an order to deport him from somewhere after having allowed him in,” Mutasa said.
The ZCTU president, who is currently facing treason charges over the January violent protests that left 17 people dead, reportedly at the hands of the army, warned that human rights activism in Zimbabwe was under siege.
“We are in trouble. The regime has gone back to default settings. This means one thing. Nothing has changed since (former President Robert) Mugabe. We had hoped things have changed, but alas, we were wrong,” Mutasa told NewsDay. Earlier in the day, Mangwana defended the move, arguing that Zimbabwe had a right to deport elements seen to pose a national security threat.
Amankwa was reportedly part of a three-member ITUC fact-finding delegation that was set to have first-hand information of what transpired in January.
According to the ZCTU boss, government had also denied visa to ITUC deputy secretary-general Mamadou Diallo, who was also due to travel from Brussels to Harare.