BY STAFF REPORTER
Veteran labour activist and former Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Lovemore Matombo, has died.
Matombo died on Monday evening at his Greendale home in Harare.
Yesterday, there was an outpouring of condolence messages from several quarters, with most people describing him as a “trade unionist par excellence”.
In a statement, ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo described Matombo, who was one of the founding members of the post-independence labour movement in Zimbabwe, as a humble and fatherly character, who dedicated his entire life to the service of the labour movement by fighting for justice at the workplace.
Matombo led the ZCTU from 2001 to 2011 following the departure of Gibson Sibanda (president) and then secretary-general Morgan Tsvangirai (both late).
“Many trade unionists of today were groomed by Matombo to become opinion leaders in the labour movement, the community and the country at large. He shall forever be remembered for his bravery and resoluteness to the cause of the working poor,” Moyo said.
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa described the late Matombo as a gallant fighter and “a champion of the working class struggles, a democrat and a towering figure in the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe”.
“The country has lost a great son of the labour movement and certainly a great revolutionary,” Chamisa said.
National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku described Matombo as a “principled union leader”.
Former Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union president Clever Bere said Matombo was a pillar of strength who encouraged students during difficult times. Matombo, from the Communications and Allied Services Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe, was elected to lead the ZCTU in 2001.
Together with Wellington Chibhebhe as secretary-general of the firebrand labour movement, Matombo pursued the struggle for workers’ rights at a time government had heightened its repression of social and civil society movements post-2000.
On September 13, 2006, Matombo, Chibhebhe and the movement’s first vice-president, Lucia Matibenga were arrested while attempting to engage in a peaceful protest over the deteriorating social and economic conditions in Zimbabwe and while in police custody, they were brutally assaulted in an incident that drew international condemnation. Matombo later formed a splinter ZCTU grouping after losing the presidency at the 2011 congress.