INTERNATIONAL trade unions have raised concern over harassment of workers’ representatives by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government as pressure piles on the Zanu PF regime to respect human rights.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
In a letter to Mnangagwa last week, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) called for the release of government critics, especially whistleblowers who highlighted State corruption like journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition Transform Zimbabwe party leader Jacob Ngarivhume.
The call came as several opposition activists, including MDC Alliance deputy chairperson Job Sikhala and journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu, have gone into hiding for fear of persecution.
ITUC accused government of using the COVID-19 crisis to clamp down on trade unionists and workers demanding better wages.
“The ITUC, representing 207 million workers in 163 countries, including Zimbabwe, strongly condemns the labelling of the ZCTU [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions] as a terrorist organisation by your political party Zanu PF, of which you are the first secretary,” read the ITUC letter to Mnangagwa.
“We have been following up your government’s respect for human and trade union rights and have observed persistent attacks on workers’ rights and critics who have justified demands. Day by day, Zimbabwean workers are harassed and persecuted for demanding good governance in their country.”
The ITUC cited the arrest of 13 nurses who were demanding better wages and personal protective equipment as well as 12 other union leaders that are facing criminal charges, who include ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, whose house was broken into by suspected State security agents in a foiled abduction attempt, and Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe leaders Obert Masaraure and Robson Chere, among others.
“Stop hunting down trade unionists who are doing their job to highlight and bring to your attention the plight of workers of Zimbabwe that you must address. Release all those persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” the ITUC said.
The Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council (SATUCC) which is based in Botswana and represents 22 major federations in 14 Sadc States also criticised the harassment of Mutasa and other trade union leaders and the “hostile treatment and intimidation of trade unionists and civil society activists” by State security agents.
“SATUCC, together with the international community, joined the citizens of Zimbabwe to celebrate the resignation of (the late) President Robert Mugabe in November 2017 and the taking over of the leadership of the country by President Emmerson Mnangagwa with the hope that the era of gross human rights violations which characterised Mugabe’s reign, had finally come to an end,”
They said it was a pity that these hopes for a better Zimbabwe appeared to have been shattered.
Government last week denied reports of unrest, saying “Zimbabwe was peaceful and citizens were free to go about their business as usual”.
Mnangagwa is facing mounting pressure from the regional and international community to address the deteriorating human rights situation and harassment of political activists and opposition parties.
The United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Friday urged the Mnangagwa government to protect fundamental rights.