HomeNewsUS red flags Zim over workers’ rights abuse

US red flags Zim over workers’ rights abuse

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BY MOSES MATENGA/KENNETH NYANGANI

THE United States yesterday threatened to slap Zimbabwe with more sanctions over government’s crackdown on labour rights and tightening freedoms of association and assembly.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that they had initiated the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) eligibility reviews with the Harare government a specific target because of its continued suppression of labour unions.

The US move comes at a time the United Kingdom has threatened to slap President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration with a new sanctions regime over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and failure by the administration to deal with graft in high offices.

The decision, which was disclosed in the UK Parliament last Wednesday, was triggered by the arrest of Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport while attempting to smuggle 6kg of processed gold worth more
than US$333 000 to Dubai.

But Harare, instead, reacted angrily to the proposal for further sanctions, with Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo saying Britain, Zimbabwe’s former imperial power, should stop treating the southern African nation as its colony.

In the new threat for more sanctions on Zimbabwe, the US said the southern African State had enjoyed duty-free access to the US markets since 1980 under the GSP programme, but due to worker rights concerns, Washington would now do an eligibility review.

“As a result of this assessment, USTR is self-initiating GSP eligibility reviews for Eritrea and Zimbabwe, based on concerns related to compliance with the GSP worker rights criterion,” the USTR announced on Monday.

“Labour rights concerns in Zimbabwe relate to a lack of freedom of association, including the right of independent trade unions to organise and bargain collectively, and government crackdown on labour activists.”

Labour activists, including the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa, Amalgamated Rural Teachers of Zimbabwe leaders, nurses and doctors, have been victims of police brutality. The police have violently thwarted their protests.

Their calls for improved working conditions have also fallen on deaf ears.

The US said the announcement was a demonstration of the effective use of the GSP programme to improve labour standards and help US businesses and workers to succeed.

GSP, the largest and oldest US trade preference programme, is designed to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry into the United States for 3 500 products from the 119 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

To remain eligible for these advantages, the US said, beneficiary countries should comply with 15 statutory eligibility criteria, including taking steps to afford internationally recognised worker rights, providing adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, and assuring equitable and reasonable access to its markets.

In October 2017, USTR announced a new triennial process to assess GSP beneficiary country eligibility with the first year’s assessment covering the GSP beneficiary countries in Asia and the Pacific and the second year’s covering GSP beneficiary countries in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

“This year’s assessment covered the 54 GSP beneficiary countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Government agencies, including the Departments of State, Labour, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, and others, examined national policies and practices related to each of the 15 eligibility criteria established by Congress,” the USTR statement read in part.

“As a result of this assessment, USTR is self-initiating GSP eligibility reviews for Eritrea and Zimbabwe, based on concerns related to compliance with the GSP worker rights criterion.”

But responding to the US embassy in Harare, Zanu PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi said: “Would you just stop lying for the sake of progress. How do you explain Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) intercepting our financial returns from exports? Why do you keep holding on to hundreds of millions of Zimbabwe funds from diamond sales? Why fine banks for transacting with Zimbabwe? This is hypocrisy that stinks.”

Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa at the weekend said Mnangagwa and Zanu PF had gained mileage ahead of the 2023 elections, a reason why he was being attacked by the Western countries.

“Our enemies saw that as a party we are gaining mileage and this is the reason they are attacking our President Mnangagwa and his family, these are all lies and don’t take it,” he said.
“They realised that our President is going with mileage onto next elections with the stability of the economy, there is no other party in the country — the party MDC they used to rely on is dead, they are busy fighting on who is going to take the money.”

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