ZCTU gags anti-govt labour activists

ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo

SUSPECTED anti-government activists were gagged from speaking during the Workers’ Day commemorations in Harare on Wednesday, NewsDay has established.

There was drama at Gwanzura Stadium, where the commemorations were held, after allies of former Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa were barred from addressing workers.

Chamisa’s ally Gift Siziba was forced to walk out with a number of workers after his frantic efforts to address the workers were thwarted.

Siziba, who was representing Chamisa, walked out when Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leader Florence Taruvinga was addressing workers and repeated President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo” slogan.

According to a leaked audio obtained by NewsDay, speakers for this year’s Workers’ Day celebrations went under strict vetting by ZCTU officials, with those perceived to be anti-government like Siziba struck off the list.

In the audio, ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo is heard saying the union would order speakers to sign affidavits that they would be responsible for actions of their followers who attended the meeting.

“Everyone who is coming for our May Day to give solidarity messages, there are conditions for that. These are the conditions that we shared with authorities,” Moyo said.

It is understood that police had warned against any political party speeches.

ZCTU had invited Zanu PF and CCC.

“There are things to do with booing of speakers and bad behaviour, so we deserve the right to withdraw the right to speak for those that are coming for our May Day,” Moyo said.

“The list has about seven issues that we want. Someone who would want to speak must sign that they will be responsible for their members coming to the events.”

Leaked minutes of the May Day organising meeting which were seen by NewsDay also show that ZCTU had set restrictions for those delivering speeches during the celebrations.

“The meeting observed that the ZCTU invites different respective like-minded organisations to Workers Day commemorations,” the minutes read.

“The committee wishes to recommend to the general council the following: That the ZCTU should attach conditions when inviting organisations which come to support and also offer solidarity support.

“The ZCTU invitation letter should unequivocally indicate that the organisation reserve the right to allow or disallow any organisation from extending or delivering solidarity messages.”

Moyo yesterday told NewsDay that the restrictions were meant to promote a peaceful event.

“We set the conditions to manage our events,” Moyo said.

“We want to give enough opportunity to those who speak on labour issues.

“We do not want vulgar language or disturbances at the events.

“We want an environment where we speak as one Zimbabwe, not calling each other names.

“We did not restrict freedom, but at ZCTU, we talk about labour issues and poor working conditions, not attacking each other at such a family event.”

CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi, however, said they did not want to hijack the event.

“We had not gone there to deliver speeches, but to show solidarity with workers,” Mkwananzi said.

“We have so many avenues to send our messages if we want.”

Siziba said ZCTU had been hijacked by the State.

“There are fundamental issues around the unions, that is why you see people expressing themselves around the certain interference of the regime with the progressive unions in the country and that is the matters that the workers are dealing with,” Siziba said.

“What founded the democratic alternative of this country are the working people.

“Those who are occupying the State at the present moment have no mandate of the people, because it’s a ‘stolen mandate’ and, therefore, there is no legitimacy and the economy becomes the immediate casualty.”

Meanwhile, several organisations have expressed concern about workers around the globe finding themselves in intensifying climate change.

In its statement for this year’s Workers’ Day, the International Labour Organisation said: “As climate change intensifies, workers around the globe find themselves at an increased risk of exposure to hazards such as excessive heat, ultraviolet radiation, extreme weather events, air pollution, vector-borne diseases and agrochemicals.”

It further noted that numerous health conditions afflicting workers had been linked to climate change, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illnesses, kidney dysfunction and mental health conditions.

Legal watchdog Veritas said to add to this, it is estimated that “over 870 million workers in agriculture were likely to be exposed to pesticides, with more than 300 000 deaths attributed to pesticide poisoning annually”.

It said there was a rush to extract chemicals necessary to transition to green energy, resulting in the uncontrolled used of chemicals in their extraction, especially in Africa.

“There have also been reports in Zimbabwe of mercury leakages from its unregulated use, especially in artisanal mining,” Veritas said.

“In light of all this, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that employers comply with laws regulating working conditions, in particular laws requiring the provision of protective clothing; introduce and enforce a minimum wage; create a national health insurance scheme giving all workers access to health facilities; and re-evaluate the use of chemicals in the mining and agricultural sectors, and ban those that are most dangerous to the health of workers.”

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