HomeLocalZim trade unionists remain behind bars

Zim trade unionists remain behind bars

JOHANNESBURG – The top leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) were still in prison on Wednesday after being arrested ahead of an anti-poverty march in the capital, Harare.

ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo, secretary-general Wellington Chibebe and some 10

0 members were arrested on Tuesday as they were preparing to take part in what the police deemed an illegal demonstration to highlight growing unemployment and the rocketing cost of living.

Lucia Matibenga, a senior ZCTU official, told IRIN she was unable to comment on the labour federation’s next move, as it was “operating in an uncertain terrain”.

The ZCTU march followed protests at the weekend by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a pro-democracy civic alliance.

The official Herald newspaper on Wednesday described the series of demonstrations as an attempt by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the NCA and the ZCTU to incite “people to go into the streets to kick-start a Ukrainian-style ‘Orange Revolution'”.

Munyaradzi Bidi, executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, commented that against the backdrop of “an economic meltdown, the government’s decision to call for the election of a senate on November 26 has angered the people – they feel they have not been adequately consulted”.

“People have also not recovered from the impact of Operation Murambatsvina, in which flea markets were destroyed and thousands of people lost employment in the informal sector,” he pointed out.

A UN report estimated that Operation Murambatsvina – which the government said was aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals – had left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood after it began in mid-May.

According to the Herald, the ZCTU unionists were charged with participating in an illegal demonstration “or, alternatively, under the Miscellaneous Offences Act for obstructing movement of traffic”.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis and facing serious food shortages due to recurring droughts and the government’s fast-track land redistribution programme, which disrupted agricultural production and slashed export earnings.

The country has been described as having one of the fastest-shrinking economies in the world, with unemployment at 80 percent. — IRIN

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