Death Threat: Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

Death Threat: Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

Bullets and an anonymous death threat were delivered to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Peter Mutasa and Secretary General Japhet Moyo yesterday in an apparent attempt to discourage a planned labor action later this month.

“This is the first time, for all we know in our history, that bullets are delivered at the homes of trade union leaders, said ZCTU in response.

Zimbabwe, death threats, unions, ZCTU, Solidarity Center

Union leaders in Zimbabwe say this is the first time leaders have been threatened with death for seeking to exercise freedom of association. Credit: ZCTU

The identical threatening letters warn Mutasa and Moyo not to participate in an upcoming July 22 work stoppage by ZCTU members who, with other civil society groups, have been protesting rising prices in the country—including a 150 percent fuel price hike.

If Mutasa and Moyo “mobilize the people” the letter warns, the letter’s authors have hired mercenaries “to take care of you once and for all,” “have got plenty of bullets for you and your families” and know where Mutasa–currently in hiding for his own safety—is living.

“It’s now game on,” the letter ends.

ZCTU has faced numerous threats from authorities while Zimbabwe’s economy continues to flounder and inflation and price hikes further complicate Zimbabwean workers’ lives.

Mutasa has been forced into hiding by ongoing violence and intimidation by authorities. After ZCTU helped organize a national strike in January this year to protest price hikes, police seeking Mutasa allegedly assaulted his brother at his home. ZCTU staff also reported intimidation by police. Arrested and  charged with subversion, Mutasa and Moyo have since remained in legal limbo as the Zimbabwe government repeatedly postpones their trials.

January’s violent clashes resulted in 12 deaths and 320 injuries, blamed by human rights organizations on the army and police.

In the aftermath of a similar protest in October last year, some trade unionists were beaten, Mutasa, Moyo and 33 other trade unionists were arrested, senior ZCTU leadership was forced into hiding and ZCTU Harare offices were cordoned off by some 150 policemen. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission found that torture of protesters by government forces before and immediately after the October national protest—consisting mostly of “indiscriminate and severe beatings”—was widespread.

An attempted fact-finding visit by a delegation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in February this year resulted in denial of visas for most of the delegation and the arrest of  ITUC-Africa Secretary General Kwasi Adu Amankwah by state security.

The majority of Zimbabwean workers eke out a living in the informal economy, struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. Those with formal jobs often do not fare well either. A 2016 study by the Solidarity Center found that 80,000 workers in formal jobs did not receive wages or benefits on time, if at all. In many cases, they made only enough to get to work.

Zimbabwe State Security Releases ITUC Africa Director

Zimbabwe State Security Releases ITUC Africa Director

Hours after state security agents forcibly removed and detained ITUC-Africa Secretary General Kwasi Adu Amankwah in Harare, Zimbabwe, Amankwah was released and allowed to continue his official visit, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

State security agents took Amankwah to Robert Mugabe International Airport in the early morning hours today where he was held for nearly 12 hours without access to a lawyer. Global condemnation over the action and the intervention of ZCTU legal team resulted in his release, says ZCTU. Union leaders confirm he was not injured while in detention, but say he was never given a reason for his detention.

Amankwah was set to meet with ZCTU leaders and representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and employer groups and had just arrived at his hotel when state security showed up. Other ITUC representatives from Brussels who sought to travel to Zimbabwe with Amankwah were denied visas.

Among those condemning Amankwah’s detention are the three largest trade unions in Africa: the Central Organization of Trade Unions-Kenya (COTU-Kenya), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Nigerian Labor Congress.

The regionwide union organization, the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC), also condemned the action and strongly urged the government “to stop interfering in trade union work and criminalizing trade union activities and actions.”

Amankwah’s detention follows protests by thousands of Zimbabweans over a 150 percent fuel price hike and the arrest and release of  ZCTU Secretary General Japhet Moyo, President Peter Mutasa and dozens of others who now are restricted from travel and must check in with police.

In a statement, ZCTU calls on the government to “prioritize dialogue instead of resorting to cowardly intimidatory tactics where it feels there are discrepancies.”

ITUC Africa Director Forcibly Detained in Zimbabwe

ITUC Africa Director Forcibly Detained in Zimbabwe

Kwasi Adu Amankwah, general secretary of the African Regional Organization of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), was forcibly taken from his hotel at 2 a.m. today in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he had just arrived.

Amankwah was set to meet with leaders of the Zimbabwe Trade Union Confederation (ZCTU) when state security agents took him to Robert Mugabe International Airport, where he has been held for hours.

Officials refused to allow a lawyer from ZCTU to see Amankwah at the airport, according to ZCTU.

“It’s a sad development,” ZCTU President Peter Mutasa told the media. “We are in trouble as human rights defenders and trade unionists.”

Other ITUC representatives from Brussels who sought to travel to Zimbabwe with Amankwah were denied visas.

In addition to the solidarity visit to ZCTU, Amankwah was scheduled to meet with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Labor and representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and employers’ federation.  Amankwah has not been charged nor informed of the reason for his detention, according to ZCTU.

“It is not clear why such a senior trade union leader was detained at his hotel in the early morning hours and whisked away to the airport without his belongings—and even denied food brought to him by his lawyer and trade union colleagues as he was detained at the airport,” says Solidarity Center Africa Region Director Hanad Mohamud. “This after lawfully entering Zimbabwe. Why is Kwasi being targeted like this?”

In January, after tens of thousands of Zimbabweans protested a 150 percent fuel price hike, ZCTU Secretary General Japhet Moyo and Mutasa were arrested on charges of subversion and beaten in detention. They since have been released but are restricted from travel and must check in with police.

The January crackdown on worker rights’ activists follows the arrest and release of Moyo, Mutasa and 33 other union leaders in October, as government officials attempted to end a nationwide protest against a financial tax increase and rising prices. Some union activists were beaten, ZCTU Harare offices were cordoned off by more than 100 police, and ZCTU leaders not already in jail were forced into hiding.

In a letter to Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, ITUC-Africa asks for Amankwah’s release and “an unreserved apology for this action” from the Zimbabwe Department of Immigration.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is among unions around the world decrying Amankwah’s detention and likely deportation, condemning the move “in the strongest terms” and demanding his immediate release and freedom to meet with ZCTU and others.

Crackdown on Zimbabwe’s Workers Escalates

Crackdown on Zimbabwe’s Workers Escalates

A government crackdown on citizens who last week protested a 150 percent fuel price hike escalated Monday with the arrest of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Secretary General Japhet Moyo, charged with subversion for “mobilizing the nation to participate in anti-fuel hike protests.”  Violent clashes blamed by human rights organizations on the army and police left 12 dead and 320 injured.

Prior to Moyo’s arrest, ZCTU President Peter Mutasa was forced into hiding by a police break-in at his home during which his brother was reportedly assaulted. Mutasa, who was away from his house during the break-in, remains in hiding this week, forcing ZCTU staff to avoid their offices for fear of police seeking his whereabouts, according to union members who spoke with the Solidarity Center.

“We call upon the government to respect labor rights and stop all forms of intimidation and harassment against trade unionists,” said ZCTU today in a press release.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission found that torture of protesters by government forces—consisting mostly of “indiscriminate and severe beatings”—has been widespread. The situation remains tense this week, with soldiers patrolling the streets in most cities, towns and high-density residential areas.

ZCTU has faced other threats from authorities in recent months as Zimbabwe’s economy flounders and inflation and price hikes further complicate Zimbabwean workers’ lives. Mutasa and Moyo—along with 33 other trade unionists—were arrested and later released in October last year during an attempt to stop a national workers’ protest against a financial tax increase and rising prices. Some trade unionists were beaten, ZCTU Harare offices were cordoned off by some 150 police and ZCTU leaders not already in jail were forced into hiding.

The majority of Zimbabwean workers eke out a living in the informal economy, struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. Those with formal jobs often do not fare well either. A 2016 study by the Solidarity Center found that 80,000 workers in formal jobs did not receive wages or benefits on time, if at all. In many cases, they made only enough to get to work.

Update: On January 25, 2019, ZCTU President Peter Mutasa presented himself for arrest in the company of his lawyer Alec Muchadehama.

Crackdown on Zimbabwe’s Workers Escalates

Zimbabwe: Beaten, Arrested Union Leaders Released

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Peter Mutasa and Secretary General Japhet Moyo, along with 33 other trade unionists who were arrested, and some beaten Thursday, were released from jail Saturday. The violent action by police was designed to prevent a national workers’ protest against rising prices and a financial tax increase. Some 150 police cordoned off the Harare offices of the ZCTU. Senior leadership of the ZCTU not already in jail were forced into hiding.

“This is unacceptable. It violates the foundations of democratic societies: freedom of association, assembly and speech. The global labor movement and anyone who cares about worker and human rights are rightly outraged,” said Solidarity Center Africa Regional Program Director Hanad Mohamud.

ZCTU was preparing to lead a national demonstration to protest a new transaction tax as well as rising prices and shortages of basic goods and fuel. Workers say the new tax would further hurt the country’s already impoverished citizens.

The AFL-CIO, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUUC) and ZCTU condemned the attack. “It is saddening that once again the workers of Zimbabwe have been denied the right to organize, assemble and freely express themselves barely two months after the swearing in President Emerson Mnangagwa, who proclaimed a new dispensation for the people of Zimbabwe and promised transformation from the previous President Robert Mugabe brutal administration which repeatedly violated workers’ rights with impunity,” said SATUUC in its statement.

The arrested leaders have been ordered to appear in court October 30.

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