Over the last few weeks, workers in Zimbabwe, including leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), have faced violent repression and intimidation for peacefully protesting against steep fuel price increases that have pushed the already unbearable high cost of living higher.
Along with the ITUC and sister unions, the TUC is calling on the government of Zimbabwe to end these repressive activities and stop targeting trade unionists immediately.
The ZCTU had called for a peaceful three-day ‘Stay Away’ from 14 to 16 January 2019, demanding an end to the economic crisis faced by the country and a reversal of the more than 200 per cent increase in fuel prices announced by the Zimbabwean government.
But police and security forces violently attacked peaceful protestors by opening fire, leaving a reported 12 dead and over 200 under arrest.
The violence escalated with reports of security forces arbitrarily assaulting citizens to instil fear and clampdown on dissent. Mobile and land-line communications, as well as the internet and social media channels, were repeatedly blocked for days to prevent access to information and communication.
General Secretary of the ZCTU Japhet Moyo was arrested on return from abroad and has been charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government. President of the ZCTU Peter Mutasa has also been charged with subverting a constitutional government and inciting public violence. Both are on remand until 8 February with bail hearings scheduled for this week.
The TUC has a long-standing relationship with the ZCTU and we stand in solidarity with its leadership and members. We are in regular contact with the ZCTU and have recently written to the Minister of State for Africa, Harriet Baldwin MP, and the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, to raise our concerns. We have also contacted the Commonwealth (of which Zimbabwe is a former member, but seeking to re-join).
The TUC is calling on the UK government to use its influence with the government of Zimbabwe to ensure a social climate that is free of violence and fear, to guarantee the safety of all protesters and to immediately and unconditionally release those arrested or detained, including ZCTU General Secretary Japhet Moyo and President Peter Mutasa.
We have also made these calls to the President of Zimbabwe, stating that charges against those who have done nothing other than exercising their right to peaceful assembly and association should immediately be dropped. In addition, an independent judicial inquiry into the excessive violence against protesters should be instituted without delay in order to punish guilty parties and prevent the repetition of such events.
We also urgently call on the government of Zimbabwe to engage in good faith negotiations with the ZCTU leadership to agree on a peaceful and constructive way out of the current economic crisis with full respect for human and workers’ rights.