Friday, May 25, 2007

Zimbabwe Workers Struggle

Zimbabwe workers win court case , face violence

A court has dismissed charges against three top officers of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), ruling on March 29 that the government failed to present evidence proving the
union federation had violated "exchange control" regulations to affect the market. ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibebe, Elijah Mutemeri and Vimbai Mushongera were involved in an attempt to organize workers in the informal sector by founding a new organization, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA). The Zimbabwean police raided its office in 2005.

Informal workers are one of the most widespread but precarious sectors of the Zimbabwean economy. Through the creation of the ZCIEA, the ZCTU had sought to represent these often voiceless workers. Reportedly, the government saw the new organization as a potential rival political party, fomented by the British-based Commonwealth Council of Trade Unions. The British government is one of Zimbabwe’s most outspoken critics in the European Union and Commonwealth and its strong links to Zimbabwe’s labor movement are well known.

The inability of Zimbabwe’s government to prove its case in court and the court’s decision to stand by the law instead of the government’s desire to convict its opposition may signal a weakening of the government’s authority.

In a recent police report, the Zimbabwean police also complain about the judiciary’s independence and unwillingness to support the government’s repression of the opposition. The police has "no support from the judiciary who continue to either release accused persons on either free or make them pay very small bail, allowing them to go out and continue with their illegal activities," according to the report.

Police violence dogs "Stay-Away"

Zimbabwe’s government and paramilitary supporters used threats,intimidation, violence, kidnapping and murder to fight the April 3rd and 4th stay-away general strike called by the Zimbabwean trade union congress. Unknown assailants kidnapped one teachers’ union officer who remains missing, while others beat a television cameraman to death. The government is now demanding that all companies that did close their doors justify their actions in writing.

Preliminary reports say that the stay-away was not as successful as the opposition had hoped for. However, the ZCTU points out that, considering the widespread intimidation that prevailed, the level of participation in the action was impressive.

President Robert Mugabe, once hailed as the country’s liberator from colonialism, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. It is now in an economic and political tailspin. Mugabe blames Zimbabwe’s current crisis on his domestic opposition and on foreign interference. Despite the dire situation, the ruling party has already confirmed Mugabe as its presidential candidate for the 2008 elections.

An opposition movement for change formed in 1999, but has failed so far to mobilize enough popular support to force Mugabe out of power. Its activists have faced systematic police harassment and brutality.
May 2007 issue of the Industrial Worker , journal of the Industrial Workers of the World

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