Zimbabwe police target trade union leaders in civil rights crackdown

The ITUC has called on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately and unconditionally release trade union leader Japhet Moyo, and to restore peace to the country by restraining the security services and restoring social dialogue.

The trade union leader’s arrest follows the violent repression of protests, which saw police open live-round fire on civilians, resulting in the death of 12 people and the reported imprisonment of over 200. The protests – centred on a three day ‘stay away’ from work called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - were a response to massive price hikes for essential goods and services after the government unilaterally imposed a 150% increase in the cost of fuel.

“After opening fire on its own people, the police are now targeting trade unionists with arrests, intimidation and violence. The world is watching, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa needs to take immediate steps to restore a climate free of violence and fear,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.

The ZCTU Secretary General, Japhet Moyo, was arrested on Monday 21 January. He is charged with “attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government or alternatively inciting violence”. Meanwhile, the police raided ZCTU President Peter Mutasa’s home, severely beating two of his relatives.

“Peaceful assembly and association are a mark of a functioning democracy. The police’s vicious reaction is a blatant abuse of its power and is in violation of ILO standards, including the right to strike. The government must address popular discontent in the same way that it was created: through policy, not through violent repression,” said Ms Burrow.

In a letter to the President of Zimbabwe, the ITUC outlined steps for a de-escalation of the situation, urging the government to “restore 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, including ZCTU General Secretary Japhet Moyo”. The letter further calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the violence against protesters and for the reopening of good faith negotiations with the ZCTU leadership following the government’s postponing of the January meeting of the tripartite negotiating forum.

The Southern African Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee (SATUCC) has called a regional day of action on Friday 1 February to protest the Zimbabwe government repression, and the ITUC will be mobilising trade unionists worldwide to echo those protests.

Read the ITUC’s letter to President Mnangagwa: www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/20190121_ituc_protest_letter_following_arrest_zctu_gs_en.pdf

Previous ITUC OnLine on the situation, dating 15 January 2019: www.ituc-csi.org/Violent-Repression-Work-Stoppage-Zimbabwe