Violent repression of worker protests reminds Zimbabwe of darkest Mugabe days

Police have opened fire on working people protesting escalating living costs in Zimbabwe. The fierce crackdown occurred in response to a three-day peaceful work stoppage. The action was called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) following a unilaterally imposed hike in fuel prices by the government.

ZCTU reports an escalation of violence as well as the use of live ammunition, killing at least two protesters. The ITUC has received widespread reports of protesters sustaining gunshot wounds while taking part in the ongoing nationwide protests. The government violence is the latest in a series of attacks on workers’ rights.

“The repression of its own people by the government of Zimbabwe is outrageous. The hope that accompanied the fall of the Mugabe regime has turned to despair, anger and anxiety as working families pick up the bill for President Mnangagwa’s failing economic policies. Salaries cannot keep up with inflation and are driving working families into poverty. The government must put an immediate end to the repressive violence against protestors and sit down with unions to find a peaceful solution,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.

In a letter to the government dating 11 January 2019, ZCTU expressed grave concern at the escalating prices of goods and services. The letter outlined specific measures to remedy the situation and warned of the prospect of a general strike in the case of inaction. The following day, the government announced a 150% increase in fuel prices.

“We were shocked that the government is adding another burden on the poor and ordinary men and women of this country,” explained Peter Mutasa, ZCTU President. “With the price increases of fuel and basic commodities, we are now working just for transport,” he explained. Recent government measures are increasing food insecurity and have rendered transport costs prohibitive.

The trade unions’ call to action, which began on Monday, is supported by a broad alliance of civil society organisations reflecting the generalised discontent with government policies that are driving workers and their families into poverty.

The ITUC calls for an immediate end to violence and stands in full solidarity with workers in Zimbabwe and their demands to:

  • end the economic crisis and hardships;
  • reverse the fuel price increase;
  • pay workers in US dollars so that workers don’t pay the price for the weakness of Zimbabwe’s currency.