Video interview: Wellington Chibebe (ZCTU Zimbabwe)

Video and transcript

My name is Wellington Chibebe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

The situation is dire because of the non-performing economy. We had hoped that by the introduction of the new currency and also with the coming in of the new government, which is an inclusive government, things would improve, but the unions are hardest hit because union dues are quite meagre simply because employers are refusing to engage in wage negotiations. Where they are engaging in wage negotiations they are refusing to honour the agreements. Also the government has made a pronouncement that there should be a moratorium in terms of wage negotiations so the situation is quite difficult for the unions.

The political harassment, in as much as at the surface it may appear as if things have improved, but we are still facing harassment. You may recall that in the past one and one-a-half years, we have had activists arrested and ZCTU activities denied by the police to the extent that we had to approach high courts to have events like commemoration of the health and safety day in Kwekwe for example, and the arrest of (ZCTU President) Lovemore Matombo in November and also the shooting of activists, or workers who were protesting for non payment of salaries in Shabanie.

Things have partially improved, but it’s on the surface and you wouldn’t call that improvement, because the problem is that whereas the political leadership are making statements to the effect that things are improving, the structures or the infrastructures in terms of the securocrats or the armed forces, the security sector, the situation remains because they are the same people who used to harass people and they are the same people who occupy the same positions. Others have actually been promoted for having tortured human rights activists.

The Commission of Inquiry established the facts and verified the facts and they concluded that what the ZCTU was saying was actually true. We are also happy to some extent that the government has accepted the outcome and promised to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry. Whether they will do that in total, that is something else, knowing the way our government operates, but we are also excited that the ITCU has managed to have a follow-up conference here in Harare.

We hope given the fact that the government has upfront accepted the report and knowing full well that every June we will be in Geneva for the ILO Conference and the issue is live on the table, we believe that the government for once will be able to carry through the recommendations.

We believe that the elections will be bloody and we are extremely worried that they will degenerate into some kind of a chaotic situation. But unfortunately we may not avoid elections simply because there has been violence, because elections must be held when due. Otherwise, if we remain scared of violence, it means that those perpetrators of violence who continue using violence knowing full well that people are scared will continue using violence as a tool, so we are prepared to face this, or bite the bullet as it where, every election.

We have scanned the ground and realised that if we don’t target women as a priority and don’t target young workers as a priority it will be very difficult in future to have unions, because that’s where the majority of our people are, particularly the young workers both male and female. That is the future of the unions, because as we speak the generational gap between older people and young people is actually getting wider and wider, meaning that very few young people are interested in trade unionism because they feel they are better qualified to represent themselves and that has to be addressed.