24 September, 2019Union leaders in Zimbabwe are subjected to abduction, torture and death threats, which are gross violations of workers’ and human rights, say unions.
The violations take place against the backdrop of misery brought by austerity economic policies and annual hyperinflation of over 900 per cent, which has eroded wages.
Police are banning demonstrations, and protestors have been beaten in a clear violation of international workers’ and human rights standards. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, Peter Mutasa, and secretary general, Japhet Moyo, face treason charges that carry a death penalty.
When the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association acting president, Peter Magombeyi, was abducted by armed men from his home in Harare on 15 September, doctors and nurses in major hospitals went on strike demanding his immediate release. Human rights groups and trade unions joined in the campaign.
Following national and international pressure, the government joined the call for his release, suggesting that he was abducted by a “third force” which they had no control over. This explanation was viewed with suspicion, as the Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa had earlier warned at a public rally that the government would go after “those who chose demonstrations”, adding that “their lives will be shortened.”
Magombeyi, who is leading a strike for living wages, better working conditions and adequate funding for public hospitals, was found alive, outside Harare, after five days and is in hospital being treated for suspected torture. The basic wage for a newly qualified doctor in Zimbabwe is $400 Zimbabwe Dollars (US $27) and the government offer of a 60 per cent increase was rejected.
IndustriALL Global Union’s Zimbabwe affiliates, who organize in garment and textile, manufacturing, and mining sectors, condemn the government crackdown on unions.
The chairperson of the IndustriALL Zimbabwe affiliates, Joseph Tanyanyiwa said:
“We condemn the ongoing abductions and torture of political activists by suspected state security agents and call upon the government to protect citizens against inhuman and degrading treatment. We also condemn police brutality against peaceful civilians and the involvement of the army in crowd control which has resulted in the deaths of innocent people and injuries to many. We call upon the government to uphold the rule of law and respect constitutional and workers’ rights.”
Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa said:
"We are concerned by the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government should respect the rights of workers including to freedom of expression and to fight for living wages. Workers should not be beaten up or face persecution for exercising their rights.”
Header photo: Police beat up anti-austerity protesters in Harare, Zimbabwe: Lovejoy Mtongwiza.