By Blessings Mashaya
Zimbabwe’s main labour union has appealed to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to probe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration for violating freedom of association and workers’ rights to organise.
This comes after police arrested several members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) a fortnight ago to crush protests against an extortionate tax regime introduced last week by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.
Despite the prior notification and peaceful character of the trade union activity, police violently cracked down on the ZCTU to prevent the protest from proceeding.
The union is aligned to Nelson Chamisa’s MDC.
More than 150 police officers with trucks and water cannons surrounded ZCTU offices to stop what the ZCTU said was the legitimate exercise of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of peaceful protest.
ZCTU president Peter Mutasa and secretary-general Japhet Moyo were beaten up and arrested, and 39 people were arrested in Mutare, Masvingo and Harare.
Mutasa said they will inform ILO about the excessive use of violence and harassment against trade union members in retaliation for legitimate demands made as part of a peaceful protest that was met with violent reprisals.
“Our legal team is approaching the courts and we will definitely formally file our complaint with ILO,” Mutasa told the Daily News.
“As long as the Constitution exists, we are going to exercise our rights. They authored the Constitution, we are not the ones who authored it.
“Nothing will deter us. We were battered, brutalised, but they have given us more energy to continue with our struggle you are going to see more action including demonstrations.”
Mutasa also said the tax issue is now adversely affecting workers, who are left with no option but to fight the government so that it can remove that tax.
“We are consulting our structures. We are going to come up with clear position but what we know is that workers mandated us to protect them against economic dictatorship. Workers are saying let’s go out and confront this government. The tax issue is now negatively impacting workers.”
Mutasa said there is no change between former president Robert Mugabe and Mnangagwa in their rules of engagement with workers.
“There is no change anywhere. There are no two different regimes. We have the same system. They are trying to seek legitimacy but whenever they are under pressure they revert back to what they know best. We are going back in the streets,” he warned.
This comes as Zimbabwe is in the throes of a crippling economic crisis also shown in shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food.
The shortages have widened after the government gazetted a controversial tax.
This comes at a time the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe reintroduced foreign currency accounts, throwing the bond note into turmoil, hence sky-rocketing of prices as fears of 2008 when hyperinflation reached 500 billion percent grip the public.
The other resultant effects of the tax regime have been shortages of fuel and the increase in prices of basic commodities, burdening ordinary consumers in the process.
Some retailers have started limiting goods in a bid to avoid hoarding, as people have been buying items in large quantities for speculative purposes.
Products like sugar, rice and cooking oil are being limited to two items per customer. DailyNews