(en) Zimbabwe: Trade union leader beaten unconscious

Andrew Flood (andy@tao.ca)
Fri, 12 Dec 1997 05:28:56 -0500 (EST)

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INTERNATIONAL CONFEDERATION OF FREE TRADE UNIONS (ICFTU) ICFTU OnLine? 322/971211/DD Zimbabwe: Trade union leader beaten unconscious in aftermath of national strike

Brussels, December 11 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): Morgan Tsvangirai, General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZiCTU) was beaten unconscious by seven unidentified men in his office today. The attack occurred two days after a successful general strike called by the union which paralysed the country.

According to reports received from AFRO, the ICFTU regional organisation for Africa, seven men attacked Brother Tszangirai at his office, and he had to be rushed to a medical clinic for intensive care. He has since regained consciousness.

The attack came just two days after the police used tear gar to disperse a peaceful trade union demonstration, which was protesting at a 5% levy on workers' pay packets, and at substantial increases in sales tax and fuel prices.

The levy was to be used to finance compensation payment to veterans of Zimbabwe's independence struggle. Although the government has now said that the levy will not be imposed the ICFTU has written to President Mugabe raising the issue of why it was necessary to impose the levy in the first place, since it appears that was because the original veteran's fund had been siphoned off by corrupt officials. The strike was the most effective since independence in 1980. The police, which the union has accused of overreacting, tried to prevent buses and other transport from taking workers into the city centre to join the demonstration. The police, who used force against the strikers, defied a High Court injunction against the Chief of Police not to interfere with the demonstration as long as it remained peaceful. Union leaders are demanding legal action against him for contempt of court. Zimbabwe has had a history of labour unrest in recent years. In 1996 there were protests by civil servants over government failure to honour pay increases, which culminated in an action where the government sacked all strikers - estimated at 120,000 people (who were later reinstated), and armed riot police were used to keep watch over sacked workers who had gathered in the central park. There have also been threats of arrests, intimidation and victimisation of strikers.

The ICFTU has written to President Mugabe calling on him to set up an immediate enquiry into the attack on Morgan Tsvangirai, and to punish those responsible. The ICFTU is also asking the President to ensure that violence is not used in Zimbabwe, and that the government respects trade union and other human rights. The ICFTU has sent a solidarity message to Brother Tsvangirai.

Members of the ICFTU's trade union rights committee as well as all ICFTU African affiliates will be taking up the issue and will be sending, faxing and e-mailing protests to President Mugabe. Contact: ICFTU-Press at: ++32-2 224.02.12 (Brussels)

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