Mugabe’s descent from icon to despot – Black US trade unionists see the light

WASHINGTON - The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) has launched a major campaign to clip Mugabe of his "liberator" image in the African American community by exposing the thuggish actions of his regime against the Zimbabwean people.
CBTU President William Lucy has announced that CBTU woul

d aggressively reach out to African American media, labour websites/blogs and other progressive media this summer to get Americans “tuned into the Zimbabwe crisis.” Lucy also said CBTU would join other organizations in demonstrations at the Zimbabwe Embassy and other locations.
Lucy, who is also international secretary-treasurer of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said: “CBTU will not be a silent witness to this tragedy unfolding on distant soil liberated by heroic freedom fighters. Zimbabwe’s people, who are suffering crushing poverty, homelessness, hunger and rampant violations of human and trade union rights, need to know that their cries for help echo in our hearts, no less than those of our sisters and brothers in South Africa who prevailed over the racist apartheid regime.”
Mugabe’s descent from icon to despot is wrenching for many black Americans. In the 1960s, a lot of black activists here gave money and claimed solidarity with Zimbabwe’s liberation fighters. Josh Williams, president of the Washington, D.C. central labour council, recently returned from a visit to Zimbabwe with a verdict on Mugabe’s leadership.
“He [Mugabe] has lost touch with the people,” Williams said. Williams, who represented the AFL-CIO at the 25th anniversary convention of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in May, said “Workers find it hard to accept that many of them are being beaten, arrested and harassed by the same people that they marched with 25 years ago for liberation.”
Mugabe’s hand of repression greeted Williams when he arrived at the airport in Harare. “There were about 20 other labour organizations that sent representatives to the ZCTU convention,” Williams said. “But when we arrived at Zimbabwe’s airport, 11 delegates were denied admission and sent back home by the government, apparently because they had been critical of past actions taken by Mugabe.”
Barely two months ago, police officers raided the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. They ransacked the accounts department under the pretense of searching for documents relating to foreign currency transactions and fraud allegations. Union officials believe this attack was designed to remove the current union leadership ahead of the annual meeting last month of the International Labor Organization, which has repeatedly cited the Mugabe regime for violating ILO conventions on freedom of association.
The government’s campaign to destabilize ZCTU also includes mass arrests, death threats, and bogus investigations; the threat of imprisonment of leaders; the use of provocateurs to disrupt ZCTU meetings; and the creation of splinter unions to undermine and weaken ZCTU. Government thugs have even assaulted leaders of ZCTU’s Women’s Advisory Council, injuring one woman so badly that she had to be taken to a clinic for x-rays.
He told the 1,500 delegates, “It is one thing to be independent. It is another to be free. We are still fighting for our freedom in Zimbabwe.” The audience responded with a chorus of “Amen’s'” when Chibebe added, “Oppression is oppression, whether by a white person or a black person.”
Lucy, who sits on the powerful AFL-CIO Executive Council, said CBTU’s Zimbabwe resolution and its invitation to Chibebe to speak to thousands of black workers from every sector of organized labour in the U.S. “upped the ante on Zimbabwe.” He added, “It’s time we – in the labor movement and in the African American community – said ‘Enough is enough: Hands off the workers movement in Zimbabwe!’ Bring back peace and democracy in Zimbabwe.”- Dwight Kirk, based in Washington DC, writes on employment and union issues.

Post published in: Opinions

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