International trade union demands release of ZCTU leader

ituc_logoThe African regional organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has called on Robert Mugabe and the police to immediately release five members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), who were arrested over the weekend.

On Sunday night, the ZCTU members, including ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo, were arrested in Victoria Falls and are still being detained in Hwange. Matombo was meeting with the ZCTU executive for the Victoria Falls area, on the first leg of a countrywide tour of the union federations structures, when they were arrested. In a letter to Mugabe, which was also copied to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and to all African labour bodies, ITUC-Africa Secretary General, Kwasi Adu Amankwah said African labour demands the release of the ZCTU leadership with immediate effect and also strongly condemned the arrests and detentions of the ZCTU leadership, with Amankwah arguing that such arrests violated their freedom of expression and association.

The colleagues were carrying out a legitimate trade union activity, which is protected under ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise, Amankwah wrote. Given that the Government of Zimbabwe has ratified this Convention, it is under the obligation to uphold it and refrain from any acts of interference in trade union affairs. The ZCTU group were expected in court Tuesday to face charges relating to the contravention of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), but we were unable to establish if this court appearance happened as scheduled. POSA meanwhile has been repeatedly used to ensure the arrests of human rights defenders, with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Tuesday accusing the police of using POSA as a tool of selective repression. In the past few weeks, the police have unlawfully arrested, detained and charged various human rights defenders under the repressive law. The Chairperson and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Organisation of NGOs (NANGO) and two employees of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have been the most recent victims of the unlawful actions of the police.

ZLHR director, Irene Petras, explained on Tuesday that with these recent arrests in mind, the motion in the House of Assembly to introduce a Private Members Bill to amend POSA is being welcomed. We urge all peace-loving and progressive legislators in the House to move swiftly to ensure that the provisions of POSA, which continue to be selectively applied to muzzle free speech and democratic action by human rights defenders, becomes a phenomenon of the past, Petras said. The ZLHR director also strongly condemned the arrests of the ZCTU leadership and the illegal actions of the police, calling for an independent parliamentary committee inquiry into the polices action. This inquiry should also include an investigation into the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General who, as the legal representatives of the police, have failed or refused to execute their constitutional and professional duty to advise the police, Petras said. They must therefore be perceived by all reasonable people to be complicit in this continued harassment of human rights defenders.

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