COSATU pushes Zimbabwe to implement ILO report

lovemore_matombo3JOHANNESBURG South Africas biggest worker movement, COSATU, on Friday called on Zimbabwes inclusive government to implement the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report on violations of trade union rights and torture. (Pictured: President of

The report was released after a Commission of enquiry approved by ILO during its Labour Conference of June 2008, which set up a Commission of Inquiry after the Zimbabwe labour body the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) had successfully filed cases of trade union rights abuses committed by President Robert Mugabes government since 2002.

The ILO Governing Body subsequently set up the Commission in November 2008 and mandated it with a probe into the violations of Convention no. 87 on Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise, and Convention no. 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention.

Zimbabwe ratified Convention no. 87 on April 9 2003, while Convention 98 was ratified on August 21 1998. COSATU said Friday that it embraced the report and supported calls by the ZCTU for it to be implemented by the inclusive government, which has so far failed to end the suppression of labour union activities since its formation in February last year. COSATU, a key member of South Africas ruling tripartite alliance – the African National Congress (ANC), said that the ILO report put to rest accusations by President Robert Mugabes Zanu PF party that the ZCTU was bent on tarnishing the image of the country through allegedly peddling lies of human and trade union rights abuses as the evidence tendered to the Commission of Inquiry was found to be authentic and admissible.

The case of Zimbabwe was the first and unique in the history of the ILO where both the worker and employer delegates filed a complaint against the Government, said COSATU spokesman, Patrick Craven in a statement. This is a pointer to the gravity of the violations at the time. Basically the violations bordered on curtailment of the right to strike and demonstrate, arrests, detentions, torture, assaults, intimidation and harassment of trade unionists, interference in trade union affairs, trade union discrimination, and collective bargaining.

When the ILO inquiry began, a cross section of people was interviewed, including government and employers. Government concurred that regrettable things had happened and that such things should not be allowed to happen again, in a veiled admission of the infringement of trade union rights and atrocities that the ZCTU said had occurred. The Commission came up with a number of resolutions which it said, if followed, would help in the process of reconciliation in the country, one being that the Labour Act and the Public Service Act be brought into line with Conventions 87 and 98. Zimbabwes repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA) was also found to have been used against trade unions, despite it stating that trade union activities are not covered by the Act.

Evidence was submitted to show that Mugabes government had manipulated POSA and used it extensively to thwart trade union activity and brutalise union leaders. The Commission also recommended that all anti-union practices such as arrests, detentions, violence, torture, intimidation, and anti-union discrimination cease with immediate effect, while recommending that steps be taken to ensure that these acts do not occur again. The Commission also recommended that all pending cases on trumped up charges against trade unionists be brought to an end. It also recommended the immediate operation of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission ZHRC), the re-training of police, security forces and other social partners on freedom of association, collective bargaining, civil liberties and human rights.

The government has three months in which to inform the ILO Director General whether or not it accepts the recommendations made in the report, which if it rejects, it has the option of referring the matter to the International Court of Justice. The decision of the International Court of Justice is final and in the event of failure by government to carry out the specified recommendations, the Governing Body can then recommend to the ILO Conference action that it deems necessary for compliance. Mugabe has over the years used the security forces to thwart trade union activities, while leaders of the ZCTU and its affiliate organisations continue to be brutalized by both the police and the spy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) for holding peaceful protests against poor working conditions.

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