Cosatu: Statement by Bongani Masuku, Congress of South African Trade Unions International Relations Secretary, on Zimbabwe (02/10/2009)

2nd October 2009

The Congress of South African Trade Unions condemns in the strongest terms the unprovoked shooting of workers at Shabani Mine in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe. This was after workers had been on strike since 31st August, and subjected to provocation by the Mine management.

The workers had not been paid their full dues since January, 2009 as management kept lying to the workers about their full pay, whilst they continued to pay slave wages of about $20 - $ 40 per month. This led to the 2280 workers refusing to work on 31st August.

However, the striking workers have been forced to go back to work after being visited by gun-toting policemen and the dreaded Central Intelligence Operatives (CIO). The state security agents together with Shabanie Mine security Officers visited workers in their homes on 29 September threatening them that if they did not return to work the following day (30 September) the workers should vacate not only the mine houses they were occupy but also get out of town. On 30 September about three quarters of the 2 280 striking workers returned to work.

Management then immediately began holding kangaroo court hearings. Scores of workers were dismissed in the process. They were charged with:
1. absenteesim from work without leave
2. defying the General Manager's memo instructing them to return to work
3. illegal work stoppage

The workers' legal representative had earlier requested management to inform him when the hearings would take place but the Mine management declined to inform him of the date and time of the hearings. As of 30 September seven workers have been dismissed. These workers are known by management for their MDC activism as they hold posts in the MDC Youth Assembly and Ward Executive. It seems the matter has also become an issue of discrimination on political grounds. Those who are known to belong to ZANU PF have been guaranteed their jobs back.

On 30 September, the home of ZCTU Zvishavane District Secretary Ndodana Sithole was raided by Police officers. They demanded to know what action the ZCTU was planning to take. Sithole was also warned not to meet any of Shabanie Mine employees.

In September alone, the ZCTU reported 3 serious cases of violations of Freedom of Association to the Minister of Labour.

To this end, the ZCTU is pushing for a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to look into the Shabanie and Mashava Mine incidents where workers have not been paid since January.

This is linked to an on-going and intensified attack against workers and political activists belonging to the opposition. We note that the situation in Zimbabwe has not improved since the coming into effect of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) a year ago.

The recent release of Jestina Mukoko after the unlawful detention for so long does not change the reality of harsh treatment of activists in that country. We shall keep close contact with our comrades in the ZCTU to monitor the situation and stand ready to put pressure when called upon. The whole region of Southern Africa cannot be held at ransom by the ZANPF regime, when we are supposed to be recording progress in that country, as a step towards effective democratisation and development for the people of the region.